Hello 2017: Charmed I’m Sure

Hello 2017.  I feel like you will be a momentous year for this Earth.  I vow to share all the love I have and music I can gather.  2016 took too many of my musical heroes.  But the music is still here and so are all the people it inspired.  I dedicate my work in 2017 to heroes passed, to being present and to building a future filled with inspiration.

I created a playlist of some of my most memorable shows in 2016.  I kept it to twelve songs by twelve bands but obviously I saw many more great shows and bands.  All of these bands worked their asses off to make the world a happier place and I thank them for it!  I reveled in new releases by Ton-Taun, a new musical pairing with Bjorn Jacobsen and Francois Byers and several new acts that really trip my trigger.  Yam Yam is a funk-rock band from Harrisburg that you can’t help but dig.  Bethlehem and Sad Patrick are so honest and human; they reach me on a biological level.  ovvls bbcOVVLS is an experimental psychedelic duo from Liverpool UK who blessed me with the opportunity to be their tour manager for 12 days.  I can’t look at that playlist and not feel optimistic about the future of music and the spirit of humanity!

Speaking of music, spirit and optimism: I’m hosting Music Friday concerts at 551 West in Lancaster every month in 2017!  shawanTo start the year right, Shawan and The Wonton will bring smooth soul, a touch of folk and a trunk of funk to town.  I feel like life is sending a healing angel on a day many may feel anxious or upset.  Come have some great food and drinks with us.  The show is free and it may free you too.  Shawan should give you a bump for a week!

By Friday January 27th, I predict you’ll be ready for some heavyweight blues.  We have a three-round pounder for you at Tellus360!  I named it Three Points of the Compass Blues because these three acts bring a world of blues styles and hail from three different cities.  ben-voOur center point and headlining is Benjamin Vo Blues Band from little ol’ Lititz.  His skills are ridiculous and he pours his heart into every note of vocals and guitar.  Nobody’s music made a bigger impact on me in 2016 than Ben’s.  Boom.

Hailing from the northern port of Williamsport is Gabe Stillman and The Billtown Giants.  I know these cats from Bullfrog Brewery.  Gabe is young on the outside and ancient on the inside.  He’s actually taking his band south: to The International Blues Challenge in Memphis, TN.  He’s actually the reason I created this show with Tellus360.  I hosted Gabe at 551 West in November.  Here’s one where Ben sat in!

Our southerner, from The Land of Pleasant Living, is Skribe.  You all know I love Annapolis and its bottomless well of talent.  Skribe is the guy standing there, grinning, cranking the handle and filling your cup.  It won’t take but a few sips of what he’s pouring before you’re loopy for his style. Skribe2 If you caught him when I used to bring him to Dispensing Company, on the main stage at FloydFest, or at any of his 200+ shows a year, I know I’ll see you at Tellus360 on the 27th.  This is a $10 show for just $5 folks!

Nothing like a bargain to start the year right!  Catch some feels with Shawan and The Wonton for free on Friday 20th.  Catch hold of the blues and shake that bugger with Three Points of the Compass Blues on Friday 27th for just $5.  I guarantee that will keep you boppin’ and rockin’ till Groundhog Day at least!

Problem Solving: Pros and Cons

Problem Solving: Pros and Cons

I’m a problem solver.  Sure, I create problems too.  But I believe my creating/solving ratio is pretty low.  I work hard to solve problems as a parent, husband, friend and business owner.  My key is being a good listener.  Most people can solve their own problems if they believe they can.  All the help they need is someone to listen as they verbalize the problem, its cause and their solution.  The hardest problem of all, of course, is believing.  Self-doubt interferes with our most basic instinct: fight or flight.  But you gotta fight…

As the owner of Gigspots I solve problems for bands and venues.  My client venues contact me when a hole appears in their music schedule or when they want extra promotion of an event.  Bands count on me to help them extend their tours and find those crucial mid-week shows that pay for gas and food between the weekends.  I often help them find lodging too, typically with a local band willing to share a gig and a couch or two.  Those bonds lead to future reciprocal gigs, broader fan bases and more ticket/merch sales in fuller venues.  Everybody wins when you play like a team.

What causes problems in the music business?  It’s a risky proposition with high initial costs and few guarantees.  It’s an industry that has been cash stagnate for over twenty years.  Local and regional bands are getting paid the same today as they were in 1992: between $100-400 on average per night.  Divide by the number of musicians in the band.  I typically pay $5-8 and see two to three bands per night in most places.  So venues are earning no more at the door than they did in 1992 either.  What good will all our expensive phones, tablets and TV’s do us when all the starving artists out there decide to just stay home and make art for themselves and the clubs replace them with karaoke and jukeboxes?

Two interesting trends have arisen that keep me believing and fighting.  One trend is crowd-funding organizations like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, GoFundMe, etc. becoming viable.  I have seen a healthy number of bands raise the money they need to record an album, fund a tour or replace worn/stolen equipment. It’s fun to contribute and help these artists do what not everyone can do.

The other trend is the growing popularity of folk, bluegrass and acoustic music in general.  In our hyper-drive, all-the-bells-and-whistles world, people are rediscovering the pleasure of hearing and experiencing acoustic instruments playing genuine music built from the roots up and performed with a personal touch.  History and biology meet to foment a familiarity within you.  You know those sounds and stirrings inherently just as your ancestors did. They invented those instruments and that music to voice their joys and concerns.  Everyone knows the meaning of “the blues.”  Everyone cheered for The Soggy Bottom Boys and sang along with “Man of Constant Sorrow” in the film O Brother, Where Art Thou?

This brings me to Carsie Blanton.  A notable pop singer-songwriter, Carsie decided she’d always wanted to make a jazz album.  She moved to New Orleans to embed herself and started a Kickstarter campaign titled “Jazz is for Everybody.” Here’s her tagline: “A sweet, sultry, simply-produced album of great vintage songs. Play it while you throw a classy dinner party or make sweet, sweet love.”  Well, she gathered 1,287 backers and raised $60,526.  This is not a typical result!  I’m listening to an advance copy of her album Not Old, Not New for Kickstarter backers right now.  It’s remarkable.  You will know it.

Has Carsie Blanton solved all her problems?  No.  She’s made her record and will be touring behind it with a full band beginning June 24.  That’s when she’ll return to the challenges of finding enough gas, couches and pancakes to keep those wheels turning.  Get your tickets and follow the antics at CarsieBlanton.com.  I’m proud to have backed this project and can’t wait to serve meals to her and the boys on two central PA stops I’ve arranged for them.  Here’s a video from Carsie’s last visit (to Tellus 360) with the stalwart Joe Ploughman on upright bass to tide you over.

Can I solve my own problems?  We’ll see.  Until I can be at two or three places at once, and see every show, and help everyone, I’ll remain restless.

How can bands and venues keep the faith that music matters, that live music is better, when the risks (costs) keep outpacing the rewards?  Well, how do you quantify rewards and who do you want to see paid?  My biggest rewards come from helping other people and keeping the music playing.  Humanity gets paid.  Culture lives on.  Everybody wins.  Money comes and goes but Time only goes.  I’m banking on the arts to keep us separate from the animals.

Time to Jam at the Dam!

On and off the grid.  That’s been my June and July so far!  I have plenty of stories to tell from Make Music Philly, World Café Live at the Queen, Loyalstock and more.  I hope to find time to write them.  But today, right now, is about Jam at the Dam, suckas!  If you don’t have tickets yet, you better jump.  This event is tomorrow 7/13 and is the last time for this gorgeous 50-acre campground party.  There will be a new location next year.  This year, I want to welcome you at The Gigspots Lawn Stage!

Jam at the Dam is a DNL Entertainment event.  That means Pirate Rob is at the helm!  I’ve written numerous times about Rob and his fantastic bands and events: Birthday Bash at Rams Head, Blockstock in OCMD and last year’s Jam.  This dude knows how to throw a party that’s part concert, part family reunion, and all fun!  I had so much fun last year I had to sponsor a whole stage this year.  And wait til you see this lineup on my and the other stages!Jam lineup

Do you jam?  This year, you can actually take part by heading for the Xtra Alltra Jam Stage.  Do you camp?  Come early for the best spots but hey, there’s fifty acres!  Come prepared to rough it, but count on some amazing food vendors as well!Jam map

So enough writing!  I’ve been advertising this for two months because I know you’ll dig it.  Join us! Many thanks to my stage co-sponsors: Tellus360, The Lancaster Roots and Blues Festival, and Wood Stove House Productions.  Stop by the stage to say hello, grab a beer and enjoy some great tunes!  Jason Mundock from Wood Stove House will be doing podcasts on-site for those who want to make a lasting record of the day and reach some other markets.  PEACE!

August Chronicles IV: Shovels and Rope at Tellus360

August Chronicles IV: Shovels and Rope at Tellus360

I mentioned this show in one of my blogs for Fig Lancaster but wanted to give it the full treatment.  I had seen Shovels and Rope open for the Felice Brothers at Chameleon Club last fall.  When I heard they were going to be the first ticketed show at Tellus360 in Lancaster, I pretty much went ape.  It’s hard to imagine that just two people can stir up such a rockin’ ruckus but I’ve seen them do it twice now.  Cary Ann Hurst and Michael Trent are Shovels and Rope and they are a roots/rock, wild-timey revival show!

Cary Ann plays guitar, stomps her feet, and sometimes kicks some drums.  Michael plays guitar, drums, harmonica and pretty much anything else he can get his hands on.  They both sing and their voices sound great together in both wails and whispers.  She has the classic country sounds of Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette and Dolly Parton in her voice and every bit of their power and range.  His voice is subtle yet stylish: think Lyle Lovett, Dwight Yoakum, John Doe.  The themes and tones are classic but the phrasing and delivery make everything feel contemporary.  It’s hard to explain yet easy to understand when you see and hear it live.  You are back in time yet hurtling through the present moment.

Have no doubt; this is rock and roll.  Their latest album O Be Joyful might look like an old-timey hymnal but it convinced Jack White to ask them to join his tour (they said yes).  It might not be a kind of rock and roll you know but you will feel the familiarity.  Remember watching O Brother Where Art Thou and your reaction to “Man of Constant Sorrow?”

My recommendation is to watch some of my videos from the show, follow Shovels and Rope on Facebook, subscribe to their email list and get out to see them immediately if not sooner.

As for Tellus360, you will not find a more intimate or rewarding music venue in this area.  They only sell 60-70 tickets for each show.  The entire building and all its contents are recycled or reclaimed wood.  It resonates like a fine cello with every note of these performances.  The shows are BYOB and folks come prepared to share.  Their second ticketed event was Carsie Blanton and hell yeah, I went and blogged about it.  Upcoming shows included the Table Top Anniversary show on November 3rd.  These shows are how it all started at Tellus360: free, BYOB, SRO and open to the public.  Sunday November 18 will also be very special with Tellus360 hosting Andrew Combs and Angel Snow, singer-songwriters from Nashville.

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.