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.

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!

Wanted: Interns, Administrators and/or Clones

The last few weekends have really brought into focus the fact that I need help!  Have you ever tried to pitch a six-man tent by yourself?  How about shoot videos and still pics at the same time?  How about be in five places at once?  I had a ball but ran myself ragged at @Jam at the Dam 7/7.  This weekend I am invited to shows in Lancaster, York, Marietta, Bethlehem, Wilkes-Barre, Williamsport, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Rehoboth Beach.  I can barely keep up with the Facebook and Twitter traffic, let alone be at all these shows at once.

That’s where you come in.  You live in these places, love live music and use these social medias.  Would you like to lend a hand?

I am seeking some dedicated Facebookers and Tweeters to help administrate my accounts.  All you need to do is Like, Share/Retweet and Comment on the music, event and travel news you are already following.  I would love to make you an Admin on my Gigspots page!

I have an Internship position posted at York College of PA and am working to get one posted at Millersville, F&M, Wilkes, Pitt and Temple.  Does your major require an internship?  If you are majoring in Business, Communications, Music Industry, Travel/Tourism or some other related field, Gigspots.com might have the position you’ve been looking for.  Here’s the description.

Gigspots.com Intern Position Description

Thanks you for your interest in Gigspots.com!  Gigspots.com is a sole-proprietor, web-based, start-up company built to provide its internet audience with the resources to find, preview and access bands, live music venues and travel discounts in PA, MD, DE and NJ.  The website was launched in April, 2011.  It is linked to a Facebook page and Twitter account and has its own blog and YouTube channel.  Gigspots.com also has begun to stage and promote its own concerts beginning with a concert at The Boondocks Club, York Haven, PA, in February of 2012.

The company’s mission is to provide the resources described above and to grow as a presence both on the internet and in the mid-Atlantic region.  Tourism drives a large part of the region’s economy and we seek to fill the niche for people who enjoy making live music part of their travel experiences.  Our region is brimming with talented musicians and live music venues that complement the many attractions that already draw millions of visitors.

As an intern for Gigspots.com, your duties may include:

  • Researching the entertainment and tourism industries
  • Developing marketing strategies and tools
  • Identifying target audiences and niche markets
  • Contributing to social networking projects
  • Data entry of venue schedules and events
  • Communicating with bands, venues and brand representatives
  • Coordinating interaction between clients and trade publications
  • Writing reviews of shows, bands, venues, music releases and travel destinations
  • Filming/documenting performances, interviews and special events
  • Representing Gigspots.com at events, performances and marketing meetings

You will report directly to and work with owner Sam Campbell.  Your performance evaluation will be based on several criteria including:

  • Ability to complete duties as described in a timely, responsible manner
  • Professionalism and conviviality in communications with clients/social networking
  • Creativity and enthusiasm in development/implementation of marketing tools
  • Accountability for company equipment and merchandise

Interested applicants should send a letter of interest and resume to Sam@gigspots.com.  They should have a Facebook account, reliable transportation, a personable demeanor and a genuine interest in live music, tourism, travel and/or social marketing and business development.

As for clones: does the world really need more of me running around?  I would do almost anything to help my friends in the music/arts/entertainment/tourism businesses but not at the risk of ruining these communities I serve.  So forget the clones.  But consider joining my cause.  What if the music stopped?

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!


Watching the Clothes Go Round

Watching the Clothes Go Round

So it’s Monday morning.  I’m doing laundry, uploading videos, blogging and remembering all the great moments I experienced this weekend.  As usual, there were some great events I had to miss, but I’m a “focus on the positive” kind of guy.  Also following a theme, my weekend started on Thursday!

Sara Watkins and Dawes at The Strand-Capitol Theater in York were exhilarating! Sara and her brother Shawn opened the show: she on fiddle and the occasional drum, he on guitar.  Their crystal-clear voices blend as only those of siblings can.  She joked about the awkwardness of singing love songs with her brother but shared being thrilled about touring behind her own music.  She was a strong current in Nickel Creek for years and recently spent seven months on tour with The Decemberists.  The theater was packed and a strong contingent of Sara Watkins fans made their presence felt.  It was beautiful to experience.

The GM crowed about selling out this Dawes show in four days and about how they sold out the last time they played there.  Hello?  You have a huge, beautiful room right next door.  Move Dawes to the big room!  Sell 500 more tickets and let the band and its fans really celebrate their next visit to York!

I have been chasing Dawes since their North Hills album and just kept missing them.  I know they are playing Long’s Park in Lancaster on July 22 but I wanted that intimate theater experience.  I got it!  They played a few from North Hills, many from the brilliant Nothing’s Wrong and even some new material from their upcoming project.  Songwriting and musicianship are back, jack!  Their music feels as genuine and accessible as sunlight.  They made the Strand-Capitol and its packed house glow in it!

I knew Friday night’s show would have to be a giant to overshadow Dawes.  Cabinet and The Kalob Griffin Band were a virtual eclipse!  Holy shit can these bands play!  Calling Cabinet a bluegrass band is like calling The Who a rock band; the label is too shallow for the depth of their work.  One minute they are relentlessly picking some bluegrass to pieces and in the next, they are soaring through some ethereal, sonic landscape like Weather Report, Return to Forever or Jean-Luc Ponty.  I think I have a clue about their name. They bring the medicine cabinet, the kitchen cabinet, the liquor cabinet, the gun cabinet and the whole pantry to the table when they come to play.  Who ever heard of a bluegrass/jazz/fusion/experimental rock band with gospel harmonies?  These fellas are a masterful invention and hot as lightning!  Bela Fleck and the Flecktones may have met their match!

I could gush about KGB all day.  The chants of their rabid fans are still ringing my ears.  With all the sadness in State College these days, these boys are bringing the happy back to Happy Valley.  For a lively review and stellar photo gallery, follow this link to TriState Indie and the posting by Autumn Walden.  I have TSI and Fryth at DipCo to thank for turning me on to this band and Autumn is now my official dance partner at KGB shows.  Their presence Friday let me go civilian, put down the camera and kick up my heels!  Kalob Griffin Band shows are a huge party and who wants to work through that?!

So 570 words and four loads of laundry later, I’ve still only told you about Thursday and Friday of my weekend: the indoor shows.  For today, I’ve been indoors enough.  It’s time to pull on a freshly-laundered Gigspots shirt and get back out there!  Tune in next post to see my review of Saturday’s and Sunday’s events, videos and all.

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!

Here Comes LAUNCH!

I just about spent myself writing my blog for Fig Lancaster this week!  LAUNCH Music Conference is this Thursday through Sunday and I couldn’t be more excited.  Check out their website, check out my website, book a room at Lancaster ArtsHotel and come on down!  Mention Gigspots when you book your room and save 10%.  Come visit me at the trade show and say hello.  You might win a TV!


If you have never seen Fig Magazine, it’s time.  In it you will find hundreds of more reasons to come visit!  See you this weekend!

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!

You May Be a Winner!

You May Be a Winner!

I get to do more than go to shows at LAUNCH this year.  After one year of building Gigspots, I can afford the time and money to have a vendor booth.  I’m looking forward to thousands of musicians and music-industry types milling around me, looking for something cool to check out.  I want it to be Gigspots.

I know I need something to draw attention and it won’t be my looks.  My friends who attend these kinds of things regularly say I need a killer giveaway.  “People always flock to the booths giving away cool stuff” they say.  I saw some great examples of this at the Tri State Indie Awards in February: drink cozies, key chains, stickers, music download cards, etc.  They were all cool and free to me, my favorite price.  One of my favorites was a pair of retractable audio ear buds.  Here’s what they might look like with my logo on them.  But if I need 1,000, that’s $4,000 I would just give away.  If I could afford that, I would. That’s 10x my budget!

Then I thought, I could buy 100 and give away a pair every 15 minutes.  That would make 100 people happy and get my logo on the streets.  But how would I choose who gets a pair?

My brilliant wife came up with this idea; raffle one big-ticket item.  She attended a big business conference where one company was raffling off a portable printer the size of a paper towel tube.  All you had to do was drop your business card in the hopper.  Lots of people were standing there checking it out and the business rep had their attention to talk about his business.  What was her idea for a prize? A flat-screen TV!

My wife is brilliant and the idea works on a lot of levels.  I could put a big “Win Me!” sign on the TV and use it to display my website.  As people come over to see the screen, I could be collecting their band/brand/venue info and talking up my site.  A TV is a great prize and it would draw a lot of attention.  There are downsides to this plan, though.  Only one person wins.  My logo is not displayed.  I have to drag the TV in/out of the vendor area and I have to hope the winner is present or I have to ship it to them.

A compromise could be to raffle off the ear buds: say, one pair every 15 minutes.  Would it be enough for people to give up their contact info and stick around?

I sure could use some advice!  If you are reading this, want me to have a good conference and want to be a winner, share your thoughts on my vendor dilemma.  Maybe you have ideas that would work better than what we have so far.

Meanwhile, Down in Dutch Country

If you think Lancaster is all buggies and dirt roads, you have been misled.  Maybe you have heard of The Chameleon Club but picture it as separate from town: a brick and mortar bastion of rock towering above the tumble-down shanties and barnyard critters.   I will admit that I might not have settled in Lancaster in 1988 if not for The Chameleon but wow, am I glad I stayed!  It’s a music-lover’s paradise!

Since I arrived in town, The Lancaster Dispensing Company has been my go-to place for great food, music and music news.  The menu is immense and there is live music most Friday and Saturday nights.  “The DipCo” is where the musicians, promoters, bartenders and baristas hang out; it’s where everyone convenes either before or after events in town.  It is what all those TGIFridays, Chili’s and Ruby Tuesdays wish they were.  It is where I take all my visiting friends from out of town and they love it!

DipCo is where I first heard about Music For Everyone, a Lancaster non-profit that promotes music education and provides instruments and instruction for under-funded school and community programs.  One of Lancaster’s biggest music events is the annual MFE CD Release Concert, where all the local artists who contributed songs perform downtown.  DipCo is also where Plugged In on the Farm was brainstormed into a reality.  The talent pool here is always looking to pay it forward.

Are you starting to get the picture about Lancaster?  Even the Mayor’s office is in the loop.  Music is woven into the fabric of life here.  The addition of Millersville University’s Ware Center downtown is further interconnecting the threads of culture and quality of life.

Need more proof before committing to a visit?  Check out Fly Magazine, Lancaster’s bar-search authority for 20 years.  Check out Tri State Indie, a phenomenal on-line indie music magazine based in Lancaster but with contributors nationwide.  Then check out LAUNCH Music Conference and start making your road trip plans.

How much of a trip is it?  Lancaster is 75 miles from Philly, 85 miles from Baltimore, 2.5 hours from D.C., 3.5 hours from NYC and 4.5 hours from Pittsburgh.  Harrisburg, York and Reading are within 35 miles.  The Pocono Mountains and the beaches of NJ, DE and MD begin within a two hour drive of Lancaster.  It has everything a city should have and is close to everything else.

Lancaster is absolutely a hub for the independent music scene and a crossroads where national touring acts settle in for a night.  Diverse, abundant cultural attractions await you.  Yes, you can have a buggy ride and shoo-fly pie if you wish.  Or you can start your day at Central Market, visit 300+ unique businesses within ten square blocks, catch some great bands in intimate venues and tuck in for the night at Lancaster Arts Hotel.  Just don’t count on making this your only visit.  I came for a visit in 1988 and haven’t left yet.