Spring With Me

Did “spring ahead” mess you up?  You’re not alone if losing an hour to daylight savings time wrecked you.  And then it snowed on the first day of spring.  Did you cry foul?  I know it’s been a long, cold winter.  Just listen to all those birds outside your window.  Shake it off.  Spring is here.  I’m planting some seeds right now that will bring a fine harvest for bands and fans of live music.

I have a few more showcases scheduled in Lancaster for April and May.  Then the map zooms out.  The Gigspots Spotlight Showcase is going on the road!  I’ll be taking central PA bands out to visit all those fine bands I brought to town over the last two years.  You’ll get a chance to play at some new venues for some new audiences.  They’ll be ready and waiting; they’ve heard all about you since they sent their hometown heroes to Lancaster to open for you.  You will be music ambassadors for central PA.

OneKoast MD's Finest IX mapWhere are we going? “From Pittsburgh to Philly, from the Poconos to the Potomac” isn’t just one of Gigspots’ slogans.  I have built a loop of client venues where you can play nearly every night of the week.  We can crash with all those bands that spent the night on my couches.  Or maybe like me you have friends all across the state who say, “Why don’t you ever visit?”  I’ll bet you know somebody along I-80 or I-70.

That’s just how it worked out with Working Breed when they drove from Pittsburgh to play shows for me in Manayunk and Lancaster.  They had friends and family in West Chester who attended both shows and gave them lodging.  Venues like it when you bring 10-12 people to a show on your first visit.  Working Breed played two shows and got three future gigs out of it.

DSCF0251I’m going off the grid March 23-28 for a retreat in the mountains.  When I get back, tour planning begins in earnest.  If your band has a profile on Gigspots.com, take this week to update it with your latest pics, videos, links and shows.  I’ll be cleaning house of bands that don’t do their homework and picking the bands that look road-worthy.  Don’t forget that you can ALWAYS post your info, events and fun stuff on my Gigspots Facebook page.  It’s your bulletin board too and it keeps you on the radar of me and my audience.  Ask the bands I’ve taken on tour if that’s worth it.

Sweet Leda’s New Album: Let It In and Turn it Up!

Sweet Leda’s latest album Let It In deserves tons of attention and hundreds of accolades.  The fat, lush sounds of the direct-to-tape recording process captured the layers of power and intensity behind these songs.  If you’ve seen Sweet Leda live, you’ll feel the heat off this record.  If you’re curious what all the buzz and awards are about, it’s time to Let It In and turn it up!  You’ll find chances later to have a quiet moment with the record.  Your first play should be loud as hell.  Wherever you do that, do it to it.SL4

Julie Cymek wrote these songs and sings them with command.  She belts in the same weight class as Dana Fuchs, Grace Potter, Sister Sparrow and Joan Osborne.  Jaime Horrigan on bass can thump it or go all melodious on you.  He’s a double-threat on beatbox too.  Omar El Dieahy is my favorite guitarist I know.  He plays these crazy prototype guitars and while he invents new tones and textures, he never loses the song or lets it get impersonal.  Don Boyette on drums is The Pocket.  Dude is all sweet spot and grace, a drummer’s drummer. SL6 Joining Sweet Leda on two album tracks, as he often does live, is tenor sax giant Ron Holloway.  How lucky for us all!  You can Google him now or after you hear him, but you will.

Here’s the ten-song playlist and a thing or two about that thing they do: sweet, sexy, funky rock with soul.

  1. “Resolutions:” one of the band’s resolutions for the record must be to let Omar turn it up! You’ll figure out right away that this band means what it says.
  2. “Go Get Your Money:” Omar and Ron Holloway earn it one this one. They go and they get it!
  3. “Fake It:” no posers need apply! If you can’t be real with the open-hearted people in Sweet Leda, you can’t be real.  Whoever you are, I don’t want to know you either.
  4. “Make It Happen:” get off your ass! What’s stopping you?
  5. “She’s Not Coming Home:” I think you blew it mister. This is a song for a woman wronged.
  6. “Baby:” one hot, slow-burning torch of a song about making love. Julie didn’t write it for you but you’ll believe she did.  Deep down believe.
  7. “Bad Boy:” one hot rock song for the bad girls in the house! Bad hasn’t sounded so good since Donna Summer.
  8. “Let It In:” five senses and a whole world right in front of you. Seize something and hang on!
  9. “Something:” by George Harrison…a big romantic version. It’s a love song to a love song.  Omar!
  10. “You Can’t Hold Me Down:” I always hold my head high. I keep moving on.

SL1Those last words are Julie’s and could well describe the album.  Sweet Leda has plenty of reason to hold their heads high with the release of Let It In and the record should definitely keep their careers moving on and up.  But they could serve us all well as a motto for life.  There is great beauty in life and we need to let it in.  When it sparks our curiosity, we need to act on it.  And when people bring the ugly, we need to let it go.  Crank up your copy of Let It In and proceed loud and proud!  Buy it now at SweetLeda.com!

All photographs and digital-oil images here are the work and property of Dan Gillespie and DGital.  Used with permission.  See other spectacular albums at https://www.facebook.com/dgital.me/timeline or for consultation email dgital.me@icloud.com

Writing Pro

If you think it’s a cop-out to just re-post favorite blogs for the first twelve days of April, I beg your patience.  It’s giving new readers a chance to catch up.  It’s giving me a great opportunity to reflect on Gigspots’ progress and my writing as a whole.  Let me act proud while humbly thanking the bands, venues and personalities who have allowed me to write about them.  I’m learning and I love learning!

Besides my own blog, I’ve found some opportunities to write professionally since I started Gigspots.  I’m especially proud of a follow-up piece on Lancaster Roots and Blues I wrote for the March edition of Regional Musician magazine.  I like their motto: “Right-brain info for the left-brain artists.”  Once a teacher, always a teacher I guess.  Here’s this link to “The Road to Roots and Blues.”

I contribute fairly regularly to FigLancaster.com and find it exhilarating to be part of such a beautiful publication.  It gives me a great excuse to gush about Lancaster’s music scene.  Here’s a sample: follow this link to see my December post.  I have to say I was pretty thrilled to be a contributor to Fig Lancaster’s first Music Issue and be in print.  I got “…five copies for my mother.”

The folks at TriStateIndie.com have become mentors and trusted friends since I started Gigspots.  Contributing for them is fun and gives me a chance to do some different types of writing.  It was really cool when they published my album review for SEEDS’ Questioned By a Ghost.  I’m not sure if it’s related, but I receive music to review and invitations to shows regularly now.  I also write liner notes and bios for bands.

I wrote a ton for Lancaster Roots and Blues: press releases, sales pitches, website content, program notes, you name it.  I’ll be doing it again for 2015 so please give me some feedback if you’re in that audience.  It’s a primary way that I can work to assure your experience is the best it can be.

 

SEEDS’ “Questioned By A Ghost” Answers the Call

I wrote about central PA band SEEDS before in my blog Young Lions.  I received an advance copy of their first studio album Questioned By A Ghost and wrote the following review.  In brief: it’s a strong debut!

SEEDS rocking Marion Court Room patio

SEEDS rocking Marion Court Room patio

SEEDS’ Questioned By A Ghost Answers the Call

Central PA band SEEDS has been threatening to release a full-length album for almost a year.  On Saturday December 21, 2013 they will deliver it to a raucous capacity crowd at Chameleon Club in Lancaster, PA on a bill that includes The Districts, Pine Barons and Coronado.  That’s a lot of rock but SEEDS fans can roll with it.  They are devoted and obviously patient.  The band better bring a pile of copies to the show!  Questioned By A Ghost is worth the wait.

SEEDS fans expect a loud, rowdy show but what can they expect from this first studio album?  Two things still abound: unusual chords and whimsy.  The members of SEEDS love a good laugh.  Their humor is more wry than mocking and the twisty melodies and guitar lines match that tone well.  Songs like “Radiation” and “Not a Care in the World” don’t say people are fucked up.  They say humans are goofy as shit.   When they’re angry, they don’t look to lay blame.  They say, “C’mon, man!  We can do better than this!”  Songs like “Flystrip” and “Box of Animals” show the fallacies of image-consciousness and materialism.  Social networking is not socializing, people!  Go live life.

SEEDS sprout plenty of sex, drugs and rock & roll on this album too.  “Strange Chemistry” is an instrumental but it has plenty to say.  “Open My Mind,” “Eyes Are Oceans” and “Medicine” are pretty trippy, especially when the sitar kicks in.  These are also the songs where you can hear how vast the library of musical influences on this band must be.  Peter Gabriel and The Byrds meet Frank Zappa and Aerosmith?  Ravi Shankar and Carlos Santana sit in?  How does that happen?

Then there are the songs “Park Bench Pigeons” and “Endless Questions.”  These landscapes kind of epitomize everything the rest of the album sketches.  They’re weird, funny, ironic tales with jangly melodies.  They are rides through a not-quite-right fun house: twisted and twisty.

So does it rock?  Yes.  Will Questioned By A Ghost satisfy SEEDS fans?  It should.  It’s a youthful, rowdy exclamation and definitely delivers on the production values.  In fact, it might push fans to demand a better mix at live shows.  There’s a depth of layering on this album that rarely gets the attention it deserves on stage.  Now that fans can finally carry SEEDS of their own, maybe they’ll demand a show that’s more layers than lava.  For the lava lovers (and lava light lovers), just turn it up!

Gigspots Interview: Kirk Salopek of Silencio

SILENCIO- A Tribute to the Works of David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti

PhilaMOCA (532 N. 12th Street Philadelphia, PA) 7pm 7/12

Zoetropolis Art House (315 W. James Street Lancaster, PA) 11pm 7/13

 

7/12 PhilaMOCA &/13 Zoetropolis

7/12 PhilaMOCA
&/13 Zoetropolis

Twin PeaksMulholland Drive? Blue Velvet?  Maybe even Eraserhead?  How big of a David Lynch fan are you?  If your answer is BIG, this mini-tour by the band Silencio is a must-see for you.  It was Twin Peaks that set Kirk Salopek on a course through the weird and wondrous ways of filmmaker and composer David Lynch that eventually lead to Silencio.

“Man, those Julee Cruise songs from the Twin Peaks soundtrack, I just played that cassette to pieces.  It’s definitely how I came to love that twangy, tremolo-filled kind of 50’s sound.”  Kirk Salopek of Pittsburgh is a self-taught musician on a mission.  He and drummer David Jamison performed in a band The Mandrake Project from 2002-2011.  Their sound was progressive, mixing jazz, prog-rock and much experimentation; check their release A Miraculous Container.  Mid-2011 Kirk visited his local guitar store and saw this Epiphone SG copy “…that looked like it had been dipped in pond water.  Nasty.  My buddy who owns the store said he’d sell it for $40.  I took it home, cleaned it up and holy cow, you’d have to play it to believe it.”  That guitar and Kirk and David’s restlessness for a new musical challenge was the birth of Silencio.Silencio-lpr

“We both loved that retro sound, kind of sci-fi movie, 60’s cop shows, you know.  We started composing some stuff and realized we needed a bass player.  That’s where Matt Booth came in.  David was simultaneously working on a side project and had brought in his friend Dessa (Poljak) to sing a bit.  Well, her looks and her sound were perfect for our project.  The next thing you know, we enlisted Lee Hintenlang on sax and Dan Barrett on keys.  They play with Matt in City Dwelling Nature Seekers.  So in the space of about a month, we had a band and our first show.  It was at Le Poisson Rouge in Manhattan and it sold out!  We knew we were onto something!”

The David Lynch fan base is a large and voracious body all over the globe.  Lynch hasn’t released a film in a while but has released two music albums since 2010.  All sorts of anniversaries and celebrations are planned for some of his major works in the next year or two and audiences are clamoring for Silencio to be there.  Friday July 12, the band plays the “Eraserhood Forever” celebration at PhilaMOCA to help celebrate that weird neighborhood in Philly where Lynch lived while studying art in Philadelphia.  Eraserhead was his first full-length film in 1977.  Before returning to Pittsburgh (and the studio!), Silencio will also perform at Zoetropolis Art House in Lancaster, PA Saturday July 13 at 11pm.

Is Lynch aware of Silencio?  “Oh yeah, he knows about us,” says Kirk.  “He was interviewed in Rolling Stone mid-2012 and was asked if he had heard about us.  At the time, he replied no but we have heard through channels since that we have his blessing.  Plus, we were mentioned in RS, you know, so that was cool!   Even better has been getting associated with The David Lynch Foundation.  They espouse the use of transcendental meditation and consciousness-based education as therapy for people like soldiers returning with PTSD, victims of abuse and other people whose emotional and psychological scars are deep.  It’s a fascinating organization and you wouldn’t believe how many big stars are involved.  It’s cool to know that you’re making the music you want to make and that people find it not just enjoyable but actually helpful.”

Music fans who love David Lynch films: it makes perfect sense if you know Lynch’s work at all.  But anyone who appreciates great musicianship, ambience and escape should invest a few hours in Silencio.

7/12 PhilaMOCA &/13 Zoetropolis

7/12 PhilaMOCA
&/13 Zoetropolis

Don’t Stop the Press! The Slackwater News, Pegi Young and Second Hand Suits

The synergy of the Lancaster music scene will be displayed again Friday March 22.  It’s hard to believe a show this vibrant and unique costs just $5.  Everyone is this area knows The Slackwater News brings a dynamic energy and work ethic to the stage.  You never know what musical surprises or heights they might deliver.  They’re also known for performing timely and unique cover versions of songs appropriate to the night (Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein” and Oingo Boingo’s “Weird Science” at the Halloween CD release party).

Pegi Young and The Survivors play Chameleon Club Lancaster 3/22

Could this Friday include a rendition of a Neil Young classic?  I’m pulling for “Powderfinger” as Neil’s wife, bandmate and fellow philanthropist Pegi Young brings her band The Survivors to Chameleon Club Lancaster, PA this Friday 3/22 in support of The Slackwater News.  FYI, Pegi and The Survivors will be playing Late Night with David Letterman March 26th.  Local rising band Second Hand Suits fills out the Chameleon bill.  Below are the official press releases which include links and free streaming audio of Pegi’s new album.  It’s great!  See you Friday!

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The Slackwater News
info@slackwaternews.com
www.slackwaternews.com

15 March 2013

PEGI YOUNG JOINS THE SLACKWATER NEWS FOR UPCOMING SHOW AT THE CHAMELEON CLUB

March 2013, Lancaster, PA: Pegi Young, bandmate and wife of Neil Young for over three decades, will bring her critically acclaimed band to the Chameleon Club in support of The Slackwater News on March 22, 2013.

The Chameleon Club has announced the addition of Pegi Young to The Slackwater News show on March 22.  “Pegi’s music is really powerful, and she tours with a great band that often includes legendary musicians like Spooner Oldham.  Plus we have a lot of respect for the work she and Neil have done with the Bridge School and Farm Aid.  We are really looking forward to the show and hope that by keeping the ticket price low we can draw a lot of fans of both bands,” remarked Daniel Ramirez, keyboardist for The Slackwater News.  Doors open at 8:00 pm and ticket price is $5. This show is for ages 21 and up.

Show Details
The Slackwater News, Pegi Young and the Survivors, and Second Hand Suits
Friday March 22, 2013 | 8pm | 21+ | $5
Chameleon Club – 223 N. Water St. Lancaster, PA 17603

About The Slackwater News:
With their second EP “Graveyard Mates” the Slackwater News lets fly another batch of restless songs that walk that thin line between indie-rock and freak-folk – memorable for their melodies, sweet in their harmonies, and cleverly arresting in their lyrics.

The group—Matt Blank (drums), JJ Gammache (bass, vocals), Matt Johnson (guitar), Daniel Ramirez (organ/piano/keyboards), and Dan Zdilla (vocals, guitar)—proudly hails from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where a healthy modern arts and music community thrive alongside badly lit retail outlets, tourist buffets, and horse-drawn agriculture.

Their debut disc, “All You Creatures” earned significant regional notice as well as airplay on WXPN and other radio outlets in 2010. It drew comparisons to the likes of Dr. Dog, The Band, The Black Keys, Spoon, The Beatles and Grateful Dead.

This time around the group presents six songs about things like international phone calls, sharing a house with polite ghosts, the oddly comforting certainty of entropy, and the equally comforting notion of spending that eternity in the ground with someone you love. “Graveyard Mates” is available for physical and digital sale at www.slackwaternews.com and all major retail outlets.

Watch the “Ghosts” Music Video
Visit the Slackwater News’ Official Website
Stream Slackwater News Music at Reverbnation
Buy Slackwater News Music at iTunes

 

Pegi Young & The Survivors, will be coming to Lancaster on Friday, March 22nd to play at The Chameleon. Young is supporting her third album, Bracing For Impact (Vapor Records), once again accompanied by her acclaimed recording and touring band, The Survivors: legendary keyboard player Spooner Oldham, bassist Rick Rosas, guitarist Kelvin Holly, and drummer Phil Jones. The group is scheduled to perform on David Letterman on March 26th and will then hit the road for a string of dates supporting Willie Nelson and Dwight Yoakam.

 

Bracing For Impact follows up 2010’s Foul Deeds, which Pegi co-produced with veteran multi-instrumentalist Ben Keith.  Her debut album, 2007’s self-titled Pegi Young, was described by Allmusic.com as “an intimate, hopeful and melancholy look at life and love from a songwriter who has been there.”

 

To stream Bracing For Impactplease click here.

 

Pegi Young first became known via her longtime role as backup singer—onstage and on record—for her husband Neil Young.  Pegi and Neil, whose son Ben was born with cerebral palsy, founded the non-profit Bridge School in 1986, serving children with severe speech and physical impairments.  The Youngs are also the driving force behind the annual all-star Bridge School Benefit concerts.

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!

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.

2012…What a Rush!

2012…What a Rush!

I hope you’re not sick of year-in-review lists!  2012 flew by for me and for the Gigspots.com team!  I’ll try to be brief in highlighting some of the amazing events, people and places who shared their lives with us this year.

My first shows of 2012 were Darry Miller and The Veil at The Boondocks Club and Kalob Griffin Band at Lancaster Dispensing Company.  My last show of 2012 was KGB and Darry at Chameleon Club.  Both bands enjoyed banner years, earned many new fans and rocked throughout the tri-state area.  I predict fantastic 2013’s for both bands!

Boondocks Club is gone: victim of ASCAP strong-arming.  DipCo remains the same: great food, great entertainment and all your friends are there.  Chameleon Club staged some of my favorite shows of 2012 and even let me stage a show in October.  I’m glad I know where it is; there isn’t even a light over the front door.

Some notable bands emerged in our scene in 2012. The Stray Birds, The Districts, Face for Radio, The Wayfarer Experiment, Glim Dropper, John and Brittany, The Great Socio, Rigby in the Box and Juston Stens and The Get Real Gang were some of our favorites.   The quality, quantity and variety of music styles in our region never fail to impress but 2012 was extra special.

Some great new music debuted in 2012!   The Stray Birds, Glim Dropper, John and Brittany, The Great Socio, Kalob Griffin Band, and The Slackwater News all released new albums you should hear.  Pasadena released a new album and toured to CA and back behind it.  The Lone Wolf Project has a song off his new album playing in all 50 states.  And yes, it’s true The Vinegar Creek Constituency finished another impressive album which they recorded live at Left Bank Studios.  Darry Miller, Lovebettie and Wayfarer Experiment are hard at it in the studios right now and we can’t wait to hear what’s next from them!  The Great Socio actually opened its own studio this year; who knows what mayhem might ensue!

I lost a favorite cousin and a favorite aunt in 2012 but neither of them hit me like the sudden, unexpected death of “Jersey” Mike Van Jura.  Harrisburg, the music scene and human society lost a strong advocate for right, reason and rock with his passing.  We are very pleased and proud to announce that our partnership with The Abbey Bar at Appalachian Brewing Company and Greenbelt Events will continue through 2013 and beyond!  Yes, I bought another season pass and expect it to be the best $100 I spent in 2013 just as it was in 2012.

Tellus 360 deserves special mention as a remarkable place to see live music!  Their special evenings have grown from organic, table-top, byo sessions into ticketed events.  The Shovels and Rope opening night and Carsie Blanton with Joe Fletcher show were two of my favorites anywhere in 2012: intimate, raucous, unforgettable.  We will be watching their plans for 2013 with eagle eyes and eager hearts!

We are very pleased to announce that both World Café Live venues (Philly and Wilmington, DE) have joined the Gigspots family!  We also added The Burning Bridge Tavern in Wrightsville to our network and we’re plum crazy about the place!  The food, drinks and service are fantastic and we’re very impressed with the array of live music you staged in your first year!  Keep up the good work!

Thank you to all the bands who joined Gigspots in 2012; we will work hard to help you achieve your goals this year.  Remember to keep your calendar updated and keep the event invitations coming!  We typically must choose from 10-12 shows in the region on any given Friday or Saturday.  Make sure we know about yours!

Special thanks to MyRuralRadio.com, FigLancaster.com, WXPN, TriStateIndie.com, Gable Music Ventures, Music For Everyone, MOOSE, and the Long’s Park Summer Concert series for your support, promotion, cooperation and above all a year of great music!

You can see videos of all the artists named above at our YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/user/Gigspots1

What Would Jersey Do? RIP in Rock Heaven MVJ

What Would Jersey Do? – MVJ RIP

I’m very lucky.  I have always had a music friend in my life.  That is a friend who is constantly feeding me great music I might have missed on my own.  If you have a friend like this, you know how lucky this is.  Surely more than half the music I own, I owe to these people.  I always think of them when I hear that music on the stereo or at a show.  The music helps me relive those moments.

I came to Lancaster to visit an Army buddy and stayed because of Rich Ruoff and his Chameleon Club.  I never had to wonder what to do on the weekend anymore.  Every Friday and Saturday night meant two or three bands for five dollars.  I went crazy for bands like The Daves, Ocean Blue, Urban Blight and Burning Bus.  At least once a month some national act like the Ramones, Los Lobos or Dickey Betts would roll through.  Every February we celebrated our shared birthday with Chameleon’s Blues Festival.  It was music-lovers heaven!  I discovered dozens of bands and made many music friends.

This brings me to Jersey Mike Van Jura.  I met Mike two years ago and became a huge fan of his taste in music and the bands he brought to the Abbey Bar at Appalachian Brewing Company in Harrisburg.  When Mike said, “You need to hear this band,” that was all I needed to know.  He was always right.  When he offered season passes to Greenbelt Events shows, I plunked down the $100 in a blink.  It was my best investment in 2012.  He was one of the coolest, funniest, liveliest guys I have ever met.  He died of a sudden heart attack on November 18, just hours after staging a benefit for Toys for Tots.  He left behind two young children of his own.

The news of Mike’s passing shattered me.  I knew I would never feel the same when I heard bands he introduced me to or went to shows at Abbey Bar.  I knew I’d never again see his smiling face or hear his witty, no-holds-barred commentary on the music scene and society in general.  I knew I had felt this before: when John Lennon was murdered.

It was late November of my senior year in high school.  It had been ten years since Lennon’s Imagine album and Double Fantasy had just been released.   Both were getting plenty of airplay on WDVE in Pittsburgh as were the Beatles.  To celebrate these high times, I asked Lisa Silvestri to join me for a new show that was touring nationally, “Beatlemania.”  She said yes, I bought the tickets, and we hoped it would be a fun, sing-along kind of night.  Who knew, maybe it would be a prelude to a Lennon tour in the summer or even a Beatles reunion!

December 9 was a day of mourning at my school.  Ms. Kennedy, my Economics teacher, just played Beatles records in a darkened classroom.  We knew that music and the world had been changed forever by Lennon’s death just as it had by his life.  I saw Lisa at lunch and we wondered whether the show would go on or if we even wanted to go anymore.

The show went on and after much debate, we decided to go.  The crowd was pretty somber.  It was obvious we all were feeling the loss, feeling uncertain, as these four guys performed remarkable renditions of favorite songs.  They really looked and sounded like the Beatles, with vintage instruments and costumes, as their sets progressed from the early jackets and ties through the Sgt. Peppers uniforms.  Applause was polite but there was little cheering or chatter between songs.

As the curtain opened on the third set (Abbey Road-Let it Be), the young man playing Lennon came onstage alone, a guitar slung over his shoulder, his hair long, his glasses round.  He was almost to his amp when a girl in the crowd shouted, “Lennon lives!”  He raised his left hand in a peace sign and wave just as the other guys came onstage.  The catharsis had come.  The crowd came alive in a wave of relief, knowing that somehow everything was going to be alright.  The band struck up “Come Together.”

No lie, I had to stop typing to cry just now.  It’s been over thirty years since that night and it feels like last month.  Last month Jersey Mike lost his life to a hidden killer and I know I will feel it a long time too.  He left behind scores of friends and fans of his work.  Who knows what Greenbelt Events might have brought to us all?  The success of this summer’s Kipona Fest showed what Mike could accomplish on a grand scale.

On December 27, a tribute concert for Mike is being performed at Stage on Herr, HMAC, featuring some of the jam bands he cut his teeth with in Harrisburg.  Proceeds from the show will be donated to the K&L Foundation, a trust set up for his children, Kaiya and Lennon.  Here’s the link to the Facebook event: http://www.facebook.com/events/448399775203926/  There is also a memorial night gathering and concert at Abbey Bar December 29.  Here’s that link: http://www.facebook.com/events/291934330909926/

I will be going to the Jam for Jersey 12/27.  I bought my season pass for Greenbelt Events 2013 this week.  I’m sure it will be another great investment because Mike’s vision lives on.  And we will come together, let it be, stay positive and hold steady.  It’s what Jersey would do.