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.

Zinging and Swinging

January Zinging, Hollywood Swinging

Checking in January 22 to say whew, this month is flying! I did a brief wrap-up of 2012 in my last blog and also just published a piece in FigLancaster.com about trying to pick from all the great shows so far this year.  You can see it here and then rejoin me in the here and now.

City Dwelling Nature Seekers 1/12/13 at DipCo

It’s a freezing, squeeze the tears out of you cold day today.  I started with a dentist visit then made some rounds promoting Pirate Rob’s Birthday Bash.  We both went to World Café at the Queen in Wilmington Friday to see Lovebettie, Sweet Leda, Sylvan Wolfe and Noelle Picara.  The show was called Ladybug Festival, staged by Gable Music Ventures.   The show rocked, we hung with the bands, and Rob gave me a box full of cd’s, download cards and posters to promote the Bash.  I hit Millersville’s WIXQ, CI Records, Mr. Suit Records, PA College of Art and Design and Puff n Stuff with a pile of each.  If those aren’t your haunts, you can download the 19 song collection for free on the homepage of Gigspots.com.  I must say it’s a great compilation of rock, rap, hip-hop, soul and bands that blend it all.

Freezing and starving by two o’clock, I rolled into 551 West to check the place out.  It’s love!  They feature 20 craft beers on tap and the menu is extensive without being overwhelming.  Courtney told me they sell a lot of burgers and recommended the soups.  A+ for this young lady.  The crab bisque was unique and perfect: a remarkable bisque with a solid three-ounce dollop of fresh crab resting on top.  I let Courtney sway me to the house specialty burger too: excellent patty, toasted bun, ample bacon and cheddar, sliced fresh jalapeños and…peanut butter.  Yep.  Call me crazy but I tell you you’re crazy if you don’t take a swing at it.  551 West is where Kegel’s Seafood used to be, that funky corner of W. King Street.  There’s plenty of parking out back.  They’ve been open 16 weeks and have live music on the weekends.

I’m headed to Harrisburg tonight for Robert Earl Keen.  This is the kind of show that compels me to buy a season pass to Greenbelt Events.  He just doesn’t play that many shows, anywhere, so it’s super flattering to have him visit our capital.  I am committed to making sure that Greenbelt gets my support as they regroup.  Last year, the pass was the best $100 investment I made.  This year’s will have paid for itself by March!  You should check their schedule and consider a pass of your own!

It’s Wednesday, the wee hours of 1/23.  I’m back from the REK show and he and his band were magnificent.  Here’s a quote straight from their Facebook profile:  “These songs are real,” he says. “They’re hand-made. When people come to see us live, they’re seeing the people who created them play them and that’s not all that common these days. It’s the kind of magic that doesn’t happen all the time.”

I must agree; what they do is magical onstage.  But there is no illusion.  Everything is as genuine as dirt.  Robert Earl Keen and his band played their asses off and I thank them for it.  If you get a chance to see them, take it.

In a month filled with great shows, City Dwelling Nature Seekers at DipCo resonates with me on several levels.  I’ve been a fan for over two years and spent the best part of a year asking Fryth to book them.  It’s risky booking a Pittsburgh band in Lancaster; who will know them?  Well, the house was full, the band sounded great and everyone was satisfied.  I finally got a copy of their 2012 album The Winter Year and again, the band has managed to surpass their last effort somehow.  It’s very pleasing to me to see bands I admire continuing to grow.  My hats are off to you fellas, and I hope you come east again very soon!  You can see videos from the show at http://www.youtube.com/user/Gigspots1

Blockstock IV in OCMD 7/29

DNL’s Blockstock IV: Rocking The Party Block in OCMD!

When Pirate Rob says it’s a party, I mobilize.  Lucky for me, my beach week in OCMD coincided with DNL’s Blockstock IV at The Party Block.  This club fills an entire city block with three separated bars, several party patios and an outdoor pool for a dip or lounging.  On Sunday 7/29, over 25 bands descended on The Party Block to throw down and party up!

For just $10, patrons could roam all three stage areas and find the grooves that fit their mood.  The Big Kahuna stage got it right for me.  I caught 45 minute sets by Bumpin’ Uglies, Lovebettie, Sweet Leda, Bond and Bentley and Pasadena.  Each band puts their own unique spin on rock and as a lineup they are formidable.  You better have comfy, sturdy shoes and clothes you can move in when this crew gets together because you will be movin’ and groovin’!

Bumpin’ Uglies have a reggae/metal/hip-hop sound that reminds some of Sublime and some of Linkin Park.  They come at you from many angles and know how to light a fire on the floor.  Lots of songs about partying and having fun keep people upbeat while hitting the downbeat.  Brandon Hardesty out front is engaging and stylish and boy, can he play guitar!

Lovebettie has gone global this summer with appearances at SXSW, Summerfest and Warped Tour.  It seems their Swagger Rock sound suits both dance halls and stadiums.  What is Swagger Rock?  It’s all about finding that groove that everyone feels and rocking it to the next level.  We are a team and we’re champions when we play together.  Dan and Larry on bass and drums level the playing field and all opposition.  C.T.’s guitar pyrotechnics light it up.  Alexandra’s vocal majesty erects the stadium and dresses us all in the same colors.  Remember Whitney Houston’s “Star-Spangled Banner?”  Their sound is that powerful and that unifying.

Sweet Leda brings the soul-rock sound.  Whether they want to save your soul, tempt it or doom it is up to your imagination.  Don’s drumming is clever and deft.  Omar on guitar is some kind of wizard.  Jaime on bass thumps you up one side and down the other.  Julie’s sultry, powerful vocals open your pores and touch every nerve.  When Pasadena’s drummer joined them at the end, the place just went berserk with the beats.

Bond and Bentley just kidnaps your ass.  Their hip-hop rock hits hard.  Does anybody play an acoustic as hard as Ray?  The lead players are incendiary, the drums and bass percussive.  The keyboards create this carnival atmosphere around it all.  People just surrender to it and go dervish.  If National Lampoon remakes Animal House, count on Bond and Bentley being the house band.

Pasadena headlined the Big Kahuna stage for good reason.  They unify this musical crew and their diverse styles.  This night they were snake bit by a missing sound man and an absent bass player.  Did it keep them from making it a party?  Hell no!  Jaime from Sweet Leda stepped up to play bass.  All the bands shared PA and monitors.  And everyone sticks around to cheer on everyone else in the Pasadena family.  Nobody else was leaving either!

When you see DNL Entertainment or any of these bands on the bill, step up.  You’ll be glad you did!

Who’s Your Favorite Pirate?

Who’s Your Favorite Pirate?

Growing up in Pittsburgh and loving baseball, I idolized our hometown Pirates.  Roberto Clemente was and is still my favorite.  The game would benefit from his leadership today; if only he wasn’t lost in a plane crash doing earthquake relief work!  It broke my nine-year old heart!

I like movie pirates: Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush were brilliant scallywags in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie.  Tim Curry vamped it up brilliantly as Long John Silver in The Muppets’ Treasure Island, a must-see. David Warner was a ruthless degenerate pirate in a 1980 movie apparently only I saw and loved, The Island.  Peter Benchley (Jaws) wrote the novel and screenplay and Michael Caine starred. It is great, honest and just re-released on DVD.

Who is my favorite pirate today (with a nod and smile to the above)?  Pirate Rob!  Never heard of him?  Pirate Rob, aka Rob Bryan, is owner/partner of DNL Entertainment, One Koast Productions and a plethora of other music-related ventures.  When Pirate Rob says it’s a party, he makes Capt. Morgan look like Donald Duck.  When he brings his band of merry bands to play, it’s “…a festival of conviviality” to quote Long John Silver.

I first met Rob at The Legendary Dobbs in Philly one cold November night.  I had gone to check out my friends Lovebettie’s show and he had several bands on the bill.  He is a blunt yet easy-going guy with a ready laugh and great taste in music.  He is too busy to waste words or time.  It’s always the next horizon, the next adventure, the next show. He handed me some cd’s and said, “Stay in touch.”

Soon I was noticing the bands Pasadena and Bond and Bentley sharing shows with Lovebettie in Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Buffalo and Philly.  These two distinctive, powerful, professional bands belong to what I call Rob’s fleet.  I had no idea what a large and vibrant music scene existed in the Baltimore-Annapolis region or that it connected to OCMD, Dewey and Rehoboth Beaches.  This guy could summon up thirty bands with a lopsided grin, it seemed.

I felt the full force of his fleet at Pirate Rob’s Birthday Bash on February 18, 2012.  He sold out the 1,500 capacity Rams Head Live in Inner Harbor and fifteen bands played their asses off, each ending their set with, “Thanks a lot everyone and ‘F&*k you, Pirate Rob’!” as is apparently tradition.  It’s obviously a true sign of love and respect in this crew.  You should hear 1,500 people scream it sometime.  You’ll know.

Talk to any of the bands who work with him; he makes stuff happen.  Go to any show he’s part of and you’ll get it.  These people are believers and they stick together.  Best of all, you can join in on it!  One Pasadena or Bond and Bentley show will be all it takes, but take my word for it: you need to check out Sweet Leda, The Grilled Lincolns, Bumpin’ Uglies, Fresh Competition and the whole fleet.

I just spent the weekend with this crew at Jam @ the Dam.  It was like a family reunion for 400 people and the best party.  With thirty years of party experience under my belt, you can take my word for it.  Or not.  But if you have any thoughts of a weekend trip to OCMD, make it the weekend of July 28-29 and request Monday off.  Pirate Rob and Jayslow Entertainment are throwing Blockstock IV in The Party Block that Sunday.  If you can make it, you will be there very late.  If you miss it, just drop anchor on the couch because you are not sea-worthy.

F&*k you, Pirate Rob!  And sail on, brother!

You land-lubbers can see videos from Jam at the Dam at this link: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLC43C3D4C10B5FA32&feature=plcp

If you were there: great partying with you!!