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.

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!

Pilgrims: It’s Festival Season!

Pilgrims: It’s Festival Time!

If April showers bring May flowers, what do May flowers bring?  Pilgrims!  I logged a lot of miles in May but nothing compared to what summer promises!  It’s festival season!  What could be better than joining hundreds or even thousands of like-minded music-lovers to celebrate peace, harmony and live music?

I’m finishing May tonight with tickets to Dawes at York’s Strand-Capitol theater.  The fact that it’s sold-out should tell you that this band is great and on the rise.  I can tell you that they take me back to the days when Jackson Browne and The Eagles created the southern CA sound and they move me forward with poignant songs.  Their latest album Nothing is Wrong grabbed my gut just the way I feel when I see a friend who’s obviously suffering, ask what’s wrong and they say, “Nothing.”  The story-song “A Little Bit of Everything” is quite a mix of landscapes and is one of the most perfect songs I have ever heard.  Sorry if you didn’t get tickets.

The good news for you is that Dawes will be playing the Long’s Park Summer Concert Series in July.  That’s a FREE show on a lovely, sloped lawn at a great-sounding amphitheater.  If long-distance travels or camping aren’t your style, you can still get the festival feel and a great show there all summer long.  The music starts this Sunday night, June 3 with Sister Sparrow and The Dirty Birds!  I’m proud to crow about that one!

Friday June 1st is a great kickoff to the month!  I plan to volunteer at WXPN in Philly during their Spring mini-fund drive all day and then stick around for Cabinet and The Kalob Griffin Band at World Café Live.  I love XPN and am so grateful to receive a strong signal from them in central PA!  They will be staging their own festival at the end of July and I’m planning on a three-day pass for that one!  With a three-day pass, you get lawn-seat admission to Dr. Dog, The Avett Brothers and Wilco!  That show alone is worth the pass price but the list of performers for XPoNential Music Fest is flat amazing.  I have yet to see its equal within $100 or 400 miles!

I’m so psyched for the Cabinet and Kalob Griffin Band show that I’m giving the press release its own blog spot!

Saturday June 2nd is also a festival worthy of its own blog spot: MyRuralRadio.com’s Genesis Fest!  York County will finally have an all-day music fest to call its own and wow, you should see the lineup for this all-day event!  I have visited the site and the camping area is on a beautiful, manicured island in the Conewago Creek.  I can’t say enough about the folks at MyRuralRadio and their dedication to promoting indie artists.  Check out the over 400 bands featured on their site and try and tell me I’m wrong.

I am also running an ad for Hot August Blues Fest on my website right now.  They were the winners of TriState Indie’s Best Festival in 2011 and this year will be even better.

Finally, I have to give a shout-out to my friends Lovebettie!  They not only are playing the main stage at SummerFest, the nation’s oldest and largest rock festival, but their song “Red Roses” will be the first song featured on the festival’s compilation disc.  That means between 750,000 to 3.5million people will see them live and/or hear their signature song!  Now that’s an Independence Day!