Music Imports and Exports

I really enjoyed my run of showcases at Lancaster Dispensing Company from January to May and I hope you did as well!  The audiences were very appreciative and I’d like to thank my bands for playing their hearts out!  January: The Naïve Americans and The VCC Duo (aka Jeff Bryson and Leo DiSanto) gave us some fine folk and bluegrass.  February: The Lonelies Tour and Second Hand Suits shared some stylish performances.  March: Lovers League (aka TJ McGlinchey, Christopher Davis-Shannon and Dani Mari) and very special guests The KGB Trio (Kalob Griffin, Robert Dwyer and Eric Lawry) reminded us that the song rules and they live to serve it.  April: Jason Ager and C.O.P.O. and Angelo Melasecca are two great showmen who really know their guitars!

Me with Angela Michele Walker

Me with Angela Michele Walker

May: Ali Wadsworth and Satellite Hearts rocked and Angela Michele Walker Trio rolled.  It was important to me to have a night featuring women vocalists and these ladies definitely shone!

The tagline for the showcases was “Two Regional Gems and a Local Treasure.”  I wanted to introduce bands to Lancaster who I had seen in my travels and pair them with a local act with whom I thought they might connect on some level.  I also wanted the “import” bands to see what a great city and scene we have.  Several of the bands are already finding ways to share gigs and their audiences.  And I’ve had offers to take a version of The Gigspots Showcase on tour.

I “export” bands from Lancaster as well.  My client venues in State College, Williamsport, Wilkes-Barre and Harrisburg usually feature someone I sent them at least once a month.  I am about to begin serving other I-80 venues as well as possibilities along I-70 in MD and WV.  I believe I will be hosting showcases at both World Café Venues (Philly and Wilmington) by the fall.  I’m ridiculously lucky to associate with Gable Music Ventures in DE and NaptownMusic in Annapolis, MD.  Of course you’ve all heard me blab about Pirate Rob, music guru behind OneKoast Entertainment (based in Baltimore), Frozen Harbor Music Festival and Jam at the Dam in Weatherly, PA.  It’s one badass indie music festival that becomes a two-day affair this year.  Gigspots is a perennial stage sponsor.  Contact me or visit PirateRob.com for tickets!

Bjorn Jacobsen and Freeman White at The Factory: Underground

Bjorn Jacobsen and Freeman White at The Factory: Underground

When I go out to “recruit” venues, I often take Bjorn Jacobsen with me on an open mic night or a night where a band I know is playing.  He sits in and I immediately get more respect!  I guess they figure if I know a musician that serious, I must be doing something right.  I’ve seen him win an audience playing AFTER Mike Miz and I’ve seen dudes like Freeman White ask to sit in with him.

One of my favorite services is helping a band fill out a tour or a venue fill a sudden hole in their schedule.  When a venue calls, I know I need to find a good audience fit that will sell some tickets and beer.  When a band calls, they usually have their weekends booked but need gigs to survive the mid-week drives between them.  Sometimes, you get the best for everyone.  I have recently made two national bands (Silencio and Carsie Blanton) very happy by filling their tour calendar.  And I can’t wait for the hugs I’ll get from the venue owners and fans who will get a chance to see them within three hours of home at a reasonable price!Carsie-Blanton-truck-758x392

So send me your poor, hungry bands and fans!  My client venues are the best around and my list is growing.  Check them out for yourself and tip the staffs please.  We’re saving the economy one gig at a time!

Regional Gems and Local Treasures

I recently blogged about new happenings in the Lancaster music scene for my FigLancaster.com column.  I announced here that I’m working with Rich Ruoff to help stage Lancaster Roots and Blues festival.  How do I follow that up? I get out of town!  I love Lancaster and our scene but hey, it’s a big world out there.  So I’ve been recruiting new client venues and bands all across Gigspotsland.  I’ll share some news here today.  And starting 1/11/14, I’ll be hosting The Gigspots Spotlight Showcase at Lancaster Dispensing Company (DipCo) on the second Saturday of every month!  My tag line: “Two Regional Gems and a Local Treasure!” DipCo

Here’s the idea.  I bring two acts to DipCo from a client venue of mine “out there.”  I team them up with a local act you love but maybe in a different configuration than you’re used to seeing.  There’s an all-jam at the end and we party till Fryth throws us out (in her nice way).  You get introduced to new music, bands get introduced to bands they can swap gigs with, and I get to play the host.  It’s a triple-play winner and will only set you back $5 at the door.  I guarantee it will be worth it.

So where have I been Gigspotting? I was way overdue for a trip to the homeland so I went west over the mountains to Pittsburgh 11/8.  Some friends treated me to a night in South Side and tickets to Sister Sparrow and The Dirty Birds at The Rex Theater.  South Side is pretty hoppin’ and The Rex is an old movie theater done over right to become a great concert venue.  Man, I love this band ever since I saw them play Long’s Park two summers ago.  I have to say their current material is more bluesy and soulful and they are tighter than ever.  Their brand new ep Fight proves it too.  Love those horns, that harmonica and Arleigh’s mighty wailing.  They pass through our area 1/30/14 at The Sellersville Theater and 2/01/14 Live at The Baby Grand in Wilmington, DE.  I wanted them for Lancaster Roots and Blues.  Maybe next year!

Three nights on the road kept me home for a few nights.  I did slip across the river to Burning Bridge Tavern for a special Series 42 show 11/13: Connor Christian and Southern Gothic.  No cover, melt-in-your-mouth smoked meats and a national touring act were impossible to pass up.  Music starts at 8:30 so you can be headed home with ears and taste buds satisfied by 11!  This band offers Southern rock with some real depth to it: more Marshall Tucker than Molly Hatchet for sure.  I’m awaiting ok to post the videos I shot and recommending the brisket in the meantime.

Friday night 11/15 brought the noise: white light, white heat and a big white van.

Harlot onstage at Rams Head Live

Harlot onstage at Rams Head Live

I rented it to drive The Wayfarer Experiment and Harlot to a huge OneKoast Entertainment event in Baltimore.  Harlot hails from The Rattler in Pittston and Lancaster was practically smack between the two.  It gave me an excuse to hang with Harlot and Rattler owner James Callahan.  They are splendid folks who have all but adopted The Wayfarer crew and man, do I love what happens when they all get together.  So we sailed on down to hang with Pirate Rob and play his latest show at Rams Head Live.  Called “Maryland’s Finest Volume IX,” I was proud to be arriving with two bands representing PA.  The Kalob Griffin Band made it three out of thirteen acts not from MD.  Trust me; Maryland is not running out of bands!

Pirate Rob finds bands.  I’ve written often of shows he produces and the immense array of talent he presents. Here’s the bill (minus PA) from Volume IX and ANY ONE of these bands would have been worth the $10 to get in: Bond & Bentley, Sticky Longfingers, Outram, Daniel and the Lions, Old Indian, Shawn Owen, Bret Staymates, Dirk Schwenk and Peyhey’s Poppies.  I’ve been proud to sponsor his Jam at the Dam series and never miss Pirate Rob’s Birthday Bash.  That is, until this year.  The Bash coincides with Lancaster Roots and Blues 2/21-22.  Don’t for a second think I’m abandoning ship on Pirate Rob.  Gigspots and OneKoast will continue together to promote and enliven the regional music scene for a long time.  But as I said in my last blog, I live in Lancaster because of Rich Ruoff and his Chameleon Club circa 1988!  Here’s something spooky; Rob, Rich and I all share 2/19 as our birthday!  Rob’s the baby.

Cabinet Preferred Photo Hi Res

Cabinet touring now and just released Cabinet Live Set II. They play Lancaster Roots and Blues 2/21/14!

By 11/20 I was on a new three-part mission.  Deliver The Wayfarer Experiment to Café 210 West in State College to open for Cabinet.  Close the deal on making Café 210 West a Gigspots client venue.  Convince Cabinet to play Lancaster Roots and Blues.  And I went three for three!  We got there and back in one piece and a five-piece version of the Experiment wowed the joint and their headliner.  The bill they’d be joining and the significance of this inaugural event swayed Cabinet.

Cafe 210 West in State College PA is at 210 W. College Ave

Cafe 210 West in State College PA is at 210 W. College Ave

And Café 210 West has joined the Gigspots family.  This club is the birthplace of The Kalob Griffin Band and Memphis Hat among others and hosts national touring acts occasionally.  My three biggest reasons for wanting them on the team?  They offer great food and drinks scandalously cheap.  They believe in and promote original music in a college town where that’s surprisingly rare.  Their music venue makes bands look and sound great and many bands I work with tour right past there…for now.  Count on it becoming a stop on I-80 Gigspots tours.  Not bad for a Wednesday night!  I saw a poster for Burning Bus hanging on the wall so Café 210 West has been doing it right for a while!

Friday night 11/22 was date night.  I left the cameras at home and took the lovely Tina to DipCo for dinner.  Vinegar Creek Constituency was playing and the night was pretty much perfect.  We both wanted to come back Saturday night for Hexbelt but a day of laundry, grocery shopping, and last-chance yard work wore us out.  We were hosting fifteen for Thanksgiving in just a few days so the night became perfect for pizza and a movie.  Do you know the classic It Happened One Night?

Scantron on the big stage at WCL the Queen for WILMO Rock Circus

Scantron on the big stage at WCL the Queen for WILMO Rock Circus

My brined turkey was a big hit.  I golfed with pals on Black Friday (10 years running!).  On Saturday it was out of town again.  11/30 was WILMO Rock Circus at World Café Live at the Queen in Wilmington, DE.  Dude.  This show rules. S1370031  I cannot imagine this remarkable venue being used in a more creative, efficient or musical way.  It’s 20+ bands in one night, in one building, on three stages.  You know I love the Queen and it is 58 miles from my door.  The event producers, Gable Music Ventures, have become great friends of mine and I have sponsored WILMO and their Ladybug Festival for two years now.  They stage several shows a month at the Queen and like Pirate Rob, boy can they find the talent!  I have them to thank for turning me on to John & Brittany, Glim Dropper, Angela Sheik, TJ McGlinchey, Brooks Long, Madalean Gauze, Maggie Gabbard and dozens of others.  You will have the same experience if you attend one of their Singer-Songwriter nights at the Queen or the shows they produce across DE and MD.  Roll with me sometime!  Even a 90-minute drive gets old when you’re by yourself.

So November was pretty busy.  December has started the same way.  I made my first visit to Underground Arts in Philly 12/5 for a leg of the Communion Tour.  Eight great bands and a “Toys for Tots” benefit made me like this place immediately.  That night will need its own blog.  Friday 12/6 I was visiting my client Abbey Bar at ABC Harrisburg and reintroducing Leo and Jeff (the VCC duo) to Mike Miz and the Greenbelt Events team.  VCC opened for MiZ once in the Poconos and it’s time those bands started sharing gigs again.  Greenbelt Events had just released Season Passes for sale to current pass holders.  I had to renew mine; it’s the best investment I make every year! Mike Van Jura inside ABC's Abbey Bar. Photo credit: Ashley Elizabeth  By email  While I was there, I found out that The Hold Steady will be appearing there in February as part of a benefit for the K&L Guardian Foundation.  Yeah, I still miss Jersey Mike.

I’m pretty certain I’ll be staying local for the rest of 2013.  But maybe local means something different for me than it does for you.  At least you know where I’ll be the second Saturday of every month next year.  Stop out to DipCo 1/11/14 for my first Gigspots Spotlight Showcase and see what keeps me logging the miles.

Sammy Gets His Groove Back!

Sammy Gets His Groove Back

HFS it’s fun being a rock star.  It’s also time consuming.  The hours are odd and long and the money is rarely guaranteed.  When I dialed up my blog yesterday, I realized it had been over a month since I wrote.  Good thing I take notes!

My last blog focused on a party/concert I attended in OCMD the first weekend in August: Blockstock IV at The Party Block.  I’ll start today just about where I left off: at the shore.  Dewey Beach Music Conference presents music industry professionals in classes, speaking panels and forums.  It also presents 125 bands on nine stages during the four days.  It gives participants a leg up as they try to learn, grow and expand their careers in music.  What’s the common denominator in these two events? Pirate Rob, aka Rob Bryan of DNL Entertainment, brought a gang of his bands and promotion experts to both.  If you want to learn, want to party and want to rock out, you should be seeking out DNL events.  Let me suggest Pasadena, Bond and Bentley, and Bumpin’ Uglies for starters.  They are on a nationwide tour right now so it shouldn’t be that hard to catch them.

Something that has been an exciting and exhausting distraction is that Gigspots is staging it’s first-ever show at  Chameleon Club in Lancaster.  I named the show “Four Corners” because I have brought together very talented bands from four corners of my music market.  Tickets are $7.  You would pay $10-12 to see any of these bands in their hometowns.  Come to the show and you’ll see why.  I’ll talk more about the joys and concerns of staging a show this big soon.  For now, know that Dana Alexandra, Sweet Leda, Lovebettie and MiZ will bring the rock to Chameleon 10/5!

So how do I find the balance between being a rock star and a businessman?  I guess it will be a process.  But I have discovered already that writing this blog must happen.  I need to spill my guts while I spread the word on these bands and events.  So bear with me over the next week or so while I catch you up on my August and September adventures!  I have a ton of stories to tell, pictures and videos to share, and some great tips on bands and venues.  I will pick up where I left off in August.  Next blog, I will share the glorious tales of MilkBoy Philly’s one year anniversary and the phenomenal show/party they threw featuring The Kalob Griffin Band!

Outdoors Rocks!

Outdoors Rocks!

Yikes!  Two weeks since my last post here!  I directed my writing energies last week to TriStateIndie.com and FigLancaster.com.  I did fulfill my Gigspots duties of attending and filming shows and posting the videos.  And now I’m back with plenty to say and HD evidence; great shows are happening all around us both indoors and out!

The first-ever Genesis Fest in York Haven, PA was a huge party with a kickin’ live soundtrack.  Mike  Males and MyRuralRadio.com staged bands outdoors from noon until 9pm on the seventeen acre property of The Boondocks/Halloween Park.  There were food and craft vendors, amusements/play areas for the kids and a booth run by Naylor Winery; their KeWe, a white table wine infused with kiwi, was lip-smacking good over ice!  The whole atmosphere reminded me of a family reunion at a rock-and-roll amusement park.  After dark, epic York jam-band Dr. Slothclaw played the day’s final set in the nightclub.

I arrived too late for many of my favorite MRR artists: Lone Wolf Project, J.D. Sage and The Dagnabbits, The High Point Ramblers to name a few.  I did get to see American Hollar, Darry Miller and The Veil, and Dr. Slothclaw.  I have videos posted from their sets.  Luckily, Elephant Shoes photographer Jodi Griffin agreed to share some of her work from the day.  Nice shooting, Jodi!

I left too early to really appreciate the 100+ campsites on the property’s island but I could see the bonfires the whole drive out of the valley.  Allegedly, one end of the island was up cooking until 4am.  And I don’t mean pancakes.

Sunday 6/3 was the kickoff event for Long’s Park Summer Concert Series and it was a humdinger!  Sister Sparrow and The Dirty Birds earned headlines, parted some stormy skies and rocked the park!  They played some scorching songs from their latest album Pound of Dirt and really owned the stage.  Don’t take my word for it; check out the videos or ask the 500+ people who were there!

It’s been two weeks since that show and it’s sticking with me.  Last night was another beauty: under the stars on the Long’s Park lawn with Mia Borders!  This coming Sunday, it’s a folkie double-header with Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion.

If live music is best (it is), then live music outdoors might be the best of the best.  So what’s to keep you from getting to an outdoor show while it’s fit to be outdoors?  There’s a FREE show at Long’s Park every Sunday evening from now until September; the same is probably true for some park in your vicinity.  If not, I guarantee there are some very fun and affordable festivals nearby.  Here are some that really stand out to me as remarkable artists gathered in memorable places.  Wanna live a little?

DNL’s Jam @ the Dam 2012 by DNL Entertainment: 35 bands, 10 acres, draft beer for $30. 6/7/12

MadSummer Meltdown3 (6/22-24) and Meeting of the Minds 5 by JibberJazz Productions in central PA.

Gathering of the Vibes July 19-22 in Bridgeport, CN. Wavy Gravy hosts; need I say more? MiZ is in!  This might be the most complete fest with every style of music and huge talent!

WXPN’s XPoNential Music Festival (July 20-22).  The best fest for friends, neighbors and members like you.  Join the station, get discount passes and Wilco/Avett Bros/Dr/ Dog  tix included with your pass.  A no-brainer, must-go weekend that makes the world a better place!

SummerFest in Milwaukee is the nation’s oldest, biggest fest and July 4th concert. Our friends Lovebettie are playing the main stage this year!

All Good Festival July 19-22 in Thornville, OH: the complete and perfect hippie getaway!  Allman Bros, every living Dead member’s bands, DSO, even G. Love and Special Sauce!

BlockStock 4 July 29 in Ocean City, MD: 3 stages, 20+ bands, you’ll probably be in OCMD anyway. Guaranteed to be the biggest party there that night!

Silopanna Festival August 11 near Annapolis, MD at Anne Arundel County Fair Grounds

Hot August Blues Festival August 18 near Cockeysville/Hunt Valley MD

I like outdoor music so much, I throw a three-day party in the mountains just to have some.  We build a stage and everything.  The events I have listed here barely scratch the surface of what’s out there but you get the idea.  It’s summer!  Get outside and shake the dust off that thing!  Your soundtrack awaits!

Shows to My Left, Right and Dead Ahead

Shows to My Left, Right and Dead Ahead

Everyone knows how pumped I am this week about LAUNCH Music Conference.  But as owner/operator of Gigspots, I can’t just focus on one event no matter how colossal.  Lancaster will be swarming with great bands and fans of live music this weekend (180 bands in 12 venues) but I understand that not everyone is coming.

The Abbey Bar at Appalachian Brewing Company in Harrisburg continues to present amazing shows and this week is no exception.  Tuesday night is Lucero and J. Roddy Walston and The Business.  Wednesday night is a very special and intimate performance by Colin Hay of Men at Work.  Thursday night, Cabinet is back to play and to release the live cd they recorded at Abbey Bar last winter.  Saturday night, they have The Aviation Orange and In Wilderness.  That would be a month’s worth of highlights at some places but it’s just a typical week at Abbey.  The season pass I bought for $100 was the best investment of 2012!

Philly is always happening and this weekend is no exception.  Something new debuts this Saturday: Center City Jazz Festival.  Also debuting this weekend is the XPN Film Festival where movies about music and musicians take center stage.  Those are two good reasons to visit Philly and spend the night as they say.

NEPA has it going on this weekend with a performance by Bob Weir (Grateful Dead) at the Kirby Center.  If it wasn’t for LAUNCH, I’d be headed to River Street Jazz Café in Wilkes-Barre this Thursday night.  Playing that night are Jahman Brahman and Ol’ Cabbage, two incredible jam bands.  On Friday, for $15 I could park at the Jazz and hear a solo set by Mike Miz while I dine.  That same $15 would get me transportation to and from the Kirby Center and admission to two sets of Jam Stampede after the Bob concert.  Jam Stampede is the Dead tribute band featuring Miz and they are spot-on!  Saturday night is The Statesmen:  a new, all-star, funk/jazz collaboration from NYC.  And Sunday is the Rock the Wall benefit.  We love the idea of musicians lending their talents to make the world a better place for those less fortunate.  We love River Street Jazz Café!  Maybe hippies really will save the world…

Speaking of hippies and saving the world:  I think The Bullfrog Brewery in Williamsport, PA might be considered headquarters.  There are no weekends except LAUNCH when I wouldn’t rather be there.  The food, the beers and the music scene are peerless.  Thursday they have St. Anyway, a “stompgrass/roots” band for FREE.  Friday night is Jahman Brahman for $5.  Saturday night is Michi’s alt/rock/pop (also free).  Sunday starting at noon is the Jazz Workshop and Brunch.  Musicians from all over stop by to jam and entertain while you dine.  It’s been that way for over 500 Sundays!

I spend a lot of time travelling to see shows in my job: but not this weekend!  LAUNCH is bringing it all to me, including two of my favorites from my hometown of Pittsburgh.  Pete Bush and The Hoi Polloi appear at Spring House Taproom Friday and Lovebettie rocks the main stage at Chameleon Club Saturday.  I hope to see you all there!  Get yourselves a weekend pass and also see Rusted Root, The Felice Brothers and Texas in July on the cheap!

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!

You Can Get There From Here

Thursday kicked off a great weekend for me.  The venues I showcase on Gigspots.com are more than business partners; they are favorite places of mine.  I took the opportunity to visit two of them while I was in the mountains prepping the family place for the spring and summer.

The Bullfrog Brewery in Williamsport, PA features a delicious food and drink menu daily and live music an average of twenty nights a month.  Owner Steve Koch was way ahead of the microbrew trend when he opened in 1996 and his beers have won many awards.  The food is all prepared fresh daily and much of it comes from local farms.  The location helps Bullfrog attract some prominent national touring acts as they cruise I-80 between “big city” gigs.  A unique weekly event at Bullfrog is the Sunday Brunch and Jazz workshop, noon to four.  I don’t know what it is about Williamsport but they have a greater concentration of musicians per capita than anyplace I have been outside Memphis.  Visit the Bullfrog and you will see a great town, eat some great food, enjoy delicious, provocative beers (if you like) and hear some very talented musicians.

On this trip I enjoyed a pulled-pork Cuban sandwich called the Rico and a Billtown Blonde.  I filled my growler with Ruby Doomsday, a fine red ale.  Can’t wait to go back!

Thursday evening found me over the mountains in Wilkes-Barre (actually Plains, PA) at The River Street Jazz Café.  Executive chef and talent-booker Tom Moran is one of the most interesting and lively guys I know.  The extensive menu varies from simple to sumptuous and the staff makes you feel like you own the place.  As much as I love the food, it’s the music that keeps me going back.  Mike Mizwinski (Miz) calls The Jazz his home base and I think he is one of the most talented people in music today.

It was Miz that drew me to the mountains last Thursday.  His solo acoustic show that night began with Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks album, in its entirety.  No notes, no lyrics, no help: and that was his first set!  He followed that with an hour of his own material.  Miz played 260 shows in 2011 and was named Tri State Indie Solo Artist of the Year.  You don’t have to visit Wilkes-Barre to hear him play but wow, get out and see this guy!

I know.  We have a ton of great restaurants and very talented musicians right here in Lancaster, PA.  Why drive 2.5 hours into the mountains to eat and see a show?  I say, why not?  Not every getaway needs to be the beach.  Hundreds of small towns just as unique, delicious and memorable are scattered across our Commonwealth.  So share the wealth and hit the road.  Maybe start by visiting visitPA.com for some ideas.  And please share your ideas and locations for getaways with me here.