Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ring Out the Old and Ring in the New

Every year there is that last minute soul-searching as we ask ourselves the all-important question...."What the heck are we gonna do for New Year's Eve??"

Well, look no further. Lots of great stuff going on. Some of which don't involve dropping strange objects at midnight. From bologna to pickles to a wrench to a giant M&M, Pennsylvania seems to be the king of strange New Year's traditions.

But if you are looking for something to do, here are a few options. You can find a larger list of local options from the fine folks at Spotobe.


Lancaster has a city-wide NYEve celebration, but my pick for the evening is the celebration at Building Character featuring a CD release party for local jazz band, The Faux Minx. Cover charge for the BYOB event is just $5 and they'll be taking a break just before midnight so they can all stop outside and enjoy the fireworks. More details here

If you want to partake in the city celebration, Countdown Lancaster 2009, by purchasing a badge for just $5 and gaining access to all sort of entertainment and family activities at over 25 locations.


If you are in the Harrisburg area, there are plenty of events to keep you busy. The main event is the M&T Bank Harrisburg New Year's Eve Celebration featuring music and entertainment throughout the downtown area. 

But of all the events in Harrisburg, my choice is the ABC New Year's Eve Bash at the Abbey Bar  featuring live music from Hexbelt. And if you are ambitious, special VIP tickets are available featuring a four course meal.


And if you are looking for fun in the White Rose city, York has their New Year's Eve Revolution celebration. You can buy admission buttons to gain entrance to entertainment events at over 20 locations throughout the city. The culminating event will take place at Sovereign Bank Stadium, featuring music, fireworks, and the white rose drop. Make sure you check out the music of Mark DeRose at this event.

Or, if you are looking for something a bit on the edgy side, you can watch the film of The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center, complete with live performers on stage to help out with the interactive parts.

I still haven't made my final plans yet, so let me know how you are spending your NY Eve. Going out? Staying home? How do you ring in the New Year?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Concerts After Christmas

Once Christmas has passed and you are done returning things to the mall, I'm sure you'll be wanting some good music. So here is a list of a few shows happening in Central PA this weekend. 

Ken's Pick o' the Week #1:
Saturday, 12/27
XPN Welcomes Stephen Kellogg & The Sixers to the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center in York. Another great offering from the folks at CapLive Music. The opening band is York's own Kingsfoil. You'll love 'em!

Ken's Pick O' The Week #2:
Sunday, 12/28
August Burns Red at the Chameleon in Lancaster. This is the annual CI Records Christmas show at the Chameleon, featuring the biggest thing to come outta Lancaster County since Shoofly Pie. August Burns Red is a hugely talented hardcore band. Their version of "Carol of the Bells" has been featured in some of the trailers for the upcoming movie, The Spirit.
Also featured are Circus Circus, Texas in July, An Early Ending, Rest Among Ruins, Lucy, and We Were Skeletons.

Now for the rest of the schedule:

12/26 - The Sharks at the Chameleon
12/27 - Wu Tang Clan at the Chameleon
12/28 - XPN Welcomes The Francis Dunnery Band to Gullifty's Underground, Camp Hill.

And that's pretty much what's going on throughout the area. Enjoy and have a marvelous holiday! I'll catch you on the other side.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

For Your Holiday Listening Pleasure...

WXPN has got some pretty groovy stuff going on over the holidays, so I thought I would fill you in so you know what to listen for....

Starting at midnight tonight it's the Night Before on XPN with Robert Drake. 24 hours of Holiday music and madness featuring XPN's Robert Drake. That's right...Midnight tonight to midnight tomorrow night. You can listen on-air or online, and even check in to see how Robert is doing via the Jingle Cam and the special Holiday Chat Room

Then on Christmas day we have a full day of great programming:

  • Echoes Sonic Seasonings 12-2 AM
  • World Cafe 2-3 AM
  • XPN holiday music mix – perfect for late night toy assembly! 3-6 AM
  • Chuck Elliot Sleepy Hollow Christmas Morning 6 AM – 12 PM
  • Echoes Sonic Seasonings 12-2 PM
  • World Cafe Christmas show – Top 25 Rock & Roll Christmas songs & Julian Koster The Singing Saw At Christmas 2-4 PM
  • MARY CHAPIN CARPENTER Christmas radio special 6-7 PM
  • XPN’s first annual “Elf Boogie Rock & Roll Gifts Are Unwrapped Shuffle” – four hours of upbeat rock & roll including some holiday songs 7-11 PM
There will be some great stuff happening for the new year as well, but we'll have those details next week. Happy Holidays and enjoy listening!

Christmas Lights on Steroids

This is an oldie but goodie Internet favorite...but I thought it was worth posting for those who might not have seen it (or perhaps haven't seen it in awhile.) This is a real house in Ohio with Christmas lights synced up to music. You can verify the reality of this by entries on Snopes and Wikipedia.  

And you can find more videos like this here. Sadly, the man behind this had to stop doing the light show a few years ago due to traffic congestion, etc. Though I imagine the cost of electricity has to be a deterrent as well!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Cool Music Videos I Like

For a cold, lazy Sunday afternoon, how about one of my favorite videos from last year? This is from French groovesters, Justice. The video is for the song "D.A.N.C.E." Just a fun and rather creative video.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Worst Band Names....Ever

Every day I read a lot of other blogs, mostly having to do with music, entertainment, or social media. And every once in awhile I find one that I just have to pass on to you folks.

The A.V. Club blog does a great job of covering music. And they just put up their 2008: Year in Band Names post. 6 pages of ridiculously funny (and scary) band names. Do yourself a favor and head on over there and read the whole thing. I sat here laughing out loud for quite a while.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Friday Music Game: Listener's Choice

Ah yes, another Friday, and therefore another day for the Friday Music Game. Trying to switch things up a bit and find variations to keep it fresh. So here is your assignment for today. Put your iPod/MP3 player/music player, etc. on random/shuffle. Write down the first ten songs that play, in order, with no skipping. Then tell us which of those ten is your favorite song of the bunch, and why. Here's my list.

1. Laura Cantrell - Big Wheel
2. Johnny Cash (w. Joe Strummer) - Redemption Song
3. Charlie Peacock - No Place Closer to Heaven
4. Soul Junk - Set You Free
5. Woven Hand - Bleary Eyed Duty
6. Kelly Wingate - Thousand Circles
7. The Clash - Brand New Cadillac
8. The Violet Burning - I'm No Superman
9. Demon Hunter - Fire to My Soul
10. Damien Jurado - Big Deal

Wow, tougher than I thought. I could pick 3 or 4 of those as my favorite of the group, but I think I'll go with #2. I love Johnny Cash, and a pairing with the Clash's Joe Strummer is too hard to resist, especially on a classic song like Redemption Song. What a great sound. 

Runner-up would probably go to #6, because Kelly Wingate was one of my favorite bands from the Oxford, MS music scene, and "Thousand Circles" is one of my favorite songs from their only full CD release. Wonderful slo-core kinda sound. Hard to find CD, but find it if you can. 

Your turn. Hit me with your list and which is your favorite and why...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Musical Weekend: Where to Go...What to Hear

This weekend's music landscape is pretty darn sweet.  Here are my three "Picks o' the Week" followed by a more complete schedule of what's going down.

Pick o' the Week #1: XPN Welcomes Music Friday to Downtown Lancaster - Tomorrow night (12/19). The city goes music crazy with all types of music at local venues, stores and galleries. Literally something for every musical taste from jazz to classical to indie rock. This is a monthly event that ought to be on your calendar as a regular stop. Check out the Faux Minx at Building Character, Share the Bread at the Annex 24 Gallery, Maryjo Mattea at Veleska Jewelry, Mike Butera at the Infantree, and many more. Music music everywhere!

Pick o' the Week #2: Love >>> Begotten Concert at Wheatland Presbyterian Church in Lancaster - Saturday, 12/20. Hiram Ring, Matt Monticchio, David Green, and others perform music from this year's Christmas CD release of Love >>> Begotten. A great way to usher in the Christmas holiday.

Pick o' the Week #3: XPN Welcomes Hoots & Hellmouth with Slimfit & Perkasie to the Chameleon. Two of Lancaster's hottest bands open up for Philly sensation Hoots & Hellmouth.

Now here's the rest of what's happening around Central PA:

Thursday, 12/18
Alt-rockers Red are playing upstairs at the Chameleon in Lancaster, while York native Adam Kowalczyk (of the band Live) will be performing downstairs in the Lizard Lounge.

Friday, 12/19
If you're in Lancaster for Music Friday, check out Vinegar Creek Constituency at Lancaster Dispensing Co., and the Sketties, along with Daniel Herr, at Isaac's on Queen Street. 

If you're more of a "classical" kinda person, check out the Susquehanna Chorale's Candlelight Christmas at Whitaker Center, featuring a performance of Handel's Messiah.

Saturday, 12/20
If you miss the Sketties on Friday night you can catch them Saturday at Sparky & Clarke's in York. Meanwhile, three great local bands, The Mint, Kheris, and The April Skies will be up in Harrisburg at the Abbey Bar

And again on the more classical side, Whitaker Center offers The Harrisburg Choral Society's Fresh & Evergreen.

Sunday, 12/21
The highlight this night is Love Came Down at Christmas, a Christmas pageant at Whitaker Center featuring Jars of Clay, Leeland, Sixpence None the Richer, and Sara Groves.

Monday, 12/22
For a more intimate and quiet evening, check out Matt Brown & friends at the Prince Street Cafe in Lancaster.

If you know of any other cool music events in Central PA over the next few days, feel free to throw them in the comments section here. Share the love!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Rock 'n' Roll Heaven...or is it?

Last week I got into a Twitter discussion about the 28th anniversary of the murder of John Lennon. One friend, Justin Kunkle of Spotobe, mused about what/where Lennon would be today if he hadn't been killed. One thing led to another and we began discussing similar fates for other musicians who died before their time: Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, the guys from Skynyrd, and so on. So with that in mind, here's my take on it, and I'll admit that some of the ideas here came from Justin and others as we discussed the situation on Twitter. 

Let me just preface by saying that my gut feeling is that most of these people have had their reputations cemented for posterity as the result of their untimely deaths. I have a feeling that none of them would have transitioned well into the culture and music industry as we know it today. Despite that, also please remember, as is often the case, my tongue is firmly planted in my cheek on some of this...this is merely an exercise in fun.

Here we are, 2008. 

John Lennon, now 68 years old, has not aged well. He has continued to release albums over the years, most of which feature the unlistenable vocals of Yoko Ono. He has been a recluse in the Dakota and most of his friends are lawyers. During the past two decades he has sued all three of the other Beatles, their spouses, their offspring, Michael Jackson, May Pang, several record labels, Ford, Nike, Johnson & Johnson, numerous other corporations, and several non-profit causes for whom he was a spokesman. He has become increasingly difficult to deal with and even the folks at Amnesty International won't go near him for fear of having shoes hurled in their direction. John no longer speaks with any of his kids, and hasn't been seen in public since 1993, leading some to speculate that he is in the midst of a private 15-year "bed-in," protesting pretty much everything under the sun. The few missives that have made their way out of his compound show that he is clearly resentful of Paul McCartney's career. Rumor has it that he even invited Heather Mills to join him at the Dakota as part of the "bed-in." Lennon's most recent CD was a spoken word effort that many confused to be a recording of Ozzy Osborne yelling at his kids.

Guitar god Jimi Hendrix, now 66, survived a 1970 drug overdose and continued making music through the seventies, each album featuring a different cast of musicians. By the 80s Hendrix found it difficult to continue making the same unbelievable guitar music, and settled for a more manageable pop career like many of his Woodstock peers. As The Jefferson Airplane morphed into The Jefferson Starship (and "built this city on rock 'n' roll), Hendrix reformed the Jimi Hendrix Experience as the Jimi Hendrix Ordeal, flaunting three chords and lots of harmonies. By the mid-90s Hendrix realized that no one was interested in getting any new music from him so he began touring the amusement park and state fair circuit, once again opening for the reformed Monkees, with pared down versions of his hits. Hendrix is also a staple of summer music festivals, being asked to open them with his version of the "Star-Spangled Banner," even adding a version of "God Bless America" to his repertoire, which he plays during 7th inning stretches at minor league baseball games.

65-year old Jim Morrison has a regular gig at the Mirage in Las Vegas (thanks to his good friends Wayne Newton). After The Doors fired him in 1973, Morrison unsuccessfully sued the remaining members of the band, who to this day continue to tour under that name. Morrison put on a lot of weight and began wearing stretchy pants as he revived his career as a lounge singer. He was rumored to have died in 1985 from a drug overdose but actually went into hiding, working as a doo-wop singing waiter at a Johnny Rockets restaurant in Myrtle Beach. A few years later he was "discovered" by record producer and brought out of hiding. The low point of his career came in 1997 when he came in third place in a Jim Morrison impersonator competition. In 1998 Morrison became the opening act for Siegfried and Roy, an engagement that ended in 2003 when Roy Horn was attacked by one of his tigers. Morrison took to the road with gigs in Atlantic City and Branson, Missouri, but has just signed on to return to the Mirage in 2009 as the opener for ventriloquist Terry Fator. He also moonlights as the lead singer in a Doors tribute band, The Artist Formerly Known as The Doors (TAFKATD). Morrison told MTV's Kurt Loder that he would love to quit performing, but numerous paternity claims have forced him to keep going. 

Janis Joplin, now 65, gave up on her career as singer in 1980 when people stopped buying her records and coming to her shows. After years of serious drug-abuse, friends and family staged an intervention and Joplin admitted herself to the Betty Ford clinic in 1984, for the first of five visits. Today, Joplin is a motivational speaker and celebrity spokesperson on numerous cable infomercials. In 2003 she briefly came out of retirement to take the lead in a touring show of "The Rose." It became clear fairly quickly that a clean and sober Joplin clearly didn't have the voice of the drug-addled version, and she quietly bowed out, blaming her departure on vocal chord nodules. 

Kurt Cobain, now 41, celebrated his 40th birthday by signing a long-term deal with VH-1 productions, for a reality show titled "Smells like Mid-Life Crisis." Cobain and wife Courtney Love divorced in 1996, and engaged in a very bitter custody battle over daughter, Frances Bean. The judge in the case was loathe to give custody to either parent, but ended up tossing a coin. Cobain called "!" but it landed "heads" and Love was granted full custody with Cobain getting visitation rights. Nirvana broke up at about the same time as Cobain's marriage, and his solo career never really materialized, with Cobain going in and out of "retirement" at least four times. In his new reality show, Cobain lives in a furniture-less Seattle mansion with 15 flannel-clad twenty-somethings, trying to create a band that will usher in the "next big" musical fad...a grunge-influenced boy band. He has also been pursuing a lawsuit against the makers of Guitar Hero for NOT including more of his songs on the video game. In a brief filed in Federal Court, Cobain's lawyer stated, "Just because my client wants to be left alone and wants people to think he doesn't exist anymore, doesn't mean he isn't entitled to make millions by being recognized as an important icon in American music. Even if they don't use his music in their game, they owe him money because, after all, he IS Kurt Cobain." In 2005 he also came out of "retirement" for a celebrity boxing match against "that punk" Scott Stapp. The fight was stopped when it became clear that both opponents were more interested in slapping then punching.

Elvis Presley, the "King," actually did die in 1977 at the age of 42 while sitting on his "throne." Sometimes, folks, the truth is better than fiction. You just can't make some things up...

Hope you enjoyed all that. Pretty much my attempt to say that, had they lived, the above rock "superstars" might not have fared well. What about others? There's always John Bonham of Led Zeppelin. I figure that band would have broken up eventually and would have had several reunions by now. Not sure where they would have gone musically, though. I kind of like Led Zep frozen in time. I think if Duane Allman had lived, the Allman Brothers would be pretty much where they are today, working hard to walk the tightrope between being taken seriously and being a parody of themselves. I think Lynyrd Skynyrd would have continued in that same vein had all the members survived.

Those whom I think would still be taken seriously and would still be making relevant music include Bob Marley, Nick Drake, Elliott Smith, and Jeff Buckley. I think the latter three would have eventually received the fame they were due as the indie music scene has grown and embraced these types of artists. I think the same might have happened to Gram Parsons and his career might have paralleled that of Neil Young, mostly great music with a few less than stellar moments. And of course those who self-destructed might only have lived a bit longer, only to self-destruct later on down the road. And what about rappers like Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur? You could also speculate about the fates of other celebs like James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, John Belushi, or even Bruce Lee. The list goes on...

Any others I've missed? Care to share your own speculative fiction on any of the above? Agree or disagree on my assessments? Let me know! And speculate to your heart's content. And's all in fun!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

What's Goin' On?

Living and working in Central PA has shown me that there is definitely a lot going on in this region. But the problem is...keeping up with everything and knowing what is happening when. Over the past few months I've discovered a number of blogs, web sites, and email lists that do a great job of keeping me informed of local events. So I thought I would share! This is probably not an exhaustive list, so feel free to comment and add any other blogs or email lists you think should be on here. - This events driven website also boasts a blog and a monthly e-news called "The Spot List." A great source for Central PA events, weighted a bit toward the Harrisburg region.

Central Penn Business Journal - While this print and online journal is known for covering the area's business news, they also boast an informative weekly e-newsletter called "Ten Things to Do This Weekend."

Also covering the entire region is Central PA's best music and nightlife publication, Fly Magazine. With print issues free each month in each market (York, Lancaster, Harrisburg), Fly also has a nice online presence with concert and restaurant listings, and much more.

If you're interested specifically in what is going on in Harrisburg, you should subscribe to Harrisburg Hello, a weekly e-newsletter from the Harrisburg Downtown Improvement District.

For Harrisburg related news and events, a great place to start is blogHarrisburg. Some of the best blogs you can find there include Midstate Mantra and HarrisburgNightlife. Also of note are a few blogs from friends Sara Bozich and Jersey Mike. Sara does a great job of covering area events and keeping you up to date on new restaurants and shopping opportunities. Mike, on the other hand, likes to cover some of the political goings on in the region, but you can also find out whom he's booking into the Abbey Bar on a regular basis.

And then there is always RSVPa, the event calendar of WITF, which is one of the newest additions to the event calendar pool in the region.

If Lancaster is your beat, then there are a number of organizations you need to check out. Lancaster Arts has a great website covering the art beat, along with a nice weekly e-newsletter and info on Lancaster's vibrant First Friday program. 

Also in Lancaster you can subscribe to the weekly Downtown Lancaster Events Guide put out by the fine folks at Building Character. They not only cover their own events (including the artMarket) but also do a great job of keeping you up to date on everything going on downtown.

And also in Lancaster you can check out the Downtown Lancaster website and subscribe to their monthly e-news. This site is put together by the James Street Improvement District and the Downtown Lancaster Improvement District. The site even has a special section devoted to the rapidly growing Music Friday program in Lancaster.

And across the river in York, your best bet is to subscribe to the Fresh York e-newsletter published by the folks from Codo and CapLive Music. The group not only covers York's cultural and entertainment life, but also gives you a nice taste of what's going on within a day's driving distance.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list, so feel free to chime in with your favorite "go to" places for what's going on in Central PA. I visit all these blogs and subscribe to all of the above free e-newsletters, and I think you should too. That way you'll never be wondering what's going on in the area. If you know of others, let me know!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas Rapping: Run-DMC Style

This one will take you back over 20 years to possibly the first Christmas rap tune. Complete with a creepy elf dude. Run-DMC breaks it down for you with "Christmas in Hollis." The song was from the first volume in the Very Special Christmas series.

Five years later they put out another Christmas song which wasn't as big a hit, and in fact has been forgotten by most. But it had a more timely message that continues to resonate during these difficult times. AND...more elves! The song, "Christmas Is..." is from the Very Special Christmas 2 CD, and is actually my favorite song of the two.

Have a merry, merry, merry!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Christmas Video Fun: Band Aid

This is the one that started it all...the whole "let's play music and raise money for good causes" thing. Interesting song. Way too many close-ups of a blow-dryed George Michael. Lots of footage of rock stars who have since had run-ins with the law. And hair. Lots of hair. But it still gives us all something to think about at the holidays.

You can read more about the video and all the participants over at Wikipedia.

"Do They Know It's Christmas?" by Band Aid

Friday, December 12, 2008

More U2 Christmas Video Love

Time to hop in the wayback machine and head on back to 1987. Here's U2 performing "It's Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)"

Friday Music Game: One Song and Out

I woke up expecting snow and the possibility of having to reschedule some business meetings, snow. It was cold and kinda rainy, but NOW the sun is out! So only time for a quick hit.

Go to your MP3 player/iPod/or other music device/program and put it on shuffle. Skip thru 10 songs, and the next one you land on....tell us what it is, and something about that song. No cheating!

The song I came up with was:
Peter Gabriel - Games Without Frontiers - I've always been a big Gabriel fan from his Genesis days, and this song is from his THIRD self-titled album. Still probably my three favorite Gabriel albums. The message holds up today, and the lyrics are rather clever. You can see the video for it here.

So pick a song and tell us about it. 

Thursday, December 11, 2008

New Christmas Music: Love>>>Begotten

Now that we’re in the Christmas season I have officially lifted the moratorium on playing Christmas music. The moratorium is generally in effect from Jan 1 through Thanksgiving. I’m particularly concerned about those who insist on listening to Christmas music in the weeks prior to Thanksgiving. One holiday at a time, thank you.

One new Christmas CD that I have really been enjoying is Love>>>Begotten produced by local music collaborative Pageant Music. Singer/songwriter Hiram Ring is at the center of this project, similar to last year’s Word>>>Flesh. Both of these CDs are worth adding to your Christmas music collection, and both feature a great group of Lancaster based musicians.

Love>>>Begotten begins with the original song “Just a Single Season” which will soon be offered as a free My Morning Download from WXPN. Songs like this are perfect for Ring whose strength is in the accessibility of his voice. There is a sense of vulnerability in the way Ring presents these songs. He teams up with pianist Matt Monticchio and bassist David Green for traditional carols “Good Christian Men Rejoice,” and “Angels We Have Heard on High.”

17th Century carol “The Burning Babe” is up next with the unique presentation and arrangement of Cliff Lewis’ band, Trash and Glory, featuring some Dylanesque harmonica. Claire Battle then brings us a mellow, jazzy version of “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” followed by Hiram and gang on an upbeat instrumental version of “I Saw Three Ships” complete with some interesting percussion and sax. Next up is “O Little Town of Bethlehem” performed beautifully by Bethany Brooks on piano. Brooks is a local native with a Master's Degree in Piano Performance from the Royal Academy of Music in London. This is a slightly different arrangement of the familiar carol, so it might throw you a little bit.

Hiram, Matt, and David return with “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” and a very jazzed up, loungy version of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” Loungy, but without the cheese. Then it’s the pleasantly organic sound of Trash and Glory again with “Christmas Pines.” “The Coventry Carol” is up next from Clair Battle. “The First Noel” is a real treat from Katie Becker, who probably should have been featured a bit more here. Pianist Matt Monticchio then offers a short interlude on piano with “The Genealogy.”

The CD closes out as the entire group joins together for “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” from which the album gets its name. Katie Becker’s lilting vocals are at the forefront of this wonderful song which is one of my favorites on this very strong collection.

Head on over to Hiram's website to purchase this CD, and pick up a copy of last year’s release, Word>>>Flesh while you’re at it. Copies of the CD are available at a few local/Central PA retailers, including Central PA Borders locations, and will soon be available for download on iTunes (hopefully by the end of this week, so check back often!)

And if you want, Hiram will be playing some of his music and promoting the CD around the area over the next few weeks. He'll be at the Borders in Harrisburg on Sat., 12/13 at 1pm, and then at the York Borders that same day at 4pm.

Then on Saturday, December 20th, there will be a full Love >>> Begotten concert at Wheatland Presbyterian Church in Lancaster at 7pm. A great way to prepare yourself for Christmas!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Central PA Music FTW! (For the Weekend)

Yup, it's that time again. Some of my picks for the best music events and destinations throughout Central PA over the next few days.

If you are in to last minute decisions, head on over to Messiah College tonight for a free 10pm show with local indie darlings, Farewell Flight

But now here are your choices for the next few days. You can thank me later.

Thursday, 12/11
York performer Mark DeRose at Annie Bailey's Irish Pub in Lancaster

Friday, 12/12
Mark DeRose at Harp & Fiddle Pub, York

Saturday, 12/13
Slimfit at Quips Pub, Lancaster
Herbie at The Abbey Bar, Harrisburg
The Sketties and The Blahs at Smalls, York
House Exit at Sugar Mama's, Camp Hill

So grab a date, gas up the car (prices are down!), and head on out to a few shows. There ain't nuthin' like local music. And I personally guarantee a good time!

Batman: The Not-So Dark Knight

Been a lot of buzz this week about the release of The Dark Knight on DVD and it's bound to be a top seller for Christmas. I have to admit, I still haven't seen it. My boys saw it when it first came out and loved it. In fact they're hoping one of them gets the DVD for Christmas. I've liked some of the Batman movies over the years, and I'm sure I'll love The Dark Knight, but there is still something about the old sixties TV series. Nostalgia is a rather potent force. The one thing that boggles my mind is that while many TV series are huge sellers on DVD, the old Batman series has yet to be released. I'm assuming there must be some sort of lawsuit or legal restriction, because I've looked high and low and can't find it. 

So if you missed out on the classic series, here's a classic scene. The Dark Knight has nothing on THIS Caped Crusader! 

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

New Video: Damien Jurado - Caskets

Big Damien Jurado fan here and found this new video for the song Caskets over at MBV. Kind of a creepy video, and if you are the squeamish type, you might not wanna watch.'s a great video. The song is from his new Secretly Canadian release Caught in The Trees

Favorite Christmas Movies

Yesterday I blogged about my favorite Christmas TV specials, but what about movies? In our home we have a bin of videos and DVDs of Christmas movies that we drag out each December and there are several movies that are in the "must see" category each year. So here are my favorites, again in no particular order:


White Christmas - Bing and Danny Kaye help out the ol' General, and while the story is rather formulaic and predictable, it's still a great movie, with some great performances and songs. This movie features the song of the same name which also appeared in the earlier film, Holiday Inn, which is another movie we pull out at the holidays.

It's A Wonderful Life - I love Jimmy Stewart. He has a way of portraying characters that are lovable and somewhat morbid at the same time. Must be all those Hitchcock flicks. But here you have a timeless story that seems to fit in well with our hard economic times. Frank Capra did a great job on this story of salvation and redemption.

Miracle on 34th Street - The original version of this movie with the precocious Natalie Wood is a great story tying together the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas, and building on the annual tradition of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. I love when movies use cultural icons as part of the plot. We also watch and enjoy the newer version from 1994, but it isn't quite the same when "Cole's" replaces Gimbels. Thought the courtroom twist at the end featuring a one-dollar bill is an interesting variation on the original.

Babes in Toyland - A bizarre yet funny Laurel and Hardy classic from the thirties that was later reissued under the title March of the Wooden Soldiers. It's a seriously twisted plot line that makes you wonder if the writers were under the influence at the time. If you can find it, check it out.

A Christmas Story - "You'll shoot yer eye out!" Need I say more? I swear that one day I will mortify my wife and purchase a leg lamp. This is one of those movies that only the men in our household watch. For some reason my wife and daughter find it unappealing. We watch the DVD of this Jean Shepherd classic (I'm a radio geek, so Shepherd has a special place in my heart) every year, but also try to watch it during the annual 24-hour marathon on TBS (from Christmas Eve to Christmas night). This is a newer film (1983) but nicely bridges the gap from "classics" to more contemporary holiday fare.

Contemporary Movies

A Muppet Christmas Carol - I've always loved the Muppets and I've always loved this Dicken's classic. And the mash-up of the two does not disappoint. The beauty of this movie is how it stays true to the original tale, while also staying true to the Muppet sensibility. The writers for the Muppets are adept at creating stories that appeal to both kids as well as adults, with all sorts of cultural references and....attitude. This is a laugh out loud funny movie. I'm also a big fan of Muppet Treasure Island, which you need to watch if you have never seen it. But save that one for after Christmas.

Elf - I'm not a Will Ferrell fan. I think most of his movies are seriously inane...nay, just plain stupid. But, I love this movie, and I think he plays the part well. Plus, it features Zooey Deschanel. Need I say more? If you have never seen this, take the time to walk through the seven levels of the Candy Cane forest, then past the twirly swirly gumdrops, then through the Lincoln Tunnel. You won't regret it.

The Santa Clause - I keep feeling like I shouldn't like this movie, but it's funny and I think the plot is well developed. Some great stuff in here. One of those movies where you find something new every time you watch it. The sequels were so-so, but the original is a good one. They do a great job of explaining some of the "mysteries" surrounding Santa Claus. 

So there's my list. I'm sure I'll think of others. What are your favorites?

Monday, December 08, 2008

Favorite Christmas TV Specials

I'm big on Christmas traditions, and one in our house is that each December we pull out our rather large collection of Christmas movie/TV Special videos and DVDs. So here, in no particular order are my favorite Christmas TV specials.

A Charlie Brown Christmas - while I'm not really ranking these, if I were, this would definitely be number one. Lovable cartoon icon, innocence, great message. It's all there. Linus pretty much rocks, and seriously...what would Christmas be without the whole Peanuts gang doing their dance? No Christmas season is complete without this one.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer - Rankin-Bass broke new ground with their "animagic" animation technique and produced quite a few Christmas specials. But I think this one is the cream of the crop. Gotta love the Island of Misfit Toys (with it's Charlie-in-the-box) and "Hermey wants to be a dentist!" And of course, don't forget the Bumble. Other Rankin-Bass productions worth mentioning include Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and The Year Without A Santa Claus. All are worthy of being on this list.

Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas - What's not to like about this one? A classic story with a timeless message of redemption. (And while this TV special is worth watching every year, feel free to skip the Jim Carrey movie of the same name. Just awful.) Watching the denizens of Whoville confound the Grinch is just priceless.

Dave & Goliath Christmas - OK, so this one is a bit cheesy, but I have fond memories of watching Davey & Goliath as a kid. In this Christmas episode, Davey can't find the "Christmas spirit," despite all of Goliath's best efforts. Just a nice, heartwarming episode.

Then of course there are Christmas episodes of regular TV series. Love the Christmas episodes of Everybody Loves Raymond (second only to the classic Thanksgiving episodes!). Christmas episodes of WKRP in Cincinnati also stand out in my memory, as well as Newhart

So what are your favorites. Remember, I'm looking for television specials and shows here. Not the movies that repeatedly show up on television. We'll discuss those in a future blog.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Misty Mountain Wonderland? - A Holiday Mashup

One of my all-time favorite contemporary Christmas songs is from the husband and wife duo of Fleming & John. Fleming McWilliams and John Mark Painter create some of the most amazing music and I love all of their albums (of which there are really only two). Sadly, it's been a long time since they have recorded one. Fortunately, it seems as though they have started a new label, Dweeb Records, and will soon be releasing a lot of music, from themselves and others.

But...every Christmas I pull out the few Christmas songs that they have recorded and offered as online downloads. One is a nice version of Carol of the Bells. But my favorite Christmas song from the duo is sort of a mashup, long before mashups were part of our collective cultural experience.

Take the words of the Christmas classic "Winter Wonderland" and perform them to the music of Led Zeppelin's "Misty Mountain Hop."  Pure genius.

I bring you...Fleming and John's "Winter Wonderland." Download it. Enjoy it. Savor it. 

Friday, December 05, 2008

Friday Music Game: The Christmas Version

Ah yes...the Friday Music Game. (I'd put one of those little "TM" circle signs next to it, but I don't know how. Just know that if you steal the name from me I will send a team of television lawyers after you to bore you to death.)

Oh, anyway, this week's twist is: Christmas Music. Hopefully you all have a nice little Christmas music playlist in your iPod/MP3 player/iTunes like good little elves. Hit the shuffle/random button and list the first ten songs that play. Just Christmas music...or, perhaps holiday music. Always love a good Adam Sandler song. Let's go for it! And...I know many of us don't have huge holiday music selections, so feel free to post only 5. Or 3. Or...whatever. Here is my list:

1. Mrs. Santa Clause - Joy Electric - kinda boring techno song from one of Tooth and Nail's Happy Christmas CD's. Not a big fan of the band...but...there it is.

2. I Celebrate the Day - Relient K - Not too bad. Softer song from Relient K's Christmas CD.

3. Room In My Heart (full length version) - The Violet Burning - Michael Pritzl is a genius. Love this song, especially this longer version. Best song on this short little Violet Christmas CD.

4. O Holy Night - Seven Day Jesus - Not too bad, rather traditional version from another Tooth and Nail CD.

5. O Come, O Come Emmanuel - Chasing Furies - I really like this version. Female lead vocal is really nice. Once again, from Tooth and Nail collections. There are four of those CDs so I have a lot of this music on my computer.

6. I Saw Three Ships - Bruce Cockburn - Good solid Christmas CD. This is a fairly fast version of the classic.

7. Silent Night - My Morning Jacket - One of the newest additions from my collection. Not a huge MMJ fan. Very soft and quiet version for these guys.

8. O Come, O Come Emmanuel - Sufjan Stevens - Part of the 5 CD set of Sufjan Christmas tunes, done in true Sufjan style. Raw, bare bones, and lo-fi. Very nice.

9. O Little Town of Bethlehem - Bruce Cockburn - Yikes! another artist/album repeat. But hey, Bruce is cool, right? I think this one is a little slow though. 

10. Snow Day - Lisa Loeb - Ok, so it's not a Christmas song. But it's sorta about snow. I'll let it pass. Lisa Loeb is so freakin' adorable. Love this song.

Now it's time for all of Santa's elves to contribute their lists. And if you don't have a music library on a computer or other device, just list 5 or 10 random Christmas songs. It's the holidays! Go drink some egg nog, eat some fruit cake, and celebrate with music!!! 

Oh that mistletoe I see over there....?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

A Weekend of Music! Local Music! Huzzah!

So I'll be hanging out at Lancaster's First Friday this weekend, but there are some great concerts going on throughout Central PA. Here are your choices:

XPN Welcomes David Byrne to the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center in York. 
Mr. Byrne is touring in support of his collaborative effort with Brian Eno. I was a big fan of the Byrne/Eno album My Life in the Bush of Ghosts back in college (early 80s) and this new album of work picks up where they left off. Good stuff.

John Legend & Raphael Saadiq at the Bryce Jordan Center at Penn State

Friday, 12/5
The Sleeping World and The Greatest Funeral Ever at the Abbey Bar, Harrisburg

The Sketties & Indian Summer Jars at Bube's Brewery, Mount Joy
The Sleeping World and The Sketties are two of my favorite local bands from Lancaster, so you can't go wrong with either show! And don't forget there will be plenty of live, local music throughout Lancaster as part of First Friday.

Saturday, 12/6
XPN Welcomes Iris Dement to the Harrisburg Academy

The Sleeping World at McCleary's Pub, Marietta
The Sleeping World at one of their regular local haunts. A can't miss night!

Farewell Flight at Messiah College.
This is part of Messiah's free B-Sides concerts. Doesn't start until 10p, otherwise I would be there. Love these guys and the show should be good. These guys tour so much that it isn't often they can be seen on their home turf.

So bundle up, get out of the house, and go see some live music. Your ears will thank you.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

building character: arts market

Several months ago I blogged about all the cool stuff going on at Building Character in Lancaster. And now the guys at BC are doing even bigger and better things. This Friday, December 5, Lancaster will have its monthly First Friday celebration and Building Character will be unveiling its new artMARKET. This new area is just the latest addition to BC, focusing on the visual arts, with a space for music: the artMARKET Assembly. That area will provide space for live music, rehearsals, recording, performance art, or whatever you can think of. 

Building Character is located on the 300 Block of North Queen Street in Lancaster and is a wildly popular destination for First Fridays, as well as being at the center of the city's Music Friday program (the third Friday of every month). They also host a Sunday Market featuring music, art, food, and more. Always something going on at Building Character!

Congrats to Tony and Marty for this great new facility. If you are an artist or artisan, the artMARKET is an inexpensive way to show off your work in a great location. From merely hanging a piece on the wall to renting out one of the "art stalls," there is something for everyone. And it will be open seven days a week. 

I'll be checking out the artMARKET at First Friday this week and hope to see you there! I'll most likely be one of the folks wearing an "I Heart XPN" pin, as usual. 

Another Cheesy Christmas Video: Wizzard apparently back in the 70s some members of ELO got ticked off at each other and there was a schism. Roy Wood and a few others left the band and formed Wizzard. Their most famous song? This lovely Christmas ditty, "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday." And, oh, what a wonderful video it is...

Merry Christmas everyone. With videos like this, I'm GLAD it's not Christmas every day...

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

New U2 Christmas Video

It's no secret I'm a big U2 fan. As part of the launch of the new Red (Wire) digital music magazine (designed to help eliminate AIDS in Africa), U2 has recorded a version of the Greg Lake classic, "I Believe in Father Christmas." Great video for a great cause.

The Red (Wire) launch page also has some other cool music and videos from artists like Death Cab for Cutie, Elvis Costello & The Police, Jenny Lewis, Coldplay, The Killers (w/ Elton John), John Legend, and more.

Not sure if I like the new version of this song as much as the original, but then again, I'm used to the original, having listened to it for years. But in the end, the new U2 version is a good one, and a keeper! What do you think?

Monday, December 01, 2008

Cheesy Christmas Video: Hey Brian!

Brian Wilson is a genius. Brian Wilson has also had his share of "issues." And so, I give you, from the "What the heck were you thinking?" category....Brian Wilson making the poor decision to help out his daughters, Carnie and Wendy, in this music video for the song "Hey Santa." 

Seriously, Brian...I know they're your daughters, but what WERE you thinking???

Did Someone Say Free Music?

Back from an extended Thanksgiving weekend with little time to blog, so I thought I would direct you to a few places where you can get some great free music downloads, particularly some interesting holiday music.

First off, head on over to the Muzzle of Bees blog for a free download of a My Morning Jacket Christmas special from WFPK radio in 2001. 

Then you can get a free sampling of Sufjan Stevens' Christmas albums over at Aquarium Drunkard. That should be enough to encourage you to buy the entire 5-disc Christmas set over at iTunes or Amazon.

Then, in a non-Christmas vein, one of my favorite bands, Matt Pond PA has a new Free EP you can download, aptly titled: The Freeep

Once I dig out from under my workload and have time to gather my thoughts, I'll fill you in on some other great Christmas music.