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Celebrating Pennsylvania Music, Present and Past

Archive for the category “Web Log”

Enough with the Kickstarter!

June 6, 2013
By Michael Giblin

CrowdfundingOk, it’s raining, I’m slightly hung-over, and I’ve been listening to punk rock all morning, so that can only mean one thing – here comes an unsolicited rant…

Friends, fellow artists and musicians…enough with the Kickstarter already! It’s played out, done, pointless, and probably doing you more harm than good. Sure, on paper it is a great idea; a remarkably liberating and democratizing vehicle for artists and their art. In practice, however, it is annoying as hell, and causing me to ignore you. Why? Because it’s not special anymore. At all. And because you’re using it, you aren’t either.

Despite what your flowery project mission statement says, and despite what your 15 minute intro video shows me, your project is NO DIFFERENT from the thousands of others on there, and NO DIFFERENT from the 15 others I saw in my news feed in the last hour. Just call it what it is: “Please give me money to record a CD because I’m not clever or motivated enough to go find it myself”. Everyone is whining about Zach Braff using it to raise $1M to make a Garden State sequel, but Kickstarter officially jumped the shark when Amanda Palmer used it to raise the equivalent of a Guns n’ Roses recording budget. That brought everyone flocking to the great artistic casino, to spin the wheel and see if they can hit pay dirt too. Now it’s just like a real casino, filled with desperate, compromised people trying to bottle lightning.

I’m not kidding…there were no less than 15 Kickstarter pitches in my news feed recently, which, from where I sit, makes you all the artistic equivalent of a street full of homeless people, all sticking out your hands and tugging at my coat as I walk by. Is that sad? Yes. Is that unjust? Probably. But the cumulative effect is the same. I can’t save you all, so I will save none of you. There’s your great democratization of the playing field: you’re all equally irrelevant.

At the risk of sounding crankier and more elitist than usual, if your project was truly going to change the face of popular music, or film, or art (thanks intro video for cluing me in to THAT), then someone who is a lot smarter than you at making money would have seen that ALREADY. Both the music business and the art and film worlds are filled with people who are great at sniffing out lucrative opportunities and exploiting them.

I have self-funded every one of my own projects, and while I AM fortunate that I have made a good enough living to enable me to do that, I also made a LOT of important life choices to facilitate that. And I also worked my ass off. For YEARS. To use a very over wrought cliché, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Not if you want to be respected, at least, because the sad reality of crowd sourcing is that you’re just another beggar in an increasingly noisy sea of them.

So, in closing, dear friends, have a little artistic dignity. Get off the metaphorical couch, find a metaphorical job, and get off welfare.

~

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The Hooters Appreciation Day

The Hooters perform at the state capitol

A couple of weeks ago, the Pennsylvania State Senate voted on a resolution to declare April 30th “Hooters Music Appreciation Day” in the state. The resolution, sponsored by Senator Daylin Leach, passed unanimously and The Hooters have cemented their place in the PA history books. The band accepted the award today and celebrated the occasion by treating some fans to a lunchtime concert in the Capitol Rotunda in Harrisburg.

Senator Leach introduced the band and presented the framed resolution and explained that despite the many other important matters the senate has to discuss and vote upon, it is important to recognize the arts as well. The senator praised the band’s contributions to the state of Pennsylvania. April 30th marks the band’s “33 1/3rd anniversary” together, with “33 1/3″ also being the title of their upcoming European tour this summer.

The band was set up on the lower level of the rotunda so the crowd was gathered on both levels, when the band stage, the audience greeted them with warm applause. They kicked off with the energetic and uplifting “I’m Alive” from their 2007 album, Time Stand Still. A group of school children were dancing and enjoying the show right alongside the folks in business attire and the fans in Hooters t-shirts. It was almost a bit surreal seeing a rock band getting a crowd going like that in the middle of a work day.

The fun continued with a parade of hits from the late 1980s including “Day by Day”, “All You Zombies”, “Satellite”, “Karla With a K”, “And We Danced”, and “Beat Up Guitar”. This is music with heart and soul and it was inspiring to see such a diverse group enjoying the show.

The Hooters may have made their biggest national splash in the 1980’s, but they are still going strong 33 1/3 years later.

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The King Street Coffee House
Kicks Off Their 17th Season

September 27, 2012
By Brenda Brosius

King Street Coffeehouse logoCreated back in January of 1996, a small group of members of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Susquehanna Valley gathered at the Priestley Chapel in Northumberland, Pa. They had found that the Central Susquehanna Valley, local musicians and music lovers in the area had a need. This small group comprised of music lovers, musicians and UUCSV members had a possible solution to this need.

They wanted to create a new venue for local musicians and music lovers to gather. Hence…….The birth of The King Street Coffeehouse.

It began with three acts, twice a month for four months. They built a lineup of local performers. In the beginning they found local groups and businesses to host the shows. Now seventeen years later, there are shows every second and fourth Friday of the month. The season runs from September until April and in January there are shows every Friday night. What an achievement to have grown from eight shows a year to eighteen!

Hosting the venue for the past several years has been Townside Garden at 253 Front Street in Northumberland, PA. Cost for each show? $7 at the door. The money collected at the door goes to the performer and the venue for use of the space. The King Street Coffeehouse itself gets no money. It has been manned by a devoted group of volunteers over the years.

The season begins this Friday September 28th at 7pm.


Here is the schedule for the 2012-2012 Season. Doors open at 6pm and there are beverages, deserts and light snacks available to purchase.

September 28, 2012 Alf Bashore, Don Shappelle, & Chicken Tractor
October 12, 2012 Lester Hirsh, Kevin Neidig, & Jim Dandy
October 26, 2012 Phil Brosius and Shirl Harris, Earl Pickens, & Buc Hill Aces
November 9, 2012 Tom Patten, Kimbo and Bryan, & Mid Life Cowboys
November 23, 2012 Tom Fladmark, Degrees of Syncopation, & Michi Eggar
December 14, 2012 Chris Whitmer, Susquehanna String Theory, & Gift Troutman and Gift
January 4, 2013 Dawson, Leo Armbruster, & Lux Bridge
January 11, 2013 * Nate Myers Trio, Ann Kerstetter, & Frank Wicher
January 18, 2013 John Sweeney, Steve Quelet, & Don and ED
January 25, 2013 Garry Gyekis, Bill Eck, & DePortorLand
February 8, 2013 Eric Sundberg, Antonio Andrade, & Lawson and Disorder
February 22, 2013 Gypsy Lizards, Doug and Hannah, & Bruce Barr
March 8, 2013 Juice, Don Mease — Full Circle, & Stained Grass Window
March 22, 2013 Tom Rosencrans, Jack Brunner, & Jeremy DePrisco
April 5, 2013 ** Chris Carithers, KJ, & Van Wagner
April 19, 2013 Quentin Feitner, Mandolin Ensemble, & Rich Ahern

* Anniversary Show
** Change to First Friday
 

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Nik Allen

August 4, 2012
By Bret Alexander


Nik AllenEarly yesterday morning my good pal and fellow musician Nik Allen passed away after a long battle with cancer. It is hard for me to wrap this guy up in a few sentences. So I will just grab the first story that comes to mind.

A few weeks ago, I picked up Nik to take him to a gig. He couldn’t drive anymore and honestly he had no business going to a gig in the first place. Oftentimes he’d be rigged up with wires, tubes, and bags in a fashion that made you believe he should be in the ICU instead of onstage. But it was what he loved to do. If Nik got the green light and was up for going to ANY gig, my other partner in crime Bubba would always pick him up. If Bubba couldn’t do it, I would grab him.

On the way to this particular show I sat there and listened to this crazy old guy tell story after story about whatever came through his head. His kids, his old lady, run ins with the law, having no money, or his old job. And every story would be accompanied by an a cappella rendition of some blues song that applied to the situation. “My Home Is A Prison”, “Big Boss Man”, and on and on. Then that would be followed by a ripping harp solo….. played alone in the front seat of my car while I drove. After that came a discussion of the blues greats. Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, Jimmy Reed, Son House, and on and on.

Now, over the years I have played lots of big shows in many amazing places. But I will tell you that there have been very few experiences in my life that made me feel more like a real musician who plays for the right reasons. I made peace with my musical path on that drive through the Pennsylvania mountains. And Nik provided the soundtrack….and the sermon.

A very successful folk musician once said to me: “I am not Bob Dylan or James Taylor…..but I’m in the club.” Most of the musical world didn’t know Nik Allen. But he is in the club. And when we played together he made me feel like I was in it too.

It doesn’t matter how much money you leave behind. Someone can piss it away. It doesn’t matter how many buildings get built with your name on it. Someone can always tear them down. But your character, soul, vibe, and the stories you leave behind will live on. And if the hero was just, the legend only grows with time. I suspect that Nik is fine with that.

So Nik, safe travels my friend. Play on. You gave me the blues I never knew I had.

~
Bret Alexander
 

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Sunshine Through The Blues

July 26, 2012
By Karyn Albano


Ed RandazzoA few weeks ago we were having a record breaking heatwave across the country as well as here in PA. My annual trip to Brigg’s Farm Blues Festival was going on right in the midst of this oppressively warm and humid spell. It was sunny and a steamy 95 degrees when Ed Randazzo took to the Back Porch Stage to kick things off  on Friday, July 6th. The stage and seating area was sheltered under the shade of a tent and there was an occasional breeze, but it was still akin to hanging out in a steam sauna. Oddly, the heat didn’t detract from Randazzo’s intense and inspirational performance.

Randazzo just released his second CD, Show and Tell, earlier this year in follow up to his brilliant first CD, See that My Grave is Kept Clean. He sang songs from these two collections as well as some Blues/Gospel classics accompanied by Bret Alexander – his producer and collaborator – on acoustic guitar. Listening to Ed sing is a moving experience. His physical presence is rather diminutive, but his voice commands attention from the very first note. Once you get over the initial surprise of the deep, mellow and emotive sounds coming from this unexpected source, you are drawn in to the music and forget all about the heat.

Alexis P SuterLater in the evening, while the air was still akin to a steam bath in the cornfields of Brigg’s Farm, blues singer Alexis P. Suter took the stage.  After wowing the audience with several songs, she and her band were soaking wet and it wasn’t even raining. She commented that it was “hot as blazes out here” but went on to say ” but I thank God that I am alive to feel the heat.”

So while some people might think of singing the blues as singing about depressing things and situations that make you feel “blue,” what we experienced at this blues fest was music and performances that inspired and encouraged us to look for the positive in every situation.

~
K.A.

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Too Old to Rock and Roll?


Too Old to Rock n Roll, Too Young to Die by JethroTullThe other day, a Facebook friend posted something that really struck a chord. To paraphrase, he said something like he felt as though he was a 22 year old spirit stuck in a 42 year old body and openly wondered whether he should continue playing music. Another friend posted one of those cartoon sharing things expressing a similar sentiment that you are only as young as you admit to being. This whole debate on the age appropriateness of listening to or (especially) performing music has gone on for a long time. In 1976, Jethro Tull did a mini “rock opera” about a 1950s “greaser” who was now in his mid-thirties (gasp!) called Too Old to Rock n’ Roll, Too Young to Die.

I think what strikes me most about all this is the constant obsession with chronological age. There are things that you enjoy now that you enjoyed when you were younger. Keep on enjoying them! Fun can be had at any age, the key is not caring what other people think about your age or whether what you are doing is “age appropriate.” Just like the 60ish guy driving a Sebring convertible and blasting REO Speedwagon’s “Roll with the Changes” who pulled into the gas station next to me, just go with it and have fun – age is just a state of mind! Heck, look no further than Paul McCartney, who just turned 70 last week. What if he would have decided he was “too old to rock n roll” three decades ago?

My husband worked with a man for several years and they became good friends. However, after knowing him for years, my husband was surprised to find out that his friend was in a “new wave” band in the early 1980s and they had actually made some professional recordings. This man had not played music since that band broke up in 1982 and further, he had not heard the studio recordings because they were in digital audio tape format and no one had a device to play that. My husband took the tapes to a studio to be converted, did a little mastering, and came up with a CD for the band (check out the final product here). When the band members, now well into their fifties, heard the music they produced over a quarter century earlier, they were absolutely giddy.

The question I’d like to ask my Facebook friend is simple – on your final day, when your reflect back on the moments and deeds of your life, do you really think you’ll regret playing too much music while you were in your forties?

~
Karyn Albano


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Summer Festival Season

May 31, 2012
By Karyn Albano


Outdoor ConcertsSummer festival season is here! This is the time of year that live music is released from the dark, late-night confines of nightclubs and bars and flows into the great outdoors. Pennsylvania is a great place for outdoor summertime music. We have blues festivals happening in rural cornfields, folk music under the stars at wineries, and multi-genre festivals in the hearts of our cities and towns.

This past weekend, the city of Harrisburg forgot about its fiscal crisis for a few days as it hosted the annual Artsfest in the scenic Riverfront Park. This festival kicked off the season in the state capital. Next up will be a wine festival to be held at Fort Hunter Park which will include live music as well. you will find events like these all over the state so you should have no trouble finding an event that suits your musical taste and budget. My personal favorite is the Briggs Farm Blues Festival near Nescopeck, PA which usually falls on or around my birthday in early July.

There is something great about kicking back in a grassy field at an outdoor concert with your friends and family. Hearing live music is always a worthwhile activity, but outdoor festivals really capture the vibe perfectly and can be a wonderful family activity. While many folks associate live music with the late night bar scene, which is fun but not really family friendly, these outdoor venues allow you to spread out a blanket, bring some snacks and let the kids enjoy the show too. Lots of times the kids are the most enthusiastic dancers in the audience. these events are a great way to expose kids how to good music as well as create priceless family memories. Of course, there is always the risk of inclement weather, but this is a small risk for the reward of music under the sky.

~
Karyn Albano


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