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!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Weekend in Music

Ah yes, another weekend looms, and, as is on the horizon. 

Plenty for you to check out on the local music scene, so don't even think about telling me you're bored!

Ken's Pick o' the Week #1: Music Friday
Since this is the third weekend of the month we have Music Friday in Lancaster. Lot's of great stuff around town. If I am able to make it down, I'll most likely be hanging at my usual spot, Building Character, where the Main Street Mystics will be belting out their jazzy sounds with my buddy Randy Bucksner on sax. 

Other highlights from Music Friday include a nice lineup at the Ad Lib Cafe hosted by Music For Everyone. Meanwhile talented young singer/songwriter Jordan Rast will be playing at Carmen & David's Creamery on Prince Street. (Haven't eaten their yet but have heard rave reviews from friends!). Meanwhile, The Cultivators will be at the Lancaster Dispensing Company, while The Reese Project plays at the Lancaster Arts Hotel

And the biggest show of the night is over at the Chameleon, featuring Lovedrug, along with York-based Kingsfoil.

You can get a full lineup for Music Friday over at Downtown Lancaster.

Ken's Pick o' the Week #2:
If you've been wondering where The Sleeping World has been, they've been holed up in a rehearsal space, breaking in a new line-up that I hear is going to be amazing. While the new version of the band won't be ready until April, Jessica Smucker will be performing with Jeff Bryson of the Vinegar Creek Constituency on Sunday, February 22nd at the Chestnut Hill Cafe in Lancaster. They'll be doing acoustic versions of songs from both of their bands, as well as some pretty cool covers. 

And now here's the rest of the weekend lineup throughout Central PA. Not exhaustive, but a good slice of what's going on.

Thursday, February 19th
XPN Welcomes the Neville Brothers & Dr. John to the American Music Theatre in Lancaster
The Sketties at Quips Pub in Lancaster

Friday, February 20th
The Two Man Gentleman Band at the Abbey Bar in Harrisburg
Midnight Spaghetti & the Chocolate G-Strings at Bube's Brewery in Mount Joy

And if you want to check out what else is going on in the area, or at your favorite haunt, check out the calendars at Fly Magazine, Spotobe, or PennLive, or my friend Sara Bozich's blog.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

In the Studio: August Burns Red

Perhaps the biggest name in local music these days, at least in terms of national and international reach, is Lancaster's August Burns Red. This hardcore band came up through CI Records and has been on Solid State for several years. The guys are back in the studio recording their next album, and they've added an interactive element to the process. You can watch them live online, and even chat with them, by going here

Meanwhile, their latest EP, Lost Messengers: The Outtakes, will be released next week, on February 24th

If you like hard music, check these guys out. They're the real deal, and they always put on a great show. Hopefully we'll be able to see them at the Chameleon again soon, or perhaps Purple Door.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

More new U2: No Line on the Horizon title track

A friend alerted me to the fact that another song from U2's upcoming CD, No Line on the Horizon, has surfaced on the Internet. This time it's the title track.  You can listen here.

Like the first single, "Get On Your Boots," this isn't a great song, but is a very good, solid song that has the makings of a hit. It's a catchy, funky little pop tune with lots of guitar, and if I had randomly heard this, I'm not sure if I would have known it was U2. Bono's vocals are different throughout most of the song, and is only easily recognizable as Bono in parts of the chorus. In fact, I think part of what draws me to this song is that it IS different.

And, as has been reported widely, U2 will be David Letterman's musical guests for an unprecedented five nights the week of March 2nd. The new album will be released here in the States on March 3rd. Really looking forward to getting the whole disc in my hands and working through it, listening to both the music and U2's songs always require much more than a cursory listen.

If you are a fan of U2 and want a better understanding of their musical canon, I would highly suggest the book Walk On by Steve Stockman.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Weekend Music Game: The Funky Friday Version

Since today is Funky Friday here in Central PA (and I hope to see you all at the Abbey Bar in Harrisburg tonight from 5 pm 'til whenever...) I thought we could have a Funky Friday music game. Now I realize that may not have any funk loaded into your music player, but there's a lot of music out there that is very danceable, regardless of whether or not it is "funky." 

So put your music player on random/shuffle and give us the first five or ten songs you have that might be, even remotely, danceable.  And this time you can skip until you find good ones. So let us know which tunes make up your personal funky dance party...

Here's my list:

1. The Alpha Band - You Angel You - T-Bone Burnett and the boys with their semi-funky, rockabilly version of the Dylan tune.  I could definitely move to this one...

2. Umbrellas - Again and Again - definitely a funky beat with a touch of 80s techno/new wave flavor. Begins with the lyrics, "So where's the piano, and the big bass drum? And the clashing of cymbals?" Didn't even know I had this song on my MP3 player.

3. Further Seems Forever - The Bradley - I guess you could dance to this, kind of a shuffle and mosh tune. Yeah, close your eyes and bob your head a little. This is Chris Carrabba era FSF.

4. The Police - Driven to Tears - Another danceable tune, but this time maybe we do the Pogo.

5. The Clash - Guns of Brixton - The Clash always had an element of funk in their earlier music. This is a slow, smokin', reggae groove. It would be fun to dance to this one in a room full of people.

6. Over the Rhine - Daddy Untwisted - From my favorite OTR album, Eve. This is just about the only OTR album that actually rocks out and funks out. A quite funky choice!

7. 16 Horsepower - Hang My Teeth on Your Door - Well, this switches it up a bit...maybe a clog dance? A reel? Definitely something 19th century.

8. Van Morrison - Domino - Yeah, there's a touch of funk here. Definitely a danceable tune. I think a lot of Van's stuff would be good for groovin'.

9. The Clash - Hitsville U.K. - More Clash! This one from Sandinista. Ellen Foley joins the band on this tune in a bit of an homage to Motown. A nice choice for this list.

10. Duraluxe - Please Be Cool - Some laid back indie rock for some laid back indie rock club dancing. Works for me!

Your turn!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Music This Weekend, part 2: Out and About in Central PA

Here's a look at some of the cooler shows this weekend throughout Central PA.

Friday, February 13th
Hiram Ring at Ten Thousand Villages, Ephrata
Spyro Gyra at the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center, York
Willie Nelson & Asleep at the Wheel at the American Music Theater, Lancaster
Maryjo Mattea and Tiny Purple Fishes at Building Character, Lancaster
Hoots & Hellmouth w/ Good Old War, The Slackwater News, and The Major Leagues at the Chameleon, Lancaster

Saturday, February 14th
Mae at Messiah College, Grantham

And of course don't forget all the bands playing this weekend at the MMC in Harrisburg.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Music This Weekend, part 1: The Millennium Music Conference

This weekend brings us the 13th Annual Millennium Music Conference in Harrisburg. The conference features seminars aimed at helping musicians get their careers on track and on to the next level. But for most of us, the conference merely means that hundreds of bands will be playing at dozens of venues throughout the Harrisburg area.
You can see a complete list of venues and bands here, but I thought I would highlight a few of the ones that interest me the most. 

First off, WXPN will be in town for another visit this Friday night, February 13th. The night kicks off with a Funky Friday Dance Party at the Abbey Bar, with David Dye spinning the funk from 5 - 9 p.m. Last time around there were over 500 people at the Abbey and the place was hopping. Expect more of the same this time, so get there early. You can RSVP for the event here. Then immediately following, the funk continues with Philly band, The Hustle, featuring Nora Whitaker and Kuf Knotz. Definitely an evening of music and dancing you won't want to miss.

A few other highlights from this year's MMC:

Thursday, February 12th
All ages show at the Radisson Penn Harris Convention Center starting at 8 pm. This show features 8 bands, including Kingsfoil at 1o, and the Shackeltons at 11.

Friday, February 13th
Adam Blessing at the Appalachian Brewing Company (Camp Hill) - 9 pm
The Sketties at the Cathedral Room at Der Maennerchor - 9 pm
Perkasie at the Cathedral Room at Der Maennerchor - 11 pm
Flatbed Ford at the Double K Tavern - 11 pm
The Jellybricks at Molly Brannigan's - 11:30 pm
Saint Narcissus in the Bridges Lounge at the Radisson - 10:15 pm
Kilego Vert at The Quarter - 12 midnight
Also an all ages show at the Radisson starting at 8:15 featuring 6 bands, including the Tamboureens at 10:30.

Saturday, February 14th
Josh Albright at the Appalachian Brewing Company (Camp Hill) - 9:45 pm
Mycenea Worley at the Cornerstone Coffeehouse (Camp Hill) - 9 pm
Lakeherst at the Double K Tavern - 11 pm
Puffer Fish at Tara Station - 1 am

Sunday, February 15th
House Exit and FDR & The New Deal at the Championship in Lemoyne - 8 pm

And that's just a small sample of the many bands playing around town. You can also check out the Spotoblog from the fine folks at for some more information on bands to check out. 

And, if you can't make it to the MMC, there is a lot of other good music throughout Central PA this weekend that I'll highlight in tomorrow's blog.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Weekend Music Game - By Popular Demand

I was kind of busy yesterday so I never got around to doing the Weekend Music Game...but enough of you have questioned me about this, so I thought I would post one today. Better late than never! (and this is why it is now called the Weekend Music Game and not just the Friday Music Game)

Rules: music device, etc. set on random/shuffle/dj - First ten songs, no skipping. List them here and comment on them. Just a great way to get to know other people and maybe discover some new (or old) music!

Here we go!

1. U2 - City of Blinding Lights - no secret that this is my favorite band. Just a really solid song from a solid album. Can't wait for the new album in less than a month!

2. T-Bone Burnett - Hold On Tight - Haven't listened to enough T-Bone lately. Really wish he didn't wait so long between CDs...and I need to get his most recent release still. 

3. Chris Taylor - The River - really cool singer/songwriter from Texas. Interviewed him for an article a number of years ago. Used to be the lead singer of Love Coma (which also featured Matt Slocum of Sixpence). He has a nice sound.

4. Mute Math - Plan B - These guys are amazing musicians, and great live. I would love to get them around here some time. Really looking forward to their new CD. If you ever get a chance to check out their live DVD, do it!

5. Bob Dylan - I and I - I love this song from Infidels, an often overlooked Dylan album. This guy continues to put out great stuff.

6. Appleseed Cast - Moment #72 - Been following these guys from their earliest days on Deep Elm records. Still like what I hear. Just this morning I heard they had a new album coming out, so I'll be anxious to hear what it's like. They began in the old-school emo tradition. Curious what they sound like now.

7. 764-Hero - Photographic Evidence - This is a really solid song, probably my favorite from the album. I think this was from their last album. I'd love to hear more of their stuff.

8. The Smoking Pokes -Pretty Pathetic - this is the live version from the combo cd/dvd. The audience just sings along nicely. Check these guys out. Josh Caterer has a beautiful voice.

9. Play Radio Play - 1-2-3 Entertain - Pretty cool music, especially when you realize it is basically the product of one guy...a teenager, recorded in his home. Missed them when they came to the Chameleon last year.

10. The National - Lucky You - I like what I hear from this band, but need to try more of their stuff. I like the lead singer's voice.

10 more for the road:

11. Perkasie - Old Designs
12. 16 Horsepower - Poor Mouth
13. Soul Junk - Lifeless Things
14. U2 - I Fall Down
15. Soul Junk - Forever and Ever Amen Alright
16. Headlights - TV
17. Deepspace 5 - Ziontific
18. The Juliana Theory - P.S. We'll Call You...
19. Anathallo - To Gary and Marcus...
20. Vigilantes of Love - Losin' It it's your turn!

Friday, February 06, 2009

Music You Should Know: Hiram Ring - Breathe Deep

I've long been touting Lancaster as a city with a vibrant and growing music scene. There are so many talented musicians and bands in the area, and as a result I have hopes that the local music scene is going to really blow up someday. When I first began working in Central PA, one of the first musicians I met was Hiram Ring. In addition to being an incredibly nice guy, Hiram is an unassuming, yet extremely talented singer/songwriter. 

This Saturday night Hiram will be releasing his first full-length CD, Breathe Deep, at a special CD release party at Building Character in Lancaster (details below). The new disc is distinctly Hiram, but features a wide variety of styles and sounds. His song writing has matured and there are some really sweet tunes on here, as the disc explores humanity and our pilgrimage here on earth.

On Breathe Deep, Hiram takes us on a journey, one both personal and universal. He leads off with the laid back, "Go From Here," a nice introduction to Hiram and his talents, with his unique voice leading the way over an understated instrumental backdrop. You can almost picture yourself sitting by a campfire while Hiram strums his guitar across from you, raising the specter of uncertainty, "I don't know where I go from here, there's a feeling in me it's not very clear." 

One of the most endearing traits of Hiram's music is his voice. Sweet, yet slightly gravelly, with a touch of frailty. You know you are listening to someone very well aware of his humanity, and not interested in putting on airs and pretensions.

Next up is perhaps my favorite tune on the disc, the more upbeat "Play Switch," featuring the African rhythms Hiram would've heard growing up in Ghana. Various African drums and percussion instruments provide the beat, while an accordion and distant trumpet round out the sound, all layered underneath his guitar. Lyrically, the song speaks of his search for home, with references to his time both in Africa and here in the states. 

Hiram also adds a touch of understated funk to his music; more subtly on "Chasing Shadows" with harmonica dancing around his voice and guitar, while the  sweet, unmistakable sounds of a Hammond B3 provide the backdrop for "Living Water,"  heading into "Voices." Here he continues giving voice to that gnawing inside of all of us: "I've got voices crawling round in my head, I've got skeletons lying in my bed, under the sheets - they won't leave me."

One song that is sure to garner attention, and melt the hearts of female listeners, is "One Girl For Me," a love song to his future wife, whom he has yet to meet. There is already a music video for this song, shot locally by Ryan Mast of Unitheo:

Hiram hits a jazzier, loungey note with the title track, "Breathe Deep," a perfect song for these cold winter days, showing off the talents of his jazz trio, featuring Mike Bitts on upright bass and pianist Matt Monticchio. Then on "Eternity," Hiram mines the depths of life and relationships, and the always intertwined realms of faith and love.

In "I am Not a Thief," a song born out of his time in Afghanistan, Ring looks in the mirror for a period of self-examination, coming to grips with his humanity and need for something more than this life offers: "I'm a thief, I'm a murderer, I'm a blind man, I'm diseased."

 A journey in a car provides the backdrop for his next examination of life in "Steer Into the Curve," one of the more straightforward singer/songwriter tunes on the disc.

Hiram rounds the corner and nears the finish line with the quiet and ethereal "Will I Ever," then heads right into the closing song, "I'm On a Journey," which pretty much sums up the overriding theme of the album.

Hiram Ring is equally comfortable with just an acoustic guitar or performing with a full band, and this CD provides a nice mix of his many sounds. At times, his music reminds me of Pierce Pettis, or even another friend of mine, Jason Gray (two artists you should definitely checkout). You can hear several of the songs on Hiram's website, which also hosts a few videos. You can also become a fan of Hiram on Facebook

While I've discussed the music on this CD, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the incredible artwork and packaging created for Hiram by Ned Bustard of World's End Images.  

Hope to see you all at the CD release party, this Saturday night (February 7th) on the 300 block of North Queen Street in Lancaster at Building Character. Local indie-rock band, Trash and Glory will be opening at 7pm. There is a $15 cover charge that includes a copy of the new CD (though $5 for those entering who don't want to purchase the CD.) And if you can't make it, you can purchase the CD from Hiram or download it on iTunes.