August Chronicles 2: Kalob Griffin Band at MilkBoy Philly

August Chronicles: Week Two

MilkBoy Philly One Year Anniversary

Kalob Griffin Band, Pete Donnelly, Up the Chain

MilkBoy Philly on Chestnut Street is a model club if you ask me: cool bistro/bar downstairs and great music room upstairs.  I was glad to be there to celebrate their one-year anniversary and wish them continued success. Even better was seeing Kalob Griffin Band headline there again.  The supporting acts sounded good too but KGB just packed this place and made it a party.

KGB calls themselves a Philly band but I don’t get it.  Drummer Eric Lawry is from Pittsburgh and Kalob himself hails from Clarion.  They all met and formed the band in State College.  I think of them as a full-PA band and one of the best!  It won’t be long until they are a national act so catch them in a small venue while you can.  On this night, fans had driven in from all over the state including those notorious Norristown boys.  When you meet them at a show, you’ll know who they are!

The band rocks with a sound all its own, mainly due to Kalob’s unique voice and the masterful keyboard work of John Hildenbrand.   Robert Dwyer runs constant, stylish riffs on guitar and mandolin.  Jonathan Davenport holds it all together on upright and electric bass.  Eric is an animated drummer and harmonizer.  Somehow, it’s all familiar like cousins you only see every few years but still find a way to crush on or fight with.

The songs are funny, genuine, heartfelt narratives; they are drinking songs, heartbreak songs, revealing natural and unnatural disasters.  “Honeymooners” is charming and swooning.  “Take Me River” calls up adventure and mystery.  “Whiskey My Love” makes the drinks and dancers fly.  “American Dream” paints landscapes at once endearing and disheartening yet somehow keeps you optimistic.  You meet a lot of characters in these very literate songs.  Some are underdogs you root for.  Some are under-handed and you can’t look away.  One thing I’ve noticed.  Even when KGB debuts a song, the audience seems to know it.  The connection between band and fans is unshakeable from the minute the first chord is struck.

This link will take you to “Take Me River” from the MilkBoy Philly show 8/16/12.  It will take you away.

Out Like a Lion, Gigspots-Style

Out Like a Lion, Gigspots-Style

Curious how my last weekend of March turned out?  Hexbelt grooved the Lancaster Dispensing Company Friday night.  They command that room like few other local acts.  It might be torrid musicianship.  It might be a devoted following.  Surely one led to the other. People dance joyously at their shows. Plus, Danny can climb to the ceiling.

I did make it to Wrightsville to witness the official grand opening of Burning Bridge Tavern.  It bills itself as a friendly sports bar.  It appears to be much more than that.  The place was packed with people eating burgers and wings and large TV’s hung in every sightline.  A duo played covers and Vinegar Creek Constituency was performing later.  It’s big, clean and comfortable: part rustic, part urban.  The joint was hopping and 200 people looked happy.  With the Burning Bridge joining John Wright’s down the street, it appears the scene in Wrightsville is building a bridge to get bands and fans from Lancaster crossing “the moat” more regularly.

I made it from Wrightsville to north Philly in 95 minutes.  Kate and I had dinner at Max Brenner’s on 15th and Walnut.  Part chocolate shop, part coffee bar, part bistro: it simmered and swirled us.  An avocado BLT and fish tacos, both yummy and relatively healthy, were obliterated by a most decadent dessert.  The Euphoria sundae featured chocolate and peanut butter ice creams, peanut butter, fudge, nuts, crunchy praline kind of things and was accompanied by ramekins of warm chocolate and peanut butter fondues. Every bite was different and transporting, like watching clouds loft by and then being them.

MilkBoy Philly knocked me out.  The ground floor looks like a cool dairy bar but is every bit of a real bar. Unique cocktails, 30+ draught and canned beer selection and cheap featured shots beckoned.  The menu almost made me wish I had skipped dessert but Euphoria was still upon me.  My next visit will pivot around Mac ‘n Cheese Chili Rellenos and a Hand-Carved Brisket Au Jus sandwich with fries, I guarantee.

Upstairs is the music venue: a 6,000 watts of Clair Brothers sound-system kind of venue.  It holds 200 and was maxed Saturday night.  Local killing bands The Peace Creeps and TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb played the 9:30 and 11pm slots.  I drove in to see the headliner, Kalob Griffin Band, but these two bands alone would have been worth the $10 cover.  The frontman and guitarist for Peace Creeps also played a theremin like a wiry, wily wizard: trippy rock and blues.  TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb lived up to their name: big, powerful and laying waste to the place.  Their sound is a bit old-timey and a bit sinister: like George Thorogood’s hillbilly uncle.

Kalob Griffin showed up shaved; I didn’t recognize him until he smiled!  He’s actually a pretty handsome dude.  It made me wonder if he would play “Beards.” His Band was primed and 200 people were chanting, “KGB! KGB!” when they took the stage at midnight.  Even the employees were excited; they all remarked on the size and enthusiasm of the crowd.

KGB opened with a new song, “American Dream,” and people were going nuts.  The band actually debuted a bunch of new songs but also nailed favorites like “Flood of 1889” and “Whiskey My Love.”  They DID play “Beards” but not before Kalob told a funny story about not being able to play it anymore.

Also, the band was giving away a 2-song demo from the cd to be released June 1st at World Café Live in Philly.  Get your tickets now.  If KGB can draw 200 people at a club they’ve never played before, you know a cd release at WCL will sell out.

I Love My Job!

Friend and social media guru Ken Mueller hit the Twittersphere with, “Do you have any interesting plans for the weekend?” this morning.  Man, all I have is interesting plans!  My job is going to concerts, interviewing musicians and artists, checking out great music venues and sampling food and beverages in the area.

The hardest part of my job (besides getting paid) is choosing the “who/where/when” of my itinerary.  There are so many bands and solo acts of every description.  Lancaster, York, Harrisburg, and Reading fall within 30 minute drives and Philly, Baltimore and Allentown are within 90 minutes.

Lancaster of course is home to Chameleon Club, Village Nightclub, Lancaster Dispensing Company, Pressroom, Annie Bailey’s, and Marion Court Room all within three blocks.  They are not the only places to see a band: more on that later.

York is stacked with small clubs but it’s typically Bistro 19 or The Strand-Capitol Theater that draw me downtown.  The Depot is near York College of PA.  Just south of there is a newer place I’m crazy about: The Cove.  My Rural sponsors a showcase artist every Thursday but there is live music five nights a week.  The place is clean and cozy and man, wait until you taste the brisket!

A newcomer to the scene may trap me between York and Lancaster: The Burning Bridge Tavern in Wrightsville.  I got a preview of the place two weeks ago when they brought in Shane Speal, “King of Cigar Box Guitar,” to give the new sound system a workout.  He rules and it rocks!

I bought a season pass to Abbey Bar at Appalachian Brewing Co in Harrisburg (great investment!) so I can always go there for a show.  They offer 4-5 shows per week and I have never been disappointed.  They draw some major acts and nurture some fine local talent. Cabinet recorded a cd there last winter!

That’s my 30 minute list; add Philly, Baltimore or Allentown to the list and the choices grow exponentially.  And I haven’t even factored in WHO to see.

Here’s how it broke down for this weekend.  I will start with Happy hour/dinner at ABG (American Bar and Grill, Lancaster) Friday.  Then, slip downtown to DipCo for Hexbelt.  I don’t plan to stay too late.  Trout season opens Saturday, so fishing must be fit in somehow.

By 3pm Saturday, I want to be at Burning Bridge Tavern for the grand opening.  South County Brewing will be featured and Vinegar Creek Constituency will be playing.  I can’t stay too long because I head for Philly from there.

Have you seen The Kalob Griffin Band yet?  Have you visited MilkBoy Philly yet?  I’m crazy for this band and very excited to see one of the hottest new venues around.  Plus, I get to check in on daughter Kate, buy her dinner and haul home her winter clothes.

Sunday will be more fishing, uploading photos/videos, writing show reviews and planning my blogs for the week.  If it’s nice, maybe we’ll have a cookout with the neighbors.  Tune in next week!!