By: Rachel Rocks
Time to take a breath and get typing!! I’ll be writing about the MMC in this issue. Jim Price will be writing about all of his coverage of the MMC in the April Issue. I’m always behind, so my March article isn’t already done like it should be. I’m the Princess of Procrastination, and my Mom is the Queen.. haha! I only went to see three bands before the MMC came to town and I’m glad I did, I knew I would have plenty to type about. This article will just cover the evening showcases, there will be another article just about our Trade Show Acoustic Stage, I’m not sure where, but just flip through the pages, you’ll find it!
I caught my first bands of the month while I was out delivering the last issue of the magazine. I stopped by Bube’s Brewery and Hit or Miss was on the stage opening for Gun Metal Gray. Hit or Miss is a young band that a room full of fans dancing and singing along. They were a great band to get the party started. It’s been a very long time since I saw Gun Metal Gray. It was a a very nice treat to cross paths with them again. Bube’s Brewery has a very small stage area, but Gun Metal Gray made the most of it. The room was so packed that there was even some body surfing going on! As usual Gun Metal Gray didn’t disappoint and if I wasn’t so exhausted I would’ve stayed for the whole show. I pity the people of Mt. Joy because when I went outside to leave it sounded just like I was still inside, their walls must be paper thin!
The next night I headed over to Blarney’s for Stonewood. I haven’t seen these guys since they were on our cover a few months ago. It’s so cool that Blarney’s now does country nights. Stonewood had a great crowd and everyone was enjoying their song choices. They mostly play country music, but they also play rock songs throughout their sets too. The good mix of music keeps everyone interested in their music all night long. They had Roy Barrett filling in on guitar and vocals when I saw them. He did a great job filling in with limited notice. Shannon sent more time on the dance floor then she did on the stage. She loves interacting with her fans, and the fans obviously love dancing along with her too!
The MMC started this year after a full day at work, and then off to the airport to pick up my friends, and long time volunteers of the MMC, CK, Heather, and Ivan. CK is the first smiling face you see at the Registration Table, Heather is the queen of Mentoring, she knows the right people to meet with, and then Ivan, he likes thinking he’s the Head of Security, but he’s probably one of the reasons why we need security at the MMC! Ha! Just kiddin’ Ivan, you know I love you!! Every year for the last 10 years we’ve had a blast checking out the showcases together and partying well into the night, and very early morning. We are also the suppliers of something special every year, the last few years the special treat was ‘Vodka Bears’.. We all try to make sure everyone has a great time every year at the MMC, and in the process we are always finding amazing friends! Thank God for social media because people come from near and far and it’s nice to be able to keep an eye on everyone throughout the year. This year we had our friends from Canada, Autopilot, back again, and we made some new great friends from Scotland, Single By Sunday, and then of course the boys from Epoch Failure were back, and I met some other super cool guys with awesome girlfriends, Silver Screen, from right here in Johnstown. There is no possible way to mention every band I met and hung out with during the MMC, but just know that I had a blast with all of you! There obviously wouldn’t be a MMC without all of the bands that are willing to travel here from near and far, and John Harris who plans and organizes it all! I’m truly blessed to have this great event in my own backyard!
The MMC officially started Thursday night with the Kick-Off Party on the Bud Light stage at Bravo 11. Due to some venues that closed, John was scrambling last minute to find new venues, and then with the help of Chad Kintz, they found a way to put 3 stages at Bravo 11. They put one out on the “deck stage” sponsored by Filson Water, then they resurrected the old WS Hardware Bar stage for the “Bud Light” stage, and then Park Inn set up a stage downstairs in the “Ballroom”. (For the locals: Bravo 11 is the new name of Blarney’s, WS Hardware Bar, Wanda’s, etc, I personally think a good name for it should be ‘Used to Bes’) For the Kick-Off party the only open stage was the Bud Light stage. It was perfect because I had my first taste off the Bravo 11 menu. All the food I had all weekend was absolutely delicious: I had burgers, quesadillas, chicken tenders, flatbread pizza, reg fries, pickle fries, etc.. most of it was served to me by Allison, that girl busted her butt all weekend I swear she worked from 11am to 2am! She was everywhere! There were also plenty of beverages, if you can find the bartender Chris, he makes a special purple drink that I highly suggest. Chris was also always there and always had a smile on his face. Good service is what makes or breaks a lot of restaurants/bars, and Bravo 11 definitely found some good ones! Now on to the music.
The first act of the MMC were Almond&Olive from Chicago. They are only a two-piece band with one heck of a distinctive Americana sound. Their whole set up is quite interesting. They are both awesome and super cool vocalists that share one mic. Natalie Alms (Almond) sings her heart out while playing different hand-held percussion instruments and interjecting with some amazing harmonica licks too! Ollie Davidson (Olive) sings with his own distinctive voice and killer harmonies while playing the guitar and using a kick drum with his heel. They are definitely a two person band! I was so excited listening to their set because with each song I was even more impressed, and I knew it was just a little taste of how amazing the entire weekend’s music was going to be! After their set I basically begged them to stop by our Open Mic stage the next day, I’m thrilled to say they stopped by both days!! They gave us all just enough of taste, just one little song, called “Mulberry Hill” to make us wanting more! Find them on “all the socials” as Ollie likes to say.
Animal Sun, from Charlottesville, VA as part of the Kick-Off they played as a duo, but I found out later in the MMC they definitely have a full rockin’ band! I was able to catch their acoustic music again when they stopped by our Acoustic Stage. Then on Saturday night I saw the full band rocking out on the Bud Light stage. They all sing great harmonies and have just the right amount of ripping guitar solos to get your hooked. For an Alternative band they have very clear and distinct lyrics. I’m still singing the opening of their song “Girl in Blue” in my head.
The next band I was super stoked to see on the opening bill, Autopilot from Saskatoon, Canada. I met these guys last year at the MMC and had just as much fun if not even more fun with them again this year. Nothing involved an Uber, but thanks to Jose for holding me up on Saturday night, I don’t think I would’ve made it without him. I did miss Colton this year, but by Saturday we finally convinced their new bass player, Jordan to come out and party with us, and he was a lot of fun too. Autopilot has had one heck of a year touring all over the US and Canada. I should’ve asked them how many tour stops they had this past year, their last stop before the MMC was Louisville, KY. Autopilot definitely has a unique sound, you can’t really nail down any one genre, except original. Marlin uses so many crazy effects with his guitar, he even uses a violin bow for some of the sounds he creates. If you want some one of a kind, groovy music give Autopilot a listen, and keep an eye out because chances are they will be passing through your town soon!
After Autopilot the crazy colored hair boys, Single By Sunday, took the stage. I had a feeling they were going to be good after I checked out their Facebook page before the MMC and I saw they had over 25K likes, but I didn’t think they were going to be THAT good! They definitely had us all hooked after just one little showcase! Not only are they great musicians with an insane stage presence, they also have an amazing off stage presence as well. They are super cool guys that definitely just want to play music! According to Ivan they get all kinds of air time in Ireland, even way out on the oil rig where he works. When they started playing he couldn’t believe he was singing along because he already knew their song! They are all a bunch of Romeo’s just like their song sings, and there are plenty of Juliette’s trying to meet them. They are the perfect age to be out their touring and conquering the world. While they were across the pond they were leaving the US and heading to Canada for a few more stops on their North American tour! I can’t wait to keep an eye on these guys this year and see where their music takes them. They have a great YouTube channel with weekly episodes that I know I’ll be hooked to! Throughout the weekend I saw these guys three different times and they put on one heck of a show every time! They are another example that John Harris does his homework, they kicked off the MMC and they closed it out at Midnight Saturday back on the Bud Light stage to a packed room!
The last band of the night definitely didn’t disappoint. The only Pennsylvania band on the bill, Johnstown’s very own, Silver Screen! They were by far the hardest band on the bill, a hashtag on their Soundcloud page is #MakeAmericaGrungeAgain. I knew as soon as I heard them, my son Zack would love them and he does! He’s already following them on Soundcloud and rocking to their music. They win the prize for the most distinct item in the Buzz Bag this year. They had a postcard with their info and attached to it was a little pack of 5 Silver pipe Screens. They were also handing out matchbooks with their name on it too. They rocked the kick-off party so hard they blew a fuse!! Instead of freaking out they just let Austin loose on the drums to keep everyone entertained. After Ritt got the sound up and running again they came right back up and finished the night off. They even played a longer set because they were able to throw in a few covers to fill up the night with good times and rock and roll. I was very impressed to hear the softer side of Stephen, their lead singer, when him and Ben stopped by our acoustic stage and sang us a couple of songs. Very impressed and proud of this PA band. Hopefully they work their way closer to Harrisburg so our paths cross again soon!
After a full day of craziness on the trade show floor and 20 different performers tantalizing my ear drums all day, it was time to get off and running to night #2 of the Showcases. Since Single By Sunday traveled all the way from Scotland we couldn’t help but decided to head to The Champ to see their Friday night set. Lucky for us when we first got there, Girl Pow-R, from Ontario, Canada was still on the stage. Girl-Pow-R is obviously and all girl band, but when I say girls, I mean that none of them were more than 13 years old! Not only did they all sing beautifully, but they played different instruments too. They had keys, a violin, guitar, and 2 different sized ukuleles. They played a few very popular covers, but then they also played their original “Krisi”. It was awesome to see them on our acoustic stage the next day too. They unfortunately didn’t bring their instruments, but they did bring their dance moves! Kudos to their Moms and Dads for going on this journey with them and letting them share their music with the world, and it’s a great philosophy for girls to realize that they too have plenty of power!!
Single By Sunday didn’t have the place packed, but they didn’t let it stop them from performing their hearts out! With even more room to dance around and have a good time, these guys were all over the place! They had the mosh pit moving which isn’t hard to do at The Champ, moshing is something I’ll never quite understand, but Single By Sunday definitely appreciated the energy of the mosh pit and the response to their music.
Our next stop we crossed our fingers and zoomed across the bridge to catch the tail end of Autopilot’s set at Midtown Tavern. I threw my carload out the door so they could hear even more songs, and I circled like a vulture finding a parking spot. Luckily Mom stayed with me so I didn’t have to walk the whole back to Midtown Tavern alone. Luckily we got there in time for a few Autopilot songs.
The next band, we thought we’d stick around for a couple of songs before we ran out to finish the night off back at the hotel, exhaustion was kicking in and it wasn’t easy, but we’re glad we stuck around for Featherburn. It’s not too often you see a front man with an accordian, but Milo definitely knew how to rock out on that thing! They have to win the prize for the biggest surprise of this conference, and they are from right here in Lancaster! It’s depressing when you hear such an amazing band but they aren’t promoting themselves. Their songwriting is unbelievable and so catchy! Then there were also all of Milo’s outfit changes, and storytelling from right there at the microphone. Their one song was about Bicycle City, before it started he stripped down to his biking shorts and shirt, put on his bike helmet with a little flashing light, and then even handed out 2 pieces of a metal bike to each person and then had them “play along” during the song. Their music and antics can’t help but make you smile!
After Featherburn we headed back to Bravo 11 for the tail end of the night. We got there in time to hear Silver Screen again for a few songs, and then I bopped over to the Filson Water stage for Small Town Titans. It’s been a long time since I heard this local favorite! They’ve been doing huge and exciting things lately, it’s awesome to watch them grow in the music industry. They are always coming up with amazing ways to promote themselves. This year in the buzz bag they included cards with not only their schedule and websites, but also a coupon for merch at their shows! After another full conference day with 27 performers on our acoustic stage I was able to see Small Town Titans perform again on the Bud Light Stage. They were going to play a calmer acoustic set, but it’s hard to slow these guys down, they are on a roll, and it will be awesome to see where their passion takes them.
Saturday night we decided just to stay at Bravo 11 and enjoy the three stages and the amazing plethora of music on all of them. I didn’t really stay in one place too long because I didn’t want to miss anything! Crobot was out on the Filson Water stage playing a very scaled down acoustic set with just Brandon and Chris performing. It was cool to see a whole different side to Crobot.
Next up on the Bud Light stage were The Foxfires from New York. We met these guys last year jammed on a small stage, where they blew a fuse, so it was nice to see them on a big stage where they could rock the night away! The amount of energy they had pouring off the stage was so contagious! They had us all dancing and going crazy right along with them. Even though they were crazy, it was a controlled craziness. Their harmonies and different melodies are so amazing to listen to. We were able to hear those harmonies up close and personal when they stopped by our acoustic stage Friday and Saturday too. They definitely pick up their instruments and play every chance they get!
Then I peaked back into the Filson stage for Black Tie Stereo. Maybe it was their black ties, but their music seemed very flawless, almost like listening to the background music of a commercial on TV. Their songs all have a find mix of a pop funk sound that is unique and helps get your hooked and keep you entertained. I ran back over to the Bud Light stage and saw Animal Sun was back on stage rocking with their full band, and then I headed downstairs to check out 717 Entertainment’s stage and Behind the Grey was on stage. They were definitely taking the word energy to a whole new level. They were all over the stage head banding and rocking out. They were by far the most aggressive band I saw at the MMC. I was impressed to see they took the time to put their banner stands on the stage. Once again there aren’t many bands that display anything with their name!! Again just hang a t-shirt from a mic stand, or write it on a napkin, I don’t care, but when you have so many bands at a conference and the band has such a small amount of time to play and set up, your name is one of the first things you forget to mention, and even if you do mention it, the crowd might not hear you, or might not know how to spell it. If you spell it out for them, it will help you get more fans. Pass out QR codes, do something to make sure people remember you and can find you.. You are paying all of the money to get to a conference, and not getting paid to play, you might as well at least pick up a fan or two!
The next band I’ve seen quite a few times in the last few years, but I have to admit, I got goosebumps when I heard them play because I was so impressed with how much they’ve improved since the last time I saw them, and they are Observe the 93rd. Derek’s confidence on stage now is just amazing. When I saw him put down his guitar and come out as far as he could on the stage and sing his heart out was just amazing!! They recently added in an additional guitar player that allows Derek to have a little more freedom, and they also added Bob Richardson on keys. Yes, that’s the same Bob Richardson that plays with Hybrid Ice. He’s an amazing keyboard player and he substantially adds to OT93’s music and stage presence. You can tell he’s definitely been giving the guys pointers. It was also equally awesome to see Tyler smiling on stage once again having a good time. Hopefully our paths will cross again soon!
I saw a few songs from Gas Station Disco. I haven’t seen them in years and they pretty much have a new line-up since I did see them, but they can still rock a stage. They’ve played all over the East Coast and beyond. They have a new name they use just for their original music, but unfortunately I didn’t see it anywhere, so I can’t remember it. It’s awesome seeing such a busy/successful party band take time out of their busy schedules to focus on originals. I’m sure it’s not easy to find the time, but they are making it work!
Finally it was time for the last two bands of the MMC and I wanted to desperately see them both. I started out with Single By Sunday back on the Bud Light stage, but since I did already see them twice this conference, I then pulled myself away to go see Epoch Failure on the Filson Water Stage. This is my 3rd MMC in a row seeing Epoch Failure, and I was equally impressed this year as I’ve been other years. Their songs are so much fun, you can’t help but dance and join in the fun! They are a hip-hop artist, but yet still manage to keep their songs uplifting and positive. Their one song “Every Day Great” has recently been used for the Trailer for the movie Wonder. They have over 30 credits already in TV, Film, and Advertising. It’s awesome to see what these guys come up with every year. They are very creative and one heck of a band! They were definitely a great way to end a weekend full of amazing music!
Yeah!! I’m finally done with this article!!!! Thank you so much to everyone who traveled from near and far to be part of the MMC. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting everyone and hearing all of the music! Thanks John Harris for once again hosting/organizing/creating another fun filled MMC! I’m always impressed at every artist you choose! I unfortunately can’t possibly put every picture I took in the magazine because there is only so much room, but I will create an album on our facebook page, facebook.com/PAMusicianMagazine. Check it out and give us a “Like” so you don’t miss it!
For all my local musicians I’ll finally be back “Out and About” I just need a few days to sleep from all of the craziness. March will be another crazy month with The Lancaster Roots & Blues Festival and I’m also contemplating heading over to the Cape May Singer/Songwriter Festival at the end of March, after all it’s close to the beach, so it will be a good excuse to go check out a new beach in Jersey! If you see me Out and About please stop me and say Hi! You can email me questions or comments to RachelRocks@pamusician.net. SUPPORT LOCAL MUSIC!!!! Keep Spreading the LOVE!!!