Sunday, September 13, 2009

New Website and Blog

In case you missed it, I've launched my new blog and website. That's not to say I won't be blogging here again, but if I do, it will be much less frequently.

Check my new site and blog out at: Inkling Media

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

To Blog or Not To Blog

I've been asked by a few people to update my blog. A fair request, and one I would love to favor.
So why haven't I blogged as much lately? Several months ago I moved and at the same time went through a few other changes, including a bit of employment upheaval. I found that having more free time on my hands didn't translate into more time for blogging. On the contrary, I find that when my day is more structured it is much easier for me to sit down and write.

Fast forward a few months and I'm in a different state of employment upheaval, albeit more on the good side. I'm working more, yet the circumstances behind the lack of blogging is different.

So here's the deal. Very soon I will be "officially" launching my new website, where I'll be blogging more, but mostly about social media. Additionally, I'll also be contributing to two other blogs, writing about music, all things local...and if you mash the two up....local music!

Herein lies my dilemma: do I keep this blog, and if I do...what do I blog about? Do I use it as an aggregator of my writings at other blogs? I certainly don't think I'll have too much time to write for this blog AND three other blogs.

Help? Input? Guidance? Thank you!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Weekend Music Game: June!

Well, for some people, Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer...but for me there is something special about the start of June. It just feels more like summer, and June is just around the corner. So why not a June themed weekend music game? This one is a little trickier. Put your music player on shuffle/random and let it fly. Just keep hitting skip until you find a song that fits the criteria. Here's what we're looking for:

Song 1: J - First song or artist that starts with J
Song 2: U - First song title that includes the word "You" (or any variation, i.e. "your," etc)
Song 3: N - First song or artist that begins with N
Song 4: E - First song or artist that begins with E
Song 5: A song that comes up that REALLY reminds you of summer.

And of course we'd love some comments and explanations on these songs.

And be always are. Doesn't matter if it's the first or last name that begins with the letter. We're all about creative license here on the porch! Oh, and feel free to do them out of order, because this one takes a little time. Just put them in order when you post them.

So I'll go's what I came up with...

J - Jimmy Jazz by The Clash - from one of my all time favorite albums. Great way to start!

U - Thank You by Dido - I met Dido when she was doing a private show at my workplace when she was touring in support of this CD. I'm still hooked. This album stands up well.

N - Numbered Lithograph by John Vanderslice - Not an artist I consciously choose to listen to, but every time he comes up on my mp3 player I really enjoy it.

E - The Envy Corps performing Keys to Good Living - Great indie rock band that you all should check out. Love their sound. I think my friend Lori turned me on to them.

Summer Song - And It Stoned Me by Van Morrison. I was just commenting the other day that Van Morrison's greatest hits compilation is the perfect summer driving CD...great for a road trip.

Alright then...your turn! Have fun with this.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I'm On A Porch...

In case you haven't heard...I have a porch.

We moved to Lancaster city nearly two months ago, and the one thing this new house has that I've never really had before is a front porch. Not a stoop. A porch. About 8 feet above street level, set back from the road, with a railing, and two glider benches.

I've joked about the fact that I have a porch, and spend a lot of time on it, and this fact has pretty much gone viral. But it's more than just a joke or a diversion. The fact is, I love my porch. Because I work out of my home and have wireless, I can just as easily work on my porch. Just yesterday my friend Joel came over with his laptop, sat on the porch, and we both worked while we chatted. It was very relaxing. I can even have clients stop by for business. Much better than meeting inside in a stuffy office.

I can sit on my porch with my dog and relax. I can watch people as they pass by, figure out who my neighbors are (some might call that being nosey), and check on the steady flow of traffic. And of course, for those who follow me on Twitter, I can comment on what's going on around me.

Like at this very moment an ambulance is speeding by with it's sirens blaring...and my dog is howling. In his five years of live he has never howled until we moved to the city. Now it is a daily occurrence with the steady stream of sirens.

I also have a nice back yard with a deck...and lots of sun. I could spend my time there soaking up the warmth, but then I wouldn't be able to interact with Lancaster and its residents. I wouldn't see my friends as they drove by and honked at me. I'd miss out on a lot.

But for me, the porch is more than all of this. It is a symbol of community. For the five years that I lived in the suburbia that is Elizabethtown, I barely ever saw or got to know my neighbors. And not for lack of trying. But at the end of the day, they would drive home from work, the garage door would open, and they would drive in and close the door behind them...never to be seen again until the following morning when they left for work again. Here in Lancaster, in the two short months that I've lived here I've met quite a few of my neighbors. The couple two doors down made a point of coming over and introducing themselves. They told me that they really desire that our little slice of Lancaster would feel like a neighborhood. Like the kind of neighborhood I grew up in. Everyone knew everyone else. We played together. We worked together. We had cookouts together. I miss that.

So for me, my porch is really all about community. Or as one friend said, a "safe place." A place where friends can stop by and relax and chat. We can get to know one another over a cup of coffee or a glass of my home brewed sweet tea. Sure they have to deal with my over-exuberant dog until he calms down, but that's part of the charm as well. It's a place for both individuals and families. Grown-ups and children. To read one of my favorite authors, Wendell Berry, you will learn that community implies both "membership" and "interdependency." What I do has an impact on my neighbors. In his book, The Long-Legged House, Berry notes:
A community is the mental and spiritual condition of knowing that the place is
shared, and that the people who share the place define and limit the
possibilities of each other's lives.
That is how I view my porch. It may be MY porch, but I want to share it with others. With you. It is a sanctuary of public solitude, and a refuge. At times it can be noisy because of all the traffic, but when I sit out here alone, I am in a place of silence. And when I sit here with friends, despite the chaos around us, it is a place of relaxed conversation.

So...with that, I invite you to my porch. Yes, you too can be a part of Porchapalooza 2009. And if you can't make it, enjoy your own porch, your own community...and be welcoming to your friends and neighbors.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Weekend Music Game: Summer's almost here!

Today is Music Friday in Lancaster and my family and I will be hanging out at Building Character on the 300 Block of North Queen Street, checking out the music of Katie Becker and Trash & Glory. Hope to see you there.

And since I'm bringing back the Weekend Music Game, let's look forward to summer. All of the big summer festivals are announcing their lineups. So I thought we could do our own festivals. Put your music player on shuffle/random and play the first ten skipping. Jot 'em down for us here and let us know what your personal summer festival would be like.

So now, here's the lineup for my Porch-a-palooza 2009.

1. R.E.M. performing "It's the End of the World as We Know It" on the Aging, but still very Hip, Rockers Stage.

2. Bruce Cockburn performing "Wondering Where the Lions Are" on the Straight from Canada, eh? Stage.

3. Mark Heard performing "It's Not Your Fault" on the Gone, but Defnitely Not Forgotten Stage.

4. Chatterbox performing "Fallen" on the Industrial Porch Stage.

5. Brandston performing "Breaking Ground" on the Back When Emo Didn't Suck Stage.

6. Eric Clapton performing "Let it Rain" on the Guitar Hero Stage.

7. Fleming & John performing "Don't Let it Fade Away" on the UberCool Married Couples Stage

8. Bob Dylan & Johnny Cash performing "Careless Love" on the Dead & Alive Stage

9. The Dingees performing "The World's Last Night" on Where Did All the Cool Punkers Go? Stage

10. Starflyer 59 performing "No New Kinda Story" on the Gaze at Your Shoes Stage

And ten more performers who MIGHT make surprise appearances:

The Lassie Foundation
The Vigilantes of Love
Andy Pratt
Pigeon John
The Fire Theft
The Promise Ring
Pony Express

Alright. Now it's your turn. If your music player programmed a festival for you, who would be performing?

Saturday, May 09, 2009

The Shackeltons: An Inspirational Story

Been awhile since I've blogged and I know I need to get back into it, so when I read this story over at NPR, I figured this was as good a reason as any, since Mother's Day is tomorrow.

The Shackeltons are one of the coolest bands to come out of Central PA, and lead singer Mark Redding and the guys put everything into all of their shows. This story from NPR really shines a light on what Mark and his band are all about, and really gave me a new appreciation for their music and live performances. Read and enjoy...and make sure you get out and see them live. Can't wait to hear some new recorded music from them in the near future.

And make sure you do wonderful things for your mother (and the mother of your children) on this Mother's Day weekend.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Harry Kalas - 1936 - 2009

I was stunned this afternoon when my son yelled down the stairs to me: "Harry Kalas died!" The words didn't sink in quite so fast, but then I started getting messages on Twitter and Facebook, as well as text messages. Harry Kalas passed away this afternoon after collapsing in the broadcast booth just hours before today's Phillies game in Washington against the Nationals.
Harry Kalas, was in my opinion, the greatest voice ever to call the game of baseball. The Hall of Fame announcer of the Philadelphia Phillies was "it." He had the goods. The best pipes in the business. His voice is embedded in my head, with Kalas and his trademark "Outta here!" home-run call. His voice uttering the name "Michael Jack Schmidt" every time Schmitty hit one out of the park. And most importantly, his voice calling the final out of the Phillies' World Series victory last season.

Kalas joined the Phils as an announcer in 1971, and was the voice of the Phillies for all but the first nine years of my life. You can look back at all the great players who have donned a Phillies uniform over the past 38 years. Schmidt. Luzinski. Carlton. McGraw. Utley. Rollins. Howard. But players, and certainly managers, come and go. Even the broadcast booth saw a bit of a revolving door, but for the past 38 years, Harry Kalas has been there, and in some ways, defined the Phillies. He was the constant...through all the lean years, as well as through the World Series Championship seasons of 1980 and 2008, and of course the "almost" seasons of 1983 and 1993.

I still get chills listening to his voice, and some of his trademark calls. I was fortunate enough to have met him on three separate occasions, one of which was a seminar called "Take Me Out to the Ballgame: Baseball on the Radio," which I moderated at the Museum of Television & Radio in NYC. The seminar featured legends, and local NY announcers, but Kalas was clearly the star of the panel, with the other announcers recognizing the talent in their midst.

As I write this, the fans at Nationals Park in Washington are observing a moment of silence for Harry. I'm merely a fan, and there is an empty feeling inside. I can't imagine what it must be like for Harry's colleagues to have to call today's game...or for the players to play the game. All I know is...Harry, you will be missed.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Welcoming Spring: The Weekend Music Game

First off, I apologize for not updating the blog lately, but things have been very busy and will hopefully settle down over the next two weeks.

But...I can't neglect the weekend music game for too long! I didn't have time to really come up with a theme, so we'll stick to the basics. Music player on random/shuffle, and list the first ten songs you come up with. Perhaps comment on them. And, as always, no skipping! And see if anything comes up that reminds you of Spring, because today IS the first day of Spring.

Here's my list for the weekend:

1. John Vanderslice - Parade - this is from a live Daytrotter Session. I love this song. Just really got into Vanderslice within the past year after seeing him at the Chameleon. VERY small audience, but a great intimate show.

2. Lovedrug - Happy Apple Poison - another band I saw for the first time at the Chameleon a few years ago. Quirky voice, but I like it.

3. Copeland - May I Have This Dance - whoa...I'm sensing a theme. Saw these guys at the Chameleon for the first time...and I think it was on the same bill as Lovedrug! Really pretty vocals and music.

4. T-Bone Burnett - Stunned - OK, I've never seen T-Bone live...let alone at the Chameleon. But I've been a fan of his music since about 1980. Great producer, but I love his solo discs.

5. The Lassie Foundation - We Are Kings - nice Southern Cali indie-pop band featuring the talents of Wayne Everett and Eric Campuzano, among others. Now this is the kind of music that would be fun to listen to in the car on a warm Spring day.

6. U2 - I Will Follow - this is the live version from Under A Blood Red Sky. 'Nuff said.

7. Always Sunday - Let You Down - One of my favorite songs from this band that is no longer together, featuring one of my favorite singers, Trent Dabbs. I've loved all of his projects and his solo stuff is great.

8. The Gloria Record - Grace the Snow is Here - Well...I guess this is NOT the kind of thing you want to hear on the first day of Spring. I'm not interested in any more snow, thank you.

9. The Violet Burning - More - I'm partial to earlier Violet Burning stuff, but this is still good stuff from the album Drop Dead. Love Michael Pritzl's voice.

10. Led Zeppelin - Dazed and Confused - Going REALLY old school here. Gotta love me some Zep.

And ten more quick ones for the road:

11. Future of Forestry - All I Want
12. Michael Knott - Deaf and Dumb
13. Mute Math - Picture
14. Mark Heard - She Don't Have a Clue
15. Fly Eagles Fly - Philadelphia Eagle's fight song - hmm. Wish I had a Phillies song!
16. Serene - Autumn
17. U2 - Shadows and Tall Trees
18. Robert Deeble - Blue
19. Van Morrison - Steppin' Out Queen
20. Yes - Starship Trooper

OK, now it's your turn. Add a comment with your ten songs for the weekend. And have a happy first day of Spring. And don't forget, that means it's Free Rita's Day!

Friday, March 06, 2009

Weekend Music Game

Well, due to the fact that I'm really busy, I didn't put a lot of thought into this edition of the Weekend Music Game. So really quick...down and dirty old school version. Music player on random/shuffle and list the first 10 songs you skipping! See what surprises you come up with.

Here's my list:

1. Brandtson - As You Wish - one of their older songs. Still enjoy this stuff.
2. Woven Hand - The Good Hand - I think this is from the first Woven Hand album (post 16 Horsepower), and I really love this song.
3. Bob Dylan - Jokerman - nice song from Infidels.
4. Glorybox - Sonic Ocean
5. Mute Math - Control - can't wait to hear more from these guys
6. The Juliana Theory - Love - has a bit of a Joe Jackson feel to it...
7. Brown Feather Sparrow - Sleep Well Child - nice and quiet beautiful song.
8. The Bird and the Bee - Because
9. Always Sunday - Great - another great project involving Trent Dabbs. Love his music and his voice.
10. Elvis Costello - Clubland - seriously catchy tune.

Ok...your turn!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Your Weekend Musix Fix

Once again, Central PA is bustin' at the seams with all kinds of great music (and other entertainment) throughout the area, so don't come whining to me if you can't find anything to do.

Ken's Picks o' the Week:
Pick #1: 3/6 - It's First Friday in Lancaster, and while the focus is on art, there is still plenty of music to be found throughout the city. You can check out 8-Track Radio at Building Character, or hop across the street to the new Progressive Galleries featuring music from The Greatest Funeral Ever. There is sure to be other music at other venues throughout the city as well. And don't forget the First Friday After Party in the Lizard Lounge at 10 p.m.

Pick #2: 3/8 - Local favorites Slimfit and Perkasie rock the house at the Chameleon Sunday night, along with former local Madi Diaz. A great showcase of what Central PA is able to produce in terms of music. This is an XPN Welcomes event.

Friday, March 6:
Adam and the Weight (Adam Kowalczyk of Live) at the Chameleon, Lancaster
The Thrives, Flatbed Ford, and Girls Like Cigarettes at the Abbey Bar, Harrisburg
Irishfest featuring Wyndfall in the Brewpub at ABC, Harrisburg
The Irish Rovers at the Hershey Theatre
Carl Peterson at the Ten Thousand Villages Cafe, Ephrata

Saturday, March 7:
XPN Welcomes Penn's Mask & Wig Club to Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster
Irishfest featuring Fire in the Glen in the Brewpub at ABC, Harrisburg
Dakini w/ FDR & the New Deal at the Abbey Bar, Harrisburg
Josh Blue (Last Comic Standing season 4 winner) at Whitaker Center, Harrisburg
Capitol Bandstand - A showcase for undiscovered local bands at the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center, York
Spring Doo Wop Cavalcade at the American Music Theatre, Lancaster
The Reese Project and Indian Summer Jars at Bube's Brewery, Mount Joy
Stinging Nettles & 8-Track Radio at Quip's Pub, Lancaster

Sunday, March 8:
The Peking Acrobats at Whitaker Center, Harrisburg

And that's what's going on. Feel free to comment with other events of interest.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

New Harrisburg Venue: The Midtown Arts Center

In my last post I blogged about Jonas Hair and his new Progressive Galleries space in Lancaster. So I thought I would keep the blog love coming for Jonas because of another project with which he is involved: The Harrisburg Midtown Arts Center.

The Harrisburg Midtown Arts Center is the newest venue in Harrisburg, and has the potential to be the coolest venue in the city. HMAC has a little bit of something for everyone. The space boasts two performance areas. The Stage on Herr space has an intimate club feel with a capacity of about 300, and the ability to feature smaller bands and performances. The 10,000 square foot Playhouse features a stage and seating for upwards of 600 people. This space can accommodate larger bands and other performances as well as lectures.

Additionally, several thousand square feet of gallery space will allow HMAC to showcase the work of local and regional artists. The space also boasts Cafe Sip, a small eatery being operated by Mangia Qui, as well as a private spa club featuring a pool in the basement of the building.

HMAC will have a sneak peak opening this weekend (March 7th and 8th) with the opening of a portion of Stage on Herr. According to their press release:

Both evening events, held at the HMAC building located at 1110 North Third Street in Midtown Harrisburg, include food by Mangia Qui, a full cash bar, table and bar seating. Attendees will be directed to the separate entrance to the cozy and intimate Stage on Herr, located on the Herr Streetside of the center. Doors open at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 7 headlining the Tim Warfield Band; NYC comedian Joe DeRosa, DJ Geoffro and Projectionist Justin Ayala. Tickets to the March 7 event are $35 per person.

Then, on Sunday, March 8th the doors open at 6:00 p.m. to present a different mix of entertainment with Washington D.C. flamenco guitarist Richard Barry with Polish violinist Katarzyna Bryla performing as a duo from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. OBA OBA, the area’s favorite Brasilian band takes the stage at 9:00 p.m. and is sure to get everyone on their feet. Tickets to the March 8 event are $15 per person.

The opening of HMAC has the potential to really bring some new energy to Harrisburg, as they seek to attract a wide variety of musical performers and visual artists. HMAC is also at the center of a new push to bring a First Friday program to Harrisburg, and will also be seeking to promote Harrisburg as a destination for film companies.

I'm pretty excited about the facility and look forward to seeing how things progress as they continue to open more of the space over the next few months. HMAC is located at 111o North Third Street in the heart of Midtown Harrisburg. Check it out!

Monday, March 02, 2009

This is Not Your Mother's Art Gallery: The Progressive Galleries

There's a new gallery on the scene in downtown Lancaster. While it has been open a bit for the past few weeks, the Progressive Galleries will have it's grand opening "Art Explosion" this Friday night, March 6th, as part of Lancaster's First Friday events.

The Progressive Galleries isn't your mom's art gallery. This isn't just a space for art to hang on walls. For the past two years the Gallery has had a presence in Harrisburg and is more event driven. Art installations combined with music and projections have been happening up there on about a monthly basis. The Gallery also has a presence in York with the White Rose Gallery Project. But they have never really had a home to call their own. Now all that is about to change. Partners Jonas Hair and Walter Diehl are opening over 2000 square feet of space at 323 North Queen Street (in the Keppel Building, or Candy Factory) which will serve as the flagship space for their tri-county operation.

This Friday's "Art Explosion" will feature artwork from local Central PA artists, as well as music from New Cumberland-based band, The Greatest Funeral Ever. There will also be projections by Justin Ayala and live painting throughout the evening by Sean Poole

Normal hours for the new gallery are: Tues - Thurs, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., though they will be open later on First Fridays.

Hope to see you all there this Friday night for the grand opening, as a bunch of us will be converging on the Keppel Building. And don't forget to join the Progressive Galleries Facebook group.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Weekend Music Game: Getting Ready for March

They say that when March comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb...and vice versa. So with March around the corner, let's find the lambs and lions in your music collection. This will be a test of musical diversity of sorts. The lambs are the quieter, softer, perhaps slower, tunes, while the lions are the roaring, hard rockin', faster and louder tunes. 

So start shuffling through your music collection randomly and tell us about at least the first two lions and the first two lambs you come across. Just keep it random. This could be interesting. I'll probably do a few more than two.

My Lambs:
T0morrow - U2 - one of the quieter tunes from October, and a song that doesn't get much mention when people talk about U2. "Won't you be back tomorrow?"  Good song.

Set the Scene - Umbrellas - I love the sound of these guys. This is a laid back tune that isn't super quiet, but is definitely more lamb than lion. If you haven't heard them, check 'em out.

All Things End in Water - At the Close of Every Day - great indie rock band from the Netherlands, and most of their songs are more on the lamb side, nice quiet ambient, acoustic alt-rock.

Damien Dreams - Jeremy Enigk - beautiful quiet song from Enigk's last solo disc. Really showcases his amazing voice.

Can't Cry Hard Enough - Julie Miller - a very sweet and quiet lamb. Beautiful song. I can't get enough of her voice. She has a new album out with her husband, Buddy, but I'd love to get another solo record out of her.

My Lions:
Not I - Demonhunter - yeah, kick in the hardcore. I definitely have a loud side, too. This definitely isn't for everyone.

Bodyrock - Moby - wasn't sure where to put this, but it is more upbeat, so I'm calling it a lion. Great danceable, groovin' tune.

Here We Go - Brandtson - Not really all that loud, and certainly not their most lion-like tune, but they can kick up a nice beat.

Wild Wild West - Kool Moe Dee - oh yeah. This brings back some memories. Not really loud, but hey, I can't really call this a lamb, even though it is kinda laid back.

This is the Sound - Party People - distorted vocals, driving drum beat, and it builds to a nice hard rockin' tune. I need more music from these guys.

OK, so there's my five lions and five lambs. I had to skip a lot to get some of the lions, so I definitely have more lamb-like music in my collection. Now it's your turn! Comment here with your lions and lambs.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Weekend in Music

Here's a quick rundown of some of the better shows happening around Central PA over the next several days.

Ken's Pick o' the Week:
Saturday night, 2/28, you should head on over to Building Character in Lancaster for a great evening of music. Headlining will be former Vigilantes of Love frontman, and singer/songwriter Bill Mallonee. Opening for Bill will be Lancaster-based St. Narcissus, showcasing the talents of Keith Wilson, formerly of Movies With Heroes. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. and there is an $8 cover charge.

Friday, February 27
Cephas & Wiggins at Whitaker Center, Harrisburg
Emily Long & Friends at Building Character, Lancaster
The Man in Black: Johnny Cash Tribute at American Music Theatre, Lancaster
The Green Onions & Aaron Daniel Gaul at the Abbey Bar, Harrisburg
Thriving Ivory at the Chameleon, Lancaster
Mark DeRose Duo at the Harp & Fiddle Irish Pub, York
Landing Lane at The Art & Soul Cafe benefit show for local food banks, St. Paul's United Methodist Church, Mountville

Saturday, February 28
Biodiesel and The Greatest Funeral Ever at the Abbey Bar, Harrisburg
Slimfit in the Lizard Lounge at the Chameleon Club, Lancaster
Fire in the Glen at the ABC Brewpub, Harrisburg
The Buskers at ABC - Camp Hill
Alex Brubaker at Juice and Java, Mechanicsburg

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

They Blinded Me With Science!

More often than not I blog about music, but there are plenty of great non-music venues and events throughout Central PA. Here's a quick rundown of what you can see and do, with something for the whole family.

In Lancaster this weekend you might want to check out the North Museum of Natural Science & History. This Sunday, March 1st, is Family Science Sunday at the North, featuring Jack Hubley, the host of WGAL-TV's "Wild Moments." Hubley will be giving presentations on how to tell the difference between venomous and non-venomous snakes.

The North Museum is also currently featuring an exhibit called Arctic Adventure (through May 15th), and interactive and artifact-based exhibit about the unique nature of the earth's polar regions. Permanent exhibits include a dinosaur gallery,  the Hall of the Cosmos, and a live animal room. And don't forget they have some pretty cool planetarium shows as well.

Newer to Lancaster is the Lancaster Science Factory, a hands-on, interactive museum that is especially appropriate if you have younger kids. Through April 14th they have a pretty cool exhibit called K'NEX: Building Thrill Rides.

And don't forget the Harsco Science Center at Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts in Harrisburg. This is the largest science center/museum in the area and has a great selection of temporary and permanent exhibits. Currently running is How People Make Things, as well as Forces of Nature. There are also plenty of permanent exhibits as well as the Select Medical IMAX Theatre

Always something to do in Central PA, so take the family out this weekend and get your science on!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Music You Should Know: Perkasie

I often ask my friend Jeff Royer at Fly Magazine to fill me in on any local bands that he's discovered and is really enjoying. About a year ago he mentioned the band Perkasie, and had them send me a copy of their EP. I was pleasantly surprised by what I heard from this Lancaster-based band. And I was hooked.

Now the band has a full-length CD out and I can't believe I've waited this long to review it. The self-titled disc, Perkasie, is, as the kids used to say, "all that and more." But that's just part of the equation. To really get a feel for this band, you MUST see them live. A Perkasie show is a high energy show characterized by a frenetic cacophony of ear-pleasing, foot-stomping "old timey" music. For a group of college kids they sure now how to perform; from Kate Foust's sassily sultry lead vocals to Alex Wash's devil-may-care assault on the piano (that guy can flat out play!), this is a band that loves to perform, and it shows. The live interaction and energy of their performance means Fun with a capital F. The band is rounded out by drummer/vocalist Dominic Billett, bassist Danny Sadler, and guitarist Ben Roth, all of whom contribute mightily to the whole known as Perkasie. Throw in some friends (Matt Kelly and Dillon Reichel) on washboard, mandolin, and a few other instruments, and you've got a musical melange that just won't quit. 

The CD is characterized by music that sounds as if it were from another time and another place, but still very fresh and relevant. Foust and Wash sound great on the slow-burning lead track, "Barstowe Station," as two young lovers rekindle an old romance. The band honky-tonks along with "Ginger Sobs," a musically happy tune that relates an ironic tale of loss. 

Foust then plays the pleading chanteuse on "Girl Upon Your Arm,"
To be the girl upon your arm, to be the one that gets to claim your love I'm so addicted to your charms, I'm so impossible, emotional.
Foust and Wash again trade lines on the steamy, "Down By the Riverside," with vocals that match up well. Then comes the wry and laid back "Beers and Grills," which sounds like something being sung from a front porch rocking chair.

The pace picks up again with the period-piece "The Fightin' 13th," with it's tale of young love and wartime loss. This is not the kind of music or lyrical content you would expect from a bunch of college students.

Oh poor girl you're all alone with no big man to call your own but backpacking he'll come back home and you'll sing glory hallelujah that day (AMEN!) but romance is a poison drop, and when those tears from your eyes stop, then down the drain the ring will drop, disgracing his memory.

Things slow down again with "The Dead Man's Prayer," on into the beautiful "Silly Girl!" displaying the bands versatility, both vocally and thematically:
love is the salt, it is the wound
and you burn me like you do
though i'm hurting, i'm still holding on to you
A bit of slow-moving old-school piano driven country emerges in "The Politeness Song," and the album then closes out with the duet, "Old Designs," a song of memory and regret.

This collection of music could easily be the soundtrack to a Coen Brothers film. It's difficult to make comparisons here, but perhaps the best I can do is that the "feel" of the music is akin to the Decemberists, but with more energy and less pretension. And even that doesn't even come close to hititng the mark. Thoughtful, yet playful lyrics, firmly nestled on a bed of well-crafted music. You might think that a disc recorded in a college studio (Millersville University's CRIS Studio) might lack quality, but this CD is a testament to both the talent of the musicians involved, and the music recording program at MU. A very professional recording from start to finish.

So contact the band and get this disc and enjoy it, but mostly you need to get out and see this band live. Your next chance will be on March 8th at the Chameleon, along with Slimfit and Madi Diaz. Hope to see you there!

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Mint: Local Music, Global Thinking

It's been quite some time since we've heard from The Mint, the Lancaster-based band that released Love is Vapor in 2007. Now it seems as though they are starting to surface again with a few interesting items. 

First off, the band has put together an interesting lineup for a show at the Chameleon Club in Lancaster on March 21st. In addition to The Mint, the show will also feature Philly indie rock outfit Jealousy Curve, an acoustic performance from D.C's Army of Me, and Ephrata-based Receiving the Ghost. (I recently received a copy of Receiving the Ghost's EP and I love their sound. I'll be reviewing it on here in the near future). All of these bands have gotten airplay on either XPN or Y-Rock (or both) and deserve a listen.

But this is more than just another concert at the Chameleon. It is a benefit for an organization called Love 146, that seeks to put an end to child sex slavery and exploitation. The Mint's Jonathan Decker tells me how and why the band got involved with this organization:
A  few years ago we played a show for them not really knowing much about them, and I was pretty blown away by what they do. Fast forward to this year when I became a Dad, and it made the issue of child sex slavery a bit more realistic in terms of comprehension. I see my daughter and her innocence, and then imagine children as young as her sold to the sex trade. Little kids sold to be violated for money, traded as a commodity, and have their entire lives be taken through hell. I'm by no means an expert on Love146, but I can't look my little girl and not get reminded of these children who are marginalized and abused.
Decker says the hope to raise at least $3000 for the organization, whose president will be on hand for the show to tell about the work they do. He also says that the band has been quietly donating to causes like Love 146 and the 1000 Wells Project, but he feels that now he needs to do something more:
Being in a band can be a cool thing, but at the end of the day it's music. If you can use a platform, however small it may be, to help change someones life for the better, that's what matters.
What a refreshing perspective on what it means to be a local musician in a world filled with pain and hurt. I hope to make it to this event, and hope to see you there. The concert begins at 7p.m. on March 21st. Tickets are $8 in advance, and $10 at the door. Let's pack the place out!

In other Mint, news, the band has been recording with John Wagoner at XAM Studios in Ephrata. Decker says they have a bunch of songs and hope to get some music out to radio and the public in the near future. He is feeling really good about the new material, saying they have had the time and resources to really experiment a bit more with sounds and lush arrangements, which he doesn't feel they were really able to do with Love is Vapor. I'm really looking forward to hearing their newest music.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Changing the Central PA Media Landscape: Daniel Victor

I grew up in a world where the media landscape consisted primarily of radio, television, newspapers, and magazines. When the Internet came along, it was something I had to "learn." I feel fortunate that I've been able to embrace and spend time with new media, and have spent a lot of time researching the relationship between old and new media. Sadly, the aforementioned "old media" have been slow to embrace "new media." In fact, it's not just a slowness that characterizes the attitude of traditional mainstream media; it is often a fear. And it is a fear, coupled with the opinion that the new media landscape (Internet, social media, texting, etc.) is a flash in the pan. I've heard more than one old-school newspaper/tv/radio person talking about things like Twitter or Facebook as "just a fad." It's 2009, folks. Get with it. I'm pretty sure the Internet isn't going anywhere.

One of the biggest factors leading to a fear of the new is the issue of monetization. If you want a newspaper, you go out and buy it at the local Turkey Hill, or subscribe and have it delivered to your home. Money changes hands, and you get your news in return. But traditional media has worried about just giving content away for free. While people are willing to shell out money for a hard copy of the paper...they generally expect to get things for free on the Internet. Traditional media is in bad shape, and they need to embrace new media and create innovative business models that allow for convergence and cross-platform content. Radio, Television, and magazines have all followed suit in this fear and slowness to embrace new media, and as a result, they are all hemorrhaging audience, revenue, and jobs. I'm convinced that those in the traditional media that DO embrace the new media ("new" being a relative term), will be the ones that survive and even flourish in this new cultural/economic/technological world.

Having said that, I'd like to introduce you to my friend Daniel Victor, a reporter for the Harrisburg Patriot-News who is trying to take his old media background into a new media world. A quick aside: when I call Daniel my friend, I need to disclose that he and I have only really met once. The majority of our interaction has been online via Twitter. He is a part of my social media community, and in the same way media is being redefined by the Internet, so is the concept of "friends." While we don't hang out and socialize in "real life" on a regular basis,  Daniel and I are a part of an online community of people that I would describe as friends. And I'm confident that if there comes the time when we DO get together, we'd be very comfortable in each other's company. Besides, we share a love of all the same sports teams, particularly the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies. (Forgive me. That phrase still makes me giddy.)

Daniel Victor has been thinking out loud for some time about how to incorporate his use of social media, particularly his blog and Twitter, into the reporting process. And a big part of this concept is the democratization of the journalistic process. Daniel will be including his readers in the editorial selection of the stories he decides to cover. Back in January he blogged about his ideas for this type of reporting. Since then he has been given the go-ahead to move forward with his "community-direct" mojo reporting experiment. In effect, Daniel has been able to do what all of us dream about: he created and defined his own job. But you can bet he'll be under a lot of scrutiny from his superiors. I have no idea how this will turn out for Daniel, but while I'm sure he has some old-school colleagues that expect him to fail, I really would love to see this succeed. And I want to see it succeed to the point where newspapers around the country take notice. 

So WHY is Daniel doing this? The bottom line, he tells me, is that he wants to "see better stories in the paper, or stories that would have otherwise never made it." But that's just the immediate goal. In the long run, Daniel says, there is a lot more at stake:
There's a lot I want to accomplish or prove on the periphery, too. There are a lot of principles at stake here, things that are really going to determine what role a professional news organization will play in the future. Can a news organization really connect with readers on a genuine level? Can it not only acknowledge that readers have a lot to offer, but also gather, curate and present that value to other readers? Are we willing to do that?

If this works, it's a compelling case that readers can be an important part of the production of the newspaper, in a way that aids journalists, not threatens them. We could use that knowledge in a variety of ways in the future. And even if it doesn't work, we'll learn a lot from this.
Daniel is now on this journey, and I can't wait to see where it takes him. His latest discussion of what he is doing is in the Sunday Harrisburg Patriot-News and on under the title "My New Assignment Editor? You, the Community." 

If you are in Central PA and want to follow him on this journey, make sure you check out Daniel's blog on a regular basis, and follow him on Twitter (@bydanielvictor). Social media and blogging are central to this whole process (he'll soon be creating a new blog on specifically for this task), so hopefully you will become a part of the editorial process and have Daniel work for YOU, all the while helping him prove that this concept can work. I'll let you know when the new blog is up and running.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Weekend Music Game: The Album Edition

There's a meme going around Facebook that I thought I would steal and use here for the latest edition of the Weekend Music Game. And you don't need your music player for this one, unless, like me, it helps jog your memory.

List 25 (or 5 or 10...I don't really care...whatever you have time for) albums that you would consider to be life changing in some way or form. The albums that stick with you and you never get tired of. Maybe they meant something to you at a particular time in your life, or in most cases for me, they changed the way you think about music. I know that my list certainly won't be exhaustive, but this exercise gives you insight into who I am, and might also give you some ideas of music to check out.

So here's my list, in no particular order:

1. U2 - Boy - Not my favorite U2 album, but their first one and the one that got me hooked. Still love listening to this. Amazing how well it stands up nearly three decades later. I could probably pick a handful of albums from U2 that were important to me.

2. 16 Horsepower - Low Estate - this album introduced me to the band and is still my favorite. Solid, minor key, apocalyptic rock from David Eugene Edwards. Now I love all his stuff.

3. Sunny Day Real Estate - Diary - From first listen I was hooked and now I can't get enough of anything that Jeremy Enigk records.

4. The Fire Theft - The Fire Theft - speaking of Jeremy Enigk, this is a post-SDRE project that is just an amazingly listenable album. 

5. The Clash - London Calling - one of my favorite albums of all-time. These guys showed that you can be punk and be relevant, all the while producing melodic rock with attitude.

6. Mark Heard - Second Hand - Hard to narrow down my choices here, but Heard was a genius. So sad that he left us "All Too Soon." His influence opened me up to a whole world of new artists.

7. Vigilantes of Love - The Killing Floor - speaking of Heard, he co-produced this album (with Peter Buck of R.E.M), which is why I checked this out in the first place. Folk-punk with a southern gothic flair. Still my favorite album from a band that was my favorite band at one time.

8. Dire Straits - Communique - This album is passed over by many, but I love the seriously laid back, mellow sound of this disc. And some seriously great songwriting.

9. Bruce Cockburn - Humans - I discovered Cockburn a few years before this album, but this one really struck a chord. Came at an important time in my life while I was in college. I still think this is his best effort; great songwriting and mostly acoustic, right before he started going a bit more electric. I'm not sure I've heard another album with lyrics that touch me as deeply.

10. Tonio K. - Rome Unchained - Not many people know this guy, but his music is amazing. This is a collection of some of the most witty and biting love songs, and all very catchy and singable.

11. Andy Pratt - Motives - I discovered this guy/album while listening to my college radio station. The first time I heard it I was sucked in. Quirky piano pop with some great songwriting. I think he was at the top of his game on this one.

12. T-Bone Burnett - Proof Thru the Night - First discovered T-Bone when he was with the Alpha Band. This is my favorite of his solo albums, and he proves that he is a brilliant storyteller. 

13. Johnny Cash - American Recordings - I'm cheating here, because this is actually several albums, but I'd never really given Cash a chance until I heard this series of discs. I saw him in a whole new light and then went back and listened to his entire catalog. Wow.

14.  The Violet Burning - The Violet Burning - Dark and dreamy with lots of guitars. Another album that just sucked me in from the first song. 

15. Victoria Williams - Loose - For many, Vic's voice is an acquired taste, but I love it. And the cast she surrounded herself with for this album is amazing. I need to pull this one out more often.

16. R.E.M. - Document
17. Genesis - The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
18. Yes - Fragile
19. Joe Jackson - Look Sharp!
20. The Police - Zenyatta Mondatta
21. Moby - Play
22. MuteMath - MuteMath
23. The Spirit That Guides Us - The Sand, The Barrier
24. Kelly Wingate - Are You Sleeping, Love?
25. Sufjan Stevens - Come On, Feel the Illinoise
26. Leslie/Sam Phillips - The Turning
27. Pedro the Lion - Control

And I could go on and on....

Post your list here. Feel free to tell us a little bit about some (or all) of them. And have fun!