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.

Snorkels and Grappling Hooks

I’ve come up for air to fire a flare.  My November really rocked and I hope yours did too.  The grand finale happened 11/29 for WILMO Rock Circus at World Café Live at The Queen.  If you were one of the hundreds of people under the big top, I know I just made you grin (and maybe blush).  If you missed it, don’t let that happen again!  Twenty four bands for $20 doesn’t happen every day.  My friends at Gable Music Ventures know how to spot talent and produce an event.  Videos are uploading to my YouTube channel.

Jordan2Mid-month I took Pressing Strings on a tour of some of my northern PA clients and finished the loop at DipCo.  Again, thanks if you were there and I know you’re grinning.  I had been trying to woo this band north from Annapolis for over a year.  Jordan and Nick played three inspired shows and have promised to return.  The fine folks at Turkey Hill Brewing Company and Bullfrog Brewery sure were glad it happened!  For my showcase at Lancaster Dispensing Company, local amazeballs Little Dinos opened the show: Loretta, Scott Bookman, Matt Underhill and Kelly Buchanan.  Cool and classy just like Dino!  Click here to see videos.  Even better: come to McCleary’s Pub in Marietta 12/26 for a set by Jordan Sokel.

Kaleigh4Also playing 12/26 at McCleary’s will be Kaleigh Baker.  If you caught the tour I ran with Kaleigh and Skribe (plus special guest Bjorn Jacobsen), you know this lady can sing the blues with the best of them!  Maybe you have been watching her 30 Artists in 30 Days special on YouTube.  Either way, you should gather those you love and come out for a set or two.  Kaleigh and Jordan don’t play central PA too often and I’m very proud to be hosting them again.

The snorkels and grappling hooks of my title represent my consciousness the rest of the month.  Below the surface, I’ve been working like Cousteau to create another amazing experience for you at Lancaster Roots and Blues.  We targeted December for major announcements and a media blitz.  It’s a season of giving and we are giving you a ton of reasons to get tickets.  Click here to see my blog about the venues published in Fig Lancaster.  Then visit the ticketing link to see the specials we are running.  We have added an under-21 ticket which is good for The Ware Center and The Trust Performing Arts Center.

What will January bring?  I’m hoping for peace on Earth.  I’m counting on busy days and nights.  There are a million details to staging a festival this big and Rich and I and our new office manager Carrie Binkley will be working tirelessly to make your experience the best.  If you hope to catch me in a still moment, try McCleary’s 12/26, The General Sutter Inn 1/9 or DipCo 1/10.  I’m hosting three more local shows before Lancaster Roots and Blues including two acts you have never seen here before and shouldn’t miss.  Join me at DipCo 1/10 for David Pulizzi and the band Terra Voz!

Life, Death and Hyperbole

Life, Death and Hyperbole

I have faced plenty of deaths and tragedies in my life.  When death came to school, I always used to tell my students, “Death is a big part of life.  Save it for last.  Do everything else first.”  I taught the tragedies of Shakespeare and they always boiled down to a great person’s life ending because of a fatal flaw in character.  Pride, greed, avarice, jealousy: these emotions rob you of life and blind your vision of what makes life worth living.  I have lost four great people in my life in the last forty days.  They weren’t Macbeth or Othello or Lear but they were great to me: fine, humble, honest, loving people.  I will miss them and honor them by following their examples and owning my life.  “To be or not to be” is not the only question.  Better to start with the 5w’s: who, what, where, when and why.  Be in the present.

Triphazard living in the moment!

Triphazard living in the moment!

I’m feeling fully alive and activated right now, if a bit over-stimulated!  I built more great connections and memories in September and loved my opportunity to tour manage for Triphazard.  I’m booking tours on the Gigspots circuit and my showcases at DipCo.  I’m writing bios and album reviews for regional bands.  I’m sponsoring a rock festival in Wilmington and a simulcast charity concert from Charlotte.  I’m hired again to be Director of Operations for Lancaster Roots and Blues and it’s a thrill a minute.  I want to stand on Tellus’ roof and scream about all the great music and good times coming to Lancaster and the mid-Atlantic region.

But should you believe the hype? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  Just because I say something’s great doesn’t make it so for everyone.  So let me try to quantify and qualify “great” with regard to music, performance and life.  When I say, “It’s a beauty,” what do I mean?

To me, the beauty value of a song or performance is in direct relation to how alive it makes me feel.  Physical manifestations may include toe-tapping and range through swaying to dancing.  I may hum.  I may sing along.  Regarding thought: does this performance make me curious and/or capture my attention?  Is it unique, familiar or a marriage of the two?  Can I identify with the story or idea being presented?  Life is measured in motion.  Can you put my body and my mind in motion?

Move my mind and body and you release my soul.  That’s where imagination and emotion live.  Your performance sparks my memories and/or desires.  My pains, my dreams, my secrets and my joys are animated by your melody or lyrics.  You become the soundtrack for the banquet in my head where your angels and demons meet mine.  Or you’re a nice distraction in the grocery store.  La-di-da, I need cereal.

Motion, thought, imagination: those are my criteria.  To what degree does a performance make me move, think and feel?  Genuine music moves you; it’s as biological as a heartbeat.  People are naturally curious too but humans mostly want to hear about themselves and familiar experiences.  Food, comfort, company: that’s what we like.  And not having those things makes us cry out from birth.  A great song reawakens those moments in life, beautiful or brutal, when you were totally in the present. Whether it was that perfect first kiss, watching that person walk away or just your imagination, great music takes you there.  And live music is better.  And America’s music takes me there: folk, jazz and the blues.  If you start there, I’ll likely follow a while.Queen2

So stand back while I crank up the hype machine!  The pride I take in facilitating these performances is based in humility, honesty and love for life.  Come celebrate humanity before the dust is all settled!

High-Flying July

My high-flying July is about to really soar.  Today I’m embarking on two days of hosting and road managing Carsie Blanton and her jazz trio.  Friday and Saturday, I’ll be hosting thousands of people and dozens of hot bands on the Gigspots Stage at Jam at the Dam.  Catch me if you can, suckas!  You won’t be disappointed with the settings or sounds, I guarantee!Carsie-Blanton-truck-758x392

I’ve been smitten with Carsie and her music for two years now and written about her in previous blogs. 2014 is proving to be a huge year for her.  She raised $60,000 in a Kickstarter campaign to make the jazz album of her dreams and is touring the nation with it right now.  I’m thrilled to be bringing her to my clients The Bullfrog Brewery 7/9 and Turkey Hill Brewing Company 7/10.Jam2014

Jam at the Dam is a Pirate Rob, OneKoast Entertainment event unlike anything I’ve seen.  The campground is rustic and beautiful.  The crowds are like a family reunion…if your family really parties.  The bands blow me away every year.  Here’s what I said about last year’s Jam: http://blog.gigspots.com/2013/07/05/time-to-jam-at-the-dam/ .  I’m sure to have plenty of stories to tell after this one.  I’ll do my best to remember some.  Luckily, Intern Jimmy is tagging along to help record the scene and keep me upright.  If you need me this weekend, come to Weatherly, PA.  Find any excuse you can.  This year is two days on four stages.  Epic.

July 17 I’ll be in Wilmington, DE for The Ladybug Festival.  It’s an all-day, street fair/concert featuring bands which feature ladies.  My pals at Gable Music Ventures host it and I’m proud to be an annual sponsor.  They have peerless eyes and ears for talent and Wilmington is really cool.  Join us!

July ends with The XPoNential Music Festival hosted by WXPN July 25-27.  It’s my favorite concert every year.  You can get daily or three-day passes that can include lawn seats for the big shows at SBC next door.  Sunday night 7/27 that show is Beck, Band of Horses and The Districts.  How can you pass that up?

I’ll do my best to get something posted about all these shows…but be patient.  I’ll need a little recovery after this July and August is looking even hotter!

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.