City Week, Country Week

I just finished two very exciting but very different weeks.  The week of Feb 11-17 carried me to big cities for wild times and a wide variety of music.  The week of Feb 18-24 brought me back to the country for more rootsy, traditional sounds.  I continue to be amazed at the scope of musical adventures I can find within 100 miles of Lancaster.

State College isn’t really a big city but it’s a big deal in PA.  The Kalob Griffin Band has been a big deal there since 2010 so I visited their birthplace, Café 210 West, to get a feel for their roots.  It’s a great venue with cheap, delicious food and beer.  Every college town should have a place like this.  The band was rousing, their fans carousing and the ladies just wouldn’t leave this band alone.

Lancaster isn’t a big city but it has everything a big one does; it’s “A City Authentic.”  I got to see KGB in the place I met them: The Lancaster Dispensing Company, aka DipCo.  The band sounded great but I called it a night early to save energy for Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday night carried me to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, namely Rams Head Live for Pirate Rob’s Birthday Bash Sixteen bands performed for over 800 people and as a sponsor, I had all-access passes.  This is not something I would recommend for the faint of heart.  These people party like they’re on the Mayan calendar.  You can still download a 19-song sampler from the Birthday Bash artists on my Gigspots.com homepage.  If you think you can hang in any rock show situation, mark your calendar for next year.

Sunday night meant Philly for The TriStateIndie.com Music Awards at World Café Live.  I’ve never been to the Grammy’s but I doubt they are more efficient or fun than TSI’s show.  Ron Gallo as emcee and Dirk Quinn Band as house band made the beautiful World Café Live feel like a giant house party.

I documented much more about this weekend in my last blog where I also discussed turning fifty.

Country weekends still kick off on Thursdays.  I slipped up to Elizabethtown’s Lynden Gallery for an intimate, acoustic round.  Sarah Blacker, Jessica Smucker and Eric White traded songs accompanied by Eran Shaysh on percussion.  The quiet while they performed enrobed their songs.  The direct connection between artists and audience crackled.  The show closed with a transcendent rendition of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock” that left me breathless.  I will never forget it.

I left that show and drove six miles closer to home before stopping at The Watering Trough.  The Wayfarer Experiment had a late show I just couldn’t pass up.  This trio is knocking me out: raw talent and wild abandon in every show.  It was a pretty late Thursday night even by my standards!

There were too many shows to choose from Friday night but the one I regret missing the most was Mike McMonagle and The Vulcans playing Lancaster’s newest interesting venue, “Live From the Cellar.”  Keep your eye on their page to be sure you don’t miss something extraordinary and intimate.

Saturday night was another double-header.  I began with a scrumptious dinner with my wife at Black Gryphon in Elizabethtown.  Serenading our dessert/beer course were the dynamic duo of Leo DiSanto and Jeff Bryson from Vinegar Creek Constituency.  Part one of the evening was delicious and satisfying to all senses.

Part two of Saturday night took me to The Depot in York, PA for some rowdy country and rockabilly!  My pals American Hollar opened the night and showed off plenty of new material.   The sooner you catch up to this band, the better.  Mike Males has a new electric guitar that’s pumping up the sound and word has it that Jeff Hostetter (resonator) is considering a move to Florida.  You can catch them March 28 at World Café Live at The Queen in Wilmington, DE as part of a great lineup as Central PA invades DE.

Carrie and the Dirty Pillows played an energetic set to transition from straight-up country to a rockabilly sound.  Then came DiDi Deluxe and The Dirty Devils, Fly Magazine (Harrisburg)’s cover band for March.  I must say, this band knows their stuff!  You have no chance of sitting still when they crank up their rockabilly.  They are an eye-popping, ear-splitting, foot-moving machine.

It’s hard to find time to write when you’re always going to shows but I’m trying!  Keep the invitations coming and I’ll do my best to catch your shows next!

Dum-Dums and Smarties: What You Need

Dum-Dums and Smarties: What You Need

For the seventeen years I taught high school English, I handed out Dum-Dums and Smarties on test days.  I learned this from psychologist and model teacher Dr. Peggy Forsythe on the day of our first test in a memorable educational psychology class.  How many I handed out is anybody’s guess.  I remember a student noticing that you could save Dum-Dum labels and earn prizes.  He said, “Jeez, Campbell.  You could save for a year and get, like, a car or something.”

I left public education for many reasons: mostly personal.  I miss the dynamics of the classroom and the energy of teens.  I promised myself that Gigspots.com would serve young people and provide them with opportunities to have fun and satisfy their curiosities.  I am about to launch an internship program at York College and hope to expand it to my alma mater, Millersville University.

But really it’s about the music.  I worry that young people aren’t getting enough chances to connect with live music.  Downloading songs and sharing playlists cannot compare to sharing a concert experience with friends.  I created Gigspots to help young people (and the young at heart) find concerts and destinations that they could enjoy and afford.  I’m finding plenty of bands, destinations and discounts.  What I need is feedback.  I know what I like.  I need to know what you like.  Are we still connected?

Begin by Liking my Gigspots Facebook page.  When I post something you like, Like it.  When you hear a band you think is great, post a link on my page and Share generously.  Name the bands you want to see and I will move mountains to get a local show set up.  Please visit my website to check the concert calendar and watch some of the over 500 videos posted on my YouTube channel.  I need your visits, clicks, comments, Likes and Shares.

I can’t get Adele, Taylor Swift, Foo Fighters or Jay Z to play for you.  Yet.  But I can get Kayla Kroh, Sarah Blacker, Lovebettie, Face for Radio, Bruzer Wyatt and dozens more.  Never heard of them?  You never heard of Adele five years ago either.

I was glad to hand out all that candy.  I was happy to attend your sporting events, plays, concerts, musicals, recitals and galleries.  I wrote your letters of recommendation, coached you, tutored you and lent an ear when you needed to talk.  You loved sharing your music and discussing your interests in my classroom.  I’m still listening and still trying to serve you.  I need your feedback.

If you are not a former student, I need your feedback too.  While I was serving our posterity in the classroom, I surely missed some good stuff.  Share it with me and I will share it with them.  We can all teach and learn together.  Music makes fear go away!

To All the Girls I’ve Loved: Meet Carsie Blanton

To All the Girls I’ve Loved: Meet Carsie Blanton

Most of the guys I know like girls: just not in front of a band.  I like girls and I like music.  I think there is good singing, great singing and poor singing and gender is immaterial.  Maybe it’s that those guys don’t want to hear what women have to say.  I don’t know; it’s not my problem.  I like to know what women really think about things but so few will tell you directly.  I was raised to respect women so I’m not threatened by Aretha Franklin wanting “…just a little bit!”

 

Carsie Blanton earned my respect right away.  Her songs radiate genuineness and honesty about the strengths and frailties of the human condition.  She maintains a great sense of humor and perspective about what motivates us as friends, lovers, scoundrels and saviors.  Her most recent album, Idiot Heart, offers ten songs about love, lust, longing and loneliness with a wry grin.  What she doesn’t love about life, she can still laugh off.  Her clever rhymes and sparrow voice lift the heaviness away but still resonate the impact of bad choices, blunt honesty and the tug of emotions in the face of logic.

He was a dark-eyed man and I knew right away

It was gonna take a turn for the worst

So I said “hey heart if you’re gonna go crazy

Give a little warning first”

Idiot heart

I shoulda left you at home

You give me nothing but hard love, bad luck

When you gonna leave me alone?

“Idiot Heart”

 

Carise doesn’t look to lay blame for life’s foibles.  She sees that we’re all odd and we’re all in this together.

What’s that feeling makes you sick?

What’s that cuts you to the quick?

What’s that habit you can’t kick?

It’s love, and it’s the only thing you know.

Love is clumsy, love ain’t smart

Seems so harmless at the start

Then trips and falls and breaks your heart

But love is all we got

“All We Got”

 

She doesn’t weep, whine or waste away pining for what might be.  This is a lady who seeks what she wants and all she asks is a little patience, support and honesty in that quest.  She calls herself a pop singer with quirky little songs and a cute voice.  I can’t deny those claims or their charm, having spent time during each song giggling, tapping my toes and shaking my head in agreement.  If this is pop, I guess I love pop.  I had no idea it could be deep as the ocean yet keep you surfing atop every wave.

 

So it’s not goodbye to Aretha, Billie, Chrissie, Lucinda or Janis.  It’s not, “See ya later” to Loretta, Jessica, Alexandra, Sarah, Joy, Julie or Dana.  I’m not leaving my wife to follow Carsie to New Orleans either.  I hear every one of those women when I hear a Carsie Blanton song.  She speaks for them, for all of us, as we “…die a little death” in those moments where we challenge ourselves to feel alive, come what may.

 

Check out Carsie Blanton in her own words and in the glowing praise of others here.

See a video I shot at the magical Tellus360 in Lancaster, PA the night Carsie “popped” me.

Watch Carise’s pro videos and see life as her muses see it.  Then vote for what you want to see next.  It’s like you can become an assistant muse.

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!

LAUNCH Fever!

LAUNCH Fever!

I’m getting really psyched for LAUNCH Music Conference April 26-29!!  It coincides with the anniversary of my website and really shows the potential Lancaster has as an entertainment destination.  Last year, I had fliers in the swag bags.  A lot of good it did me; my website wasn’t much to see at its birth.  This year, I have a vendor table and the time to attend some of the conferences.  I also have all-access passes for every show in every venue, all weekend.  I’ll be the happiest zombie you’ve ever seen by Sunday!

Who did I hear for the first time at last year’s conference?  Amanda WellsDana AlexandraPete Bush and the Hoi Polloi.  Maybe those names mean nothing to you.  They were nothing to me then but I have grown very fond of these folks and seen many strong shows by each of them in the past year.  I’m really thrilled that Pete is coming back from Pittsburgh this year.  Be sure to be at Spring House Tap Room on Friday April 27 by 8pm.  Lancaster’s own Amanda Wells and Mike McMonagle each have a set and the Hoi Polloi plays right on their heels.  You can hear all three and still have time to see The Felice Brothers!  I promise!  That’s what I’m doing!

Here’s how just those three examples played out for me.  By hearing and meeting Amanda and Dana, I discovered a whole network of local women singer/songwriters and their regular showcases at places like Dispensing Company, Shenk’s and Symposium.  Social networking with them kept me up to date on shows by local powers Jessica Smucker, Loretta Bilieux, and Trixie Greiner.  They guided me to shows by newcomers like Macy K and regional touring acts like Heather Maloney and Sarah Blacker.  I had a great year with the ladies!  (I always wanted to say that!)

Dana introduced me to her drummer, Tony Kirchner.  He also drums for Slimfit (rock stars!) and promotes shows, in particular the Singer/Songwriter Series at Lancaster Dispensing Company.  It was Tony who told me I had to get to know Fryth at DipCo and the owners of Tri State Indie, Rich and Steph.  Getting to know those folks was invaluable to me as I built my business.  I learned a lot from all of them and am now proud to call them friends.  I contribute regularly to TSI now and presented at their first annual awards show.  Fryth is just flat-out my hero.  By the way, we never would have had Plugged In on the Farm last summer without the efforts of Tony and Fryth.

In talking to Pete and showing him around (he’s from Pittsburgh like me), I heard about the ALTAR BAR, Thunderbird Café and several other great venues back there.  On my first trip to ALTAR, I heard Lovebettie.  POW!!  That club is absolute dynamite and nobody lit my fuse this year like Lovebettie.  I staged my first show this year just to give them a place near here to play.  Go to Chameleon on the Saturday of LAUNCH and see Lovebettie on the main stage at 9pm.  You will Lovebettie too!

But don’t just listen to me!  Go to the LAUNCH website and download the schedule of conferences and performers.  They even have a scheduler app for it this year.  Get yourself a weekend pass and get your own year’s-worth of fun and entertainment out of it!