Stagelights Dim at DipCo

I got some sad news over the weekend.  The Lancaster Dispensing Company has decided to cease staging live music after Thanksgiving 2015.  They have been a live music venue since opening in 1978.  To me, it was the equivalent of having your favorite uncle die.DipCo new

I grew up in the restaurant business.  I know it’s a really tough way to make a living.  You count your inventory by the ounce and your profits by the pennies.  You work every weekend and most holidays.  There are hundreds of laws to comply with and you can’t choose your neighbors.  You are the top of the food chain so everyone else’s costs get passed on to you.

So why did the music have to die?  I can only conjecture on Bradley and Judy’s reasons for making what I’m sure was a very tough decision.  I’m not keen to guess and frankly it’s none of my business.  I was thrilled to have the opportunity to stage eighteen Gigspots Showcases there.  I have two shows left: October 10 and November 14.  I’d be well pleased to see a good crowd!

OneKoast MD's Finest IX mapDipCo has long been the hub of Lancaster’s music scene and it served me as a place to introduce many bands here.  It was a pivotal stop as I would take bands on tour around the region.  Besides getting their first exposure in our crucial Lancaster market, those bands knew they would get guaranteed pay at the end of the night.

There are few guarantees in life and fewer still for musicians and restaurateurs.  Most of those folks count on people coming in the door to cover their expenses and put some bread on their own tables.  Any musician will tell you that nights with a guarantee are what keep the boat afloat.  Any restaurateur will tell you that the only guarantees are that the bills will arrive and that regular customers can make or break you.

I’m not looking to lay blame any more than I’m guessing what motivated DipCo to stop the music.  There are a few facts that I can share.  The cover charge at the door is five dollars on music nights.  It’s been that price for decades.  Every night, I would see 12-20 people turn away at the door rather than pay it.  We all know that there is no place cheaper to eat and drink downtown and the food is great.  What’s the logic in paying $8 for a beer somewhere else when $8 at DipCo gets you a beer and live music all night?  On the other side of that coin: DipCo’s cover charge is $5 but their average sale per customer is nearly $12.  If you drop the cover charge, can you count on that clientele to meet your averages?  Or will six people share the large nachos and a pitcher of water while enjoying the music?  Either way it’s a risk.  And what value do you place on the artists’ work?

The only guaranteed losers in this equation are the musicians.  There is now one less place to play where you will be guaranteed a payout at the end of the night.  There is one less chance for you to reach the Lancaster market and build your following.  I know that’s crucial because so many nights are dependent on people coming through the door.  And yeah, I know that cover charges and hence band pay have been stagnant for thirty years.  It was $5 to see two bands in 1985 and it still is at nearly every venue.

Live, original music is only a small part of what The Lancaster Dispensing Company has given to our city since 1978.  I’ve had hundreds of great meals and memorable nights there.  It’s where I first met many of my favorite people in Lancaster, where I always brought out-of-town visitors and where I always could count on seeing friendly, familiar faces.  That’s not going to change.

bjorn1The Gigspots Spotlight Showcase on October 10 features two of my friends who are musical freaks.  Returning to the area from NOLA will be Bjorn Jacobsen, the Wayfarer himself, bringing savage tales of busking for a living and being a new daddy.  And yeah, all that dark stuff from the past and weird prophesies for the future will boil over too. Clinton Hibshman Opening the night and a whole can of whup-ass on guitars, harp and songs will be Clinton Hibshman.  I don’t waste a lot of words trying to describe him.  I just turn it up and grab a beer.  He embodies everything that happens at my favorite kinds of parties.

Help me make my last two shows at DipCo those kinds of parties.  Let the food, drinks and good times roll!  Have you partied there?  Have you played there?  Let’s celebrate what it’s meant to us all.

Springing and Swinging Into Year Five!

The Gigspots calendar starts in April and we just celebrated our fourth birthday.  Spring has been quite the rush!  I enjoyed LAUNCH Music Conference as usual.  The 20th anniversary tribute to Radiohead’s album The Bends at Tellus 360 was spectacular.  The tour I arranged for my pals Pete Bush and The Hoi Polloi put them in two of my latest favorite spots: Sprout Music Collective in West Chester and The Grape Room in Philly. LeoCygnus I wrapped up my season of showcases at Lancaster Dispensing Company and am already planning to return with another great season in September.  Thank you DipCo for your stage and hospitality!  Thank you Jessica Smucker and Leo & Cygnus for a great finale!

How am I wrapping up the hometown season before May fades into summer and I hit the road?  Of course I’m throwing a show!  Tonight May 15 I have the hottest lineup in town.  The show opens with a new project by some familiar favorites called Tractor Jerry and The Mud Bucket.  Mike McMonagle and Dom Billett will take things up a notch.  Corty1Then Corty Byron Band will remind us that Lancaster rocks!  Our last act is a bittersweet send-off to Second Hand Suits, who have announced an indefinite hiatus as a band while the fellas pursue some new directions.  If you love music, have any sense and $7, join us for the best show in town at The Elks Lodge, 219 N. Duke Street, Lancaster PA 17602.  Doors open at 7:00pm with music starting shortly after 8pm.

What’s left of me will be heading to the family retreat near Williamsport on Saturday morning and I’ll be off the grid for about a week.  Then it’s on the road: talent scouting, venue recruiting and festival fun will ensue!  The Gigspots Showcase is going on tour!  We’ll be hosting shows at select client venues all over PA, MD and DE.  It’s time for you loyal local bands to hit the road with me and go visit those bands who came to Lancaster to play!  Watch this space for tour announcements! Wave Disco Queen

LAUNCH 5 Worked for Me!

LAUNCH Music Conference in Lancaster, PA April 25-27 brought to town a lot of great music and interesting info about the state of the music industry.   Just closing DipCo three nights in a row would have been pleasure enough on any other weekend.  But I did a lot more.  I’m sorry I’m not a better still photographer but I shot over twenty videos that should satisfy your appetites for fresh live music.

I skipped the registration hoopla, free Heineken and opening performances Thursday night at the convention center.  I chose instead to meet and greet my pals in Sweet Leda as they arrived for the conference and to make sure they were settled.  Julie, Jaime and Don have adopted Lancaster as their favorite central PA city and planned to make a weekend of it.  Omar and his wife couldn’t come until Friday but they all intended to make the most of the visit and branch out from their usual stops at Central Market, Tellus 360 and Yorgo’s.  They also were psyched to be playing a new venue for them: Marion Court Room.  They hoped for as much success as they have felt at their past shows at DipCo and Chameleon.  Jaime had scheduled a bunch of conferences and workshops to attend as well.

It was refreshing for Sweet Leda to just chill at DipCo and chat with the regulars who hang there and have become fans.  Of course, as the opening shows around town finished up, everyone converged on DipCo for a last round or three.  By midnight the place was packed and rollicking with bands and industry insiders.  I was impressed with Holly Spears’ set and felt elated to see Canyon back in town.  2013-04-25 22.26.50  This young lady really writes some poignant songs and expresses them beautifully with her voice and guitar.  Canyon also wins my fashion award for the weekend.  Damn that girl looked pretty and stylish all weekend through three different showcases and a visit to LAUNCH Lounge at The Candy Factory.  I hope she is featured in one of the podcasts that Jason Mundock of Wood Stove House produced there over the weekend.   Anyway, they were locking the doors on DipCo when I headed home.

Both Friday and Saturday mornings I co-hosted at The Candy Factory.  We had light traffic both mornings so everyone got their fill of coffee and pastries.  Some pretty amazing jams sprung up among the musicians dropping in, usually lead by Jason Mundock and Aaron Gagne on percussion.  Randy B, Mickel, Canyon, Mark DeRose and a particularly gifted violinist (can’t recall the gent’s name) were among those who tested the acoustics and breathed some life into the mornings.  Everyone’s nights were quite late. 2013-04-26 13.47.07 2013-04-26 14.53.59

My Friday night involved a lot more miles.  It also involved many more tough choices about where to be.  It pained me to forego Dana Alexandra and Holly Williams at The Ware Center and I can only hope I’ll get another chance to hear one or both in such a grand space again.  Maybe Dana will debut her next album there or back at the Strand-Capitol in York.  Maybe Holly will come back.  Maybe the new grand space at Tellus 360 will be open by then!

My wife joined me for the most of Friday night.  We are both huge fans of Lovebettie and Sweet Leda so our evening had to include their shows.  Lovebettie played the Heineken stage: the big boy, a whole section of the convention center.   This was their second show since debuting their new ep Rise and they played with a lot of heart.  It’s a great record and will likely take them back to stadiums again this summer to round out some major US tours.  Last year they played SXSW, Summerfest, Van’s Warped and some major NHL events.  Next month they open for Rusted Root in Dewey Beach.

This room could hold 2,000 people.  When Lovebettie played at 7:30, there were maybe 200 people there.  I heard the crowd swelled to around 500 for Foxy Shazam’s headlining set.  With twenty million people living within a three hour drive of Lancaster, I can’t understand why Friday night’s lineup at the convention center didn’t draw at least 1,000.  I know there was great music being made at six other venues in town but they weren’t exactly thronged either.

After Lovebettie and a bit of Jesse Baker Band, we headed to Penn Square Grill to rendezvous with pals and catch a drink.  And there was Mike McMonagle (Mickel): a paying gig during Launch in a bar full of musicians and music fans!  I swear he played one of the best sets I’ve seen by him and that’s with dozens to compare with it.  The lad was on fire!

To Marion Courtroom next, we reconnected with Sweet Leda and company prior to their 9:30 set.  BAM!  Next thing we know, a band called Ill Funk Ensemble lights the place up with some serious blend of hip-hop, funk and rock!  The whole place animated.  Sitters stood.  Standers swayed.  When their third song was a mash-up of “Yo Diggity,” twenty people sprung to the dance floor.  Juls from Sweet Leda lead the charge and I’d have to say, the set by Ill Funk pushed Sweet Leda to new heights in their following set.  It certainly drove the crowd nuts and got everyone pumped.  You give Sweet Leda a canvas like that to work with and they will paint you a lush, funky landscape.  They laid down some broad, colorful strokes!

I sent the wife home and spent the rest of the night schmoozing at Marion Court Room and DipCo which again became the place to be to close out the night.  I was glad to have caught Jeff Reed’s set and to see the place packed with musicians and industry heavies again.  I was there until closing, gathered my guests and headed for home via Neptune Diner.

Saturday night was just as tough to schedule but I had made commitments to artists over Thursday-Friday to attend their shows.  I caught Lijie (sassy Strat slinger) and Matt Wheeler (joined by Canyon and Taylor Brandt!) at Spring House Tap Room.  I caught Mark DeRose and The Dreadnought Brigade at Penn Square (rock stars!).  I headed for the closing rounds at DipCo and holy cow, the place was jamming!  I saw four performances back-to-back that equaled anything I had seen all weekend!

Gretchen Pleuss from Ohio had a confident, natural vibe to her acoustic set and shared some fine songs.  Angela Sheik, looper extraordinaire, was a one-woman choir/ symphony/rock band/enchantress.  Until you’ve seen Angela, you don’t know how crazy good one of her shows can be.  Following her like they owned the place were Lauren Mann and The Fairly Odd Folk.  I had missed their set at Chameleon the night before but had heard good things.  When an extra twenty people showed up for their DipCo set, having seen them the night before, I knew I had heard right.  So right!  It was hard to believe they all fit on that little stage and easy to believe they were the real deal.  The Lumineers, Of Monsters and Men and Edward Sharp and The Magnetic Zeros will be feeling this band’s presence soon, maybe as they roll past them.  Lucky Lancaster gets a return visit from Lauren and company June 1st at The Candy Factory!

The last set of the night featured Emily Long.  I felt pretty stupid to not be familiar with her music, she being from the Lancaster area and all.  With just a percussionist by her side and her acoustic guitar, she played that room like the whole weekend was just her supporting acts.  Count on seeing me at many more Emily Long performances to come.

I thought it was great that a great local closed the best local festival at the best local industry bar.  Don’t just take my word for it!  Visit my YouTube channel to see videos from LAUNCH 2013 and keep tabs on these and other great bands at

August Chronicles IV: Shovels and Rope at Tellus360

August Chronicles IV: Shovels and Rope at Tellus360

I mentioned this show in one of my blogs for Fig Lancaster but wanted to give it the full treatment.  I had seen Shovels and Rope open for the Felice Brothers at Chameleon Club last fall.  When I heard they were going to be the first ticketed show at Tellus360 in Lancaster, I pretty much went ape.  It’s hard to imagine that just two people can stir up such a rockin’ ruckus but I’ve seen them do it twice now.  Cary Ann Hurst and Michael Trent are Shovels and Rope and they are a roots/rock, wild-timey revival show!

Cary Ann plays guitar, stomps her feet, and sometimes kicks some drums.  Michael plays guitar, drums, harmonica and pretty much anything else he can get his hands on.  They both sing and their voices sound great together in both wails and whispers.  She has the classic country sounds of Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette and Dolly Parton in her voice and every bit of their power and range.  His voice is subtle yet stylish: think Lyle Lovett, Dwight Yoakum, John Doe.  The themes and tones are classic but the phrasing and delivery make everything feel contemporary.  It’s hard to explain yet easy to understand when you see and hear it live.  You are back in time yet hurtling through the present moment.

Have no doubt; this is rock and roll.  Their latest album O Be Joyful might look like an old-timey hymnal but it convinced Jack White to ask them to join his tour (they said yes).  It might not be a kind of rock and roll you know but you will feel the familiarity.  Remember watching O Brother Where Art Thou and your reaction to “Man of Constant Sorrow?”

My recommendation is to watch some of my videos from the show, follow Shovels and Rope on Facebook, subscribe to their email list and get out to see them immediately if not sooner.

As for Tellus360, you will not find a more intimate or rewarding music venue in this area.  They only sell 60-70 tickets for each show.  The entire building and all its contents are recycled or reclaimed wood.  It resonates like a fine cello with every note of these performances.  The shows are BYOB and folks come prepared to share.  Their second ticketed event was Carsie Blanton and hell yeah, I went and blogged about it.  Upcoming shows included the Table Top Anniversary show on November 3rd.  These shows are how it all started at Tellus360: free, BYOB, SRO and open to the public.  Sunday November 18 will also be very special with Tellus360 hosting Andrew Combs and Angel Snow, singer-songwriters from Nashville.

Here Comes LAUNCH!

I just about spent myself writing my blog for Fig Lancaster this week!  LAUNCH Music Conference is this Thursday through Sunday and I couldn’t be more excited.  Check out their website, check out my website, book a room at Lancaster ArtsHotel and come on down!  Mention Gigspots when you book your room and save 10%.  Come visit me at the trade show and say hello.  You might win a TV!

If you have never seen Fig Magazine, it’s time.  In it you will find hundreds of more reasons to come visit!  See you this weekend!

Happy Birthday Gigspots!

My site was launched April 18, 2011.  I am very proud of how it looks now and how it has grown.  I hope you have enjoyed the show and I thank everyone who has helped me, encouraged me and offered constructive criticism.  It has been a wonderful learning experience and I feel more confident that I can help you find great music experiences.

I’m a pack rat by nature.  I get it from my mom who lived through the Depression and has never thrown away anything.  I also belong to an art group: The Airy Hill School.  I can’t paint or sculpt like those guys but I make a mean collage.  Here’s a view of my office wall.  I can’t describe how much fun it’s been to see all these shows and meet all these people.  I will tag everybody I can but count on me adding more later!

stubs and fliers

Thanks for the shows!

It’s Working!

I mentioned in my last post about all the talented, wonderful, generous people I’ve met since starting Gigspots.  Thursday night it paid off yet again!  Local musician and all-around great guy Mike McMonagle posted on his Facebook page about a gig he was playing in Glen Rock, PA.  He was opening for a young lady I’d never heard of, Rebekah Jean.  He included a link to her Facebook and dropped some major hints that her special guest was going to be VERY special: possibly Jessica Lee Mayfield or her brother David Mayfield.  Those two I knew from music and interviews on XPN.

I knew to trust Mike’s musical tastes.  I was pretty bummed to only arrive in time for his last song but it was a favorite: “Goodbye Virgina.”  The Glen Rock Mill Inn wasn’t that tough to find and I must say, I can’t wait to return.  The Mill Inn is a beautifully restored building, the drink prices were right, the staff was very accommodating and the food looked great.  I foresee many afternoons/evenings enjoying all of the above on their terraced garden patios.

WOW!  The guest turned out to be David Mayfield and he and Rebekah Jean sounded great together!  Mike introduced us and they were really nice.  They gave me permission to video the show and I got some great stuff!  Her solid yet ethereal voice made ghosts and memories race through my mind.  Her lyrics kept me in the moment.  David’s harmonies perfected the mood and boy, can he play guitar!  His vintage Telecaster would impress my guitar-geek friends but his style would impress anyone.

They were playing in what’s called The Hearth Room: very quaint, cozy and intimate.  The sound was clear and filled the room without deafening anyone or rattling items off the enormous mantle.  The connection between artists and audience resonated.  It was absolute magic!

I love it when things work out!  I had a lot of reservations about getting involved with all this social media stuff when I started my website.  Is it voyeurism? Stalking?  Are most people on Facebook et al just posting lewd comments/pictures, idle gossip and hyperbole?  We all know there is plenty of content like that out there and “viral” certainly has several meanings.  I love the connections I have made but trust me, I still have concerns about confusing social networking with socializing.

I guess social media is much like life.  Choose your friends carefully and make good choices.  I hope Gigspots serves your needs when you’re looking for quality entertainment and I hope you will share with me the shows and moments I just should not miss.  Thanks again, Mike!