A Million Thanks for Fifty Years

A Million Thanks for Fifty Years!

I turned 50 years old Tuesday 2/19/13. I see it as a sort of accomplishment.  My mind and body have taken some abuse over the years but I’m still moving, grooving and growing.  I heard some great “fifty” jokes and advice this week.  People obsess on numbers.

A toast from the Lovebettie family to mine Christmas 2012!

Cue up Bob Seger’s “Feel Like a Number” and check out some of the numbers in my life.

1963 – I was born then and share a birthday and birth year with a lot of great people.

1981 – the year I graduated from Moon High School just west of Pittsburgh, PA

150+ – people extended their best wishes to me Tuesday and it felt wonderful!

412/724 – the area codes where people still call me John, Johnny, the Camsman:  and I love it!

1+1 – one wife for 23 years, one daughter for almost 21

7,627 – miles logged running Gigspots in 2012 (probably closer to 10K but can’t deduct it all!)

100+ – live music events attended in 2012: How do you think I celebrated my birthday?

Between 2/13 and 2/18 I drove 500 miles to four different venues to see 22 different bands.

Wednesday’s and Friday’s shows were The Kalob Griffin Band: where they were born at Café 210 West in State College and at Lancaster Dispensing Company where I first heard them.  That made 12 KGB shows in a year.   I wrote about it for FigLancaster.com.  They could be this decade’s Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers and on the verge of a thirty-year career.  See them local while you can!

Saturday night was Pirate Rob’s Birthday Bash at Rams Head Live in Baltimore: the big one, in the Power Plant complex at Inner Harbor.  It’s a super sick party with 19 killer bands and 1,500 tickets.  I helped sponsor the show and had all-access passes.  It was very rock and roll! No other indoor show features this much talent on one stage.  It helps me not to miss Rich Ruoff’s annual Blues Festivals at the Chameleon Club which were always on our shared birthday weekend.

Sunday was the Tri State Indie Music Awards at World Café Live in PhillyRon Gallo emceed, The Dirk Quinn Band rocked as house band, and seven other acts played between sessions of awards.  Sweet Leda played and won MD Indie Band of the Year and the Groupie’s Pick awards.  I got to present them the first and I’m proud to be their friend and fan.  I helped them become a presence in central PA.

Sweet Leda rocking the TSI Awards 2013

0 – number of miles I travelled on my actual birthday 2/19/13.  I was ready for a break!

#1 – The reason I wrote this blog was to thank you all for being a part of these fifty years.  I invite you to stick around for a few more and ask you to support Gigspots by giving it some attention.  My mission is to support the arts, encourage young people and help us all find some social leisure to enjoy.  If I can save you a buck or help you make a few, I’ll do that too.  You’ll never be just numbers to me.

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

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.

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!

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!!

Summer of Love

For many people, the winter holidays provide them the best opportunities to visit family and friends.  I do best in the summer.  Many of my friends are former teacher colleagues and former students.  Many are friends of my youth and we now combine our families for summer vacations.  Golf and fishing buddies come out of hibernation.  Schedules loosen and neighborhood cookouts and cocktail parties happen much more spontaneously.  My block is recognized as the garage-hangout capital of the neighborhood.

The heat simmers up the love!  Yes, it’s been two weeks since I blogged.  Again.  Wish I could just push a few keys and bring you all with me!  It’s been great to see many new and familiar friends as I follow bands and enjoy the bounty that Lancaster offers us in the summer.  This time, I was off the grid with up to 38 friends old and new throwing a little mountain-house party I call Loyalstock.  It’s our 17-acre summer decompression chamber.  So since I’m back in town, let me throw a few shout-outs to the folks making my summer sizzle!

Thanks to Music For Everyone (MFE) for two fabulous Music Fridays!  I can’t wait for July 20!

Thanks to Long’s Park Summer Concert Series for great weekly shows, especially Sister Sparrow and Mia Borders.  Dawes is coming July 22!

Thanks to Mike Males and MyRuralRadio.com for York County’s first camp out-music festival: Genesis Fest was a genuine success!

Thanks to Mike Van Jura, Greenbelt Events.com and The Abbey Bar at Appalachian Brewing Co for the Season Pass Holder appreciation show with Simone Felice and for the amazing summer of shows to date!  That pass is the best $100 I spent all year!

Thank you to Lovebettie, Sweet Leda and Pete Bush and Hoi Polloi for trusting me enough to play your host in Lancaster!  I know you’ll be back!

Thank you to Steve and Trinette for letting all my rowdy friends invade your mountain home for a week of Loyalstock!  Thank you to all who attended; you are wonderful, gracious guests and a ton of fun to party and jam with!  Thank you Nick Schucker of NAS Sound and Entertainment for ridiculously great sound and lights at Loyalstock.  Thanks to my best man Ward Smith who again won the prizes for distance traveled and hours jamming.  You can play anything with anyone!

I will post more frequently in July and will add in links to all the pics and videos I have collected.  Tomorrow I head for Weatherly, PA to cover DNL’s Jam @ the Dam: 35 bands for $30 and draft beer is included.  I should have plenty to say about Pirate Rob’s event if I survive it!  Other upcoming highlights include Cabinet at Chameleon Club Friday July 13 and WXPN’s XPoNential Music Festival July 20-22.  Seizure later!