By: Rachel Rocks
Well, March definitely came in like a lion… and it looks like it’s going out like a lion too! What a month! My heart absolutely breaks for everyone in the music industry, from the biggest to the smallest, to the fans, bartenders, doormen, and everyone else. If anyone is in desperate need of anything, please reach out! I might not be able to help you directly, but I will find someone who can.. Email: RachelRocks@pamusician.net or just give me a call 717-580-1939. Unfortunately, so many of us live paycheck to paycheck and just missing one or two paychecks makes a huge difference in our lives. No one should have to go hungry, or miss out on a necessity item, or even just some good old comfort. This pandemic is none of our faults, and we are here for each other. This music community has to come together now, more than ever…
This article starts out quite a while ago, on the last weekend of February for the 24th Annual Millennium Music Conference. Kudos to John Harris and his team for pulling off another successful year! I had an amazing weekend filled with music, friends, and more music! This year the MMC made its way back downtown to the Hilton. It all started off Thursday night, once again with the bag stuffing. I’m happy to say we had good attendance this year and had all of the bags stuffed in about an hour. It’s always awesome to see how the bag stuffing instantly starts off the networking, and that winds up being some of the people that you see and talk to all weekend long. After the bags were stuffed we headed to the Ad Lib Café off the lobby in the Hilton for the Kick-Off Party. This year was a little more laid back since Ad-Lib only has room for Acoustic performers. Thursday night is a great night of seeing friends from previous years and also a great opportunity to meet new comers.
Bright Kelly, an indie rock musician from Philly, kicked off the night. He quickly captivated the audience with his very soulful voice. Bright also plays with his full band, The Great Enough. It has to be a little intimidating playing the kick-off party of a music conference when you know pretty much everyone watching you is a musician or at least works in the music field in some way, but Bright Kelly did it flawlessly. Next up was Bill Hartmann, a singer-songwriter from Lake Worth, Florida. Bill instantly pulled you in with his story-telling lyrics. We had the privilege to hear Bill a second time when he stopped by Rock Mill’s open mic stage at the trade show on Saturday and played a couple songs. Bill was definitely one of those guys that jumped at every opportunity to share his music with anyone who would listen, and it is definitely great music to hear! Northern Borne from Cambridge, NY took the stage next, they played some bluegrass music with a rockin’ beat and kicked the party up a notch. They also played us a few songs on the open mic stage Saturday afternoon, waking us all up! Derek Henry, the only local musician on this night’s line up was next. Derek plays acoustic shows all over central PA and beyond, but he also plays with his full band Observe the 93rd. On a regular 3 hour set of music Derek plays a lot of covers, but this short set he played a bunch of originals. Derek has 11 shows booked for the month of April, we are all hoping he will get to play some of those shows and get back on stage soon! Jason Dimaco from Raleigh, NC was the last musician of the night. Jason played some amazing blues rock that helped keep all of us hooked in til his last note! Even though the Kick-Off party was a little more mellow than usual, with only acoustic acts, it was still a great show and a great way to kick-off the MMC.
Friday morning the fun started early with the Trade Show. I unfortunately had to work til 1pm so when I got there the trade show and conference were in full swing. The panels were all well attended and the trade show had a continual flow of people to meet and familiar faces to catch up with. I was bummed we couldn’t find anyone brave enough to play on Rock Mill Industries’ open mic stage, but they made up for it on Saturday. As always it’s a blast hanging out with the other vendors, and just hanging with all of the PA Musician Magazine staff. Once again I am super thrilled that Rock Mill Industries handled the Acoustic Stage. It is so awesome to just visit with my friends new and old. Huge thanks to PJ Groft, the lead singer from Latimore Sky, for coming to hang out with us. It is always awesome to see local musicians take advantage of everything the conference has to offer. He was attending the panels and learning everything he could possibly learn. A new vendor this year was the company Strung. It is a guitar string jewelry company. They provide a playlist of bracelets all inspired by a different song. The strings from each bracelet are the chords used to play a song. There was a card and a charm indicating which song was represented. I got Dad a super cool adjustable guitar string bracelet. There was as usual plenty of shenanigans happening throughout the day. After the trade show, we have about an hour or so to recharge and then it’s off to the live showcases!
Friday night we spent most of the night at HMAC. It all started with an alternative pop/rock band, Madison Ryan from Harrisburg, up in the Capitol Room. Even though they had the early 8pm time slot they already had a great crowd at HMAC. Madison Ryan has been playing shows all along the East Coast since 2017. She recently released a new single Avant Garden that can be found on all of your favorite music platforms. It’s a bummer that locally there just aren’t many places for them to play, but Madison Ryan is not afraid to travel, it’s been a fun adventure already, and they are just getting started.
Next we headed downstairs and caught the last couple songs of Peter Stone. I recently saw him at Boneshire Brew Works and I was excited to see him playing again. Peter is from here in Harrisburg and you can catch him playing his own unique genre of alternative mixed with folk rock music throughout the area at breweries, wineries, etc. He plays everywhere he possibly can. Peter has a bunch of different music streaming online you can check out while you’re stuck at home, and even when you’re not.
The next band on the Kitchen Gallery Bar stage were The Foxfires from Nyack, NY. We have seen The Foxfires the past 3 MMCs and every time, no matter where they are playing, they put on a great show! The Foxfires were traveling without a drummer this time, so they just played an acoustic show. They are another band that has definitely created their own genre of music, a little bit of surfrock mixed with punk, mixed some modern rock. Whatever it is, it sounds great, and Christian’s voice is mesmerizing!
Speaking of mesmerizing, next we walked into the Stage on Herr for Possimiste from Reykjavik, Iceland. She is a solo artist that definitely has her own style of music. She is more of a story teller, beating on a big drum and playing other interesting instruments. It once again amazes me at all of the different styles and types of music you can hear in one weekend!
Next I ran back up to the Capitol Room for June Divided from Philly. I have to admit June Divided was one of my favorite discoveries at this MMC. Melissa, their lead singer is extremely talented. She not only sings, but plays the keys and guitar too! The whole band sounds great and has definitely been added to my Playlist favorites!
Well it was time to call an Uber and head to O’Reilly’s. On our way out the door to the Uber I saw Josh and Missy heading in for The Huxleys. I’m glad they saw them because they looked like a very interesting band to say the least. Kudos to all of the Uber drivers of the MMC. Since we all have a tendency to drink too much, mixed with exhaustion from no sleep, ubering is a very safe and very smart decision! At the end of the day an Uber is way cheaper than a DUI. Our Uber got us very safely to O’Reilly’s in time for Single By Sunday. It was an odd and super small stage for the energy of Single By Sunday, but we all know that O’Reilly’s knows how to party!! It was awesome to see Taylor as the bar manager, and still ready to handle our shenanigans, especially when Jonny climbed up on the bar and then soared over top of a patrons head. Single by Sunday was also back for the 3rd year. The connections they’ve made while coming to the MMC the past 3 years is amazing. Last year they said they actually spent more time in the United States than in their hometown of Glasgow, Scotland. This was our last band of the night, but thanks to our Uber stopping at Sheetz for a beer run, it was back to the hotel to gather together with friends. After all, one thing we don’t do at the MMC is sleep…
Saturday it was back to the trade show, but I’m thrilled that this time we had some amazing acoustic entertainment on Rock Mill Industries stage. The first victim of the day was Dan Barry. He took full advantage of his 15 minutes and set up his merch along with a guitar case for tips! Dan is a singer songwriter from from Sea Isle City, NJ. I’m so glad he got up there and played us a few songs. The open mic stage gives us an easy way to see even more music during the MMC.
Alex Cano took the stage next. Alex played for us last year too, so we knew we were in for a treat when he took the stage. Alex has an amazing voice and he’s always a pleasure to listen to. He also set out some merch, including his biggest seller, his snap back hats that he embroidered at Rock Mill Industries. He made a connection with Rock Mill last year and they struck up a deal for merch.
Rock Mill Industries is your one stop shop for anything band related, they have their recording studio and practice space, but they also have their own videographer, screen printing, embroidery, stickers, and it’s also where Hershey Solutions is located which meets all of your AV needs! Oh, and I forget they even added in their own tattoo shop too! I’m telling ya, they have a little bit of everything. They have some specials going on right now called Rock Mill Relief, seeing how none of those businesses listed are considered essential, they have been shut down. They are creating Rock Mill Relief hats, shirts, tanks, etc. to help raise funds for not only themselves, but different local bands that are losing so much money during this crazy Coronavirus. Check it out and place your order here: www.rockmillink.com/relief.
Sara Ontaneda from Queens, NY stepped up next. She played the guitar and was accompanied by a guy playing some kind of musical pad to add in drums, or whatever instrument he needed at that moment. It was quite interesting to say the least. Kevin Correll from Sunbury, stopped by to play us a few songs. I’m glad he did because I unfortunately just didn’t have time to make it to his showcase, but I really wanted to hear him. Kevin plays a mix of alternative blues and tells a story with each song. Some of his songs are comical, but serious too. Kevin plays throughout central PA, I’m going to be keeping an eye out for him so I can catch a full show soon! Evy Zee, who works with Jason at Full Tilt Productions, and was manning his booth, took advantage of the demo guitar that Tone Tailors guitars had to use, and jumped on the stage to play us a few songs. Evy is based here in Harrisburg and is often caught playing with Jon Garcia & the Hopeless Romantics. A whole group of people came down from Williamsport to check out the trade show the first band was Half Tempted followed up by The Unfortunatetz, both bands had their own distinct sound. The Unfortunatetz seem to play more up in New York than they do here in PA, but they are obviously willing to travel wherever they have to in order to share their music. III for the Road is also a Harrisburg based band taking full advantage of the conference again. I’m glad they took the time to stop by and play us some music. Next up we had Northern Borne and Bill Hartmann that I also saw at the Kick-Off party. The final band of the trade show was Electric Sensei from New Jersey, I love their tag line on Facebook because it’s so true “Fun music to transform normal people into strange people.” It was awesome to end the trade show stage on a high note! I hope more people take advantage of the stage on Friday next year!
Saturday night we kept Uber even busier because we were bopping back and forth between HMAC and XL Live. We started at HMAC for Featherburn, from Lancaster, at the Stage on Herr. Unfortunately, they had some sound issues and started a little late which was a bummer because we wound up only being able to hear one song. When we were waiting for our Uber I was able to catch a couple songs by Kendra & the Bunnies. Kendra is an amazing folkish story-teller. It’s quite hilarious when you find out where the “bunnies” are. You can check out Kendra & the Bunnies on facebook, you tube, etc. She is really talented and has quite a few fun videos to check out online.
I’m glad we made it over to XL Live to see Single By Sunday finally on a stage where they could really move, dance, and have a good time! SBS just got back from Colorado where they found out they won a contest to be able to tour around to different college campuses, but then Corona hit. They were actually quarantined in Hershey, stuck with no where to go and no way to get back. Luckily for them they know important people in the airline industry and they were able to get on a plane and back to Scotland. It was a little stressful when someone showed up at their hotel door with an extra roll of TP and some towels, with a Good luck speech, of you are being quarantined for 14 days. I know this shut down is stressful on everyone in their own way, but that would be way too much stress for me to handle!
After SBS it was back in the Uber for Autopilot at HMAC again. Autopilot is another 3peat band, but I can never get enough of these guys. They come down from Saskatoon Canada, and they are another band that seems to spend more time touring the US than they do at home. They do whatever they have to do to keep their music alive and kicking. Hopefully this whole thing clears up soon so we can have them back down here playing in the US again.
Then quick call another Uber and back to XL Live. We made it in time for the Stonewall Vessels, my other favorite surprise of this MMC. I can’t believe these guys are from Lancaster and I’ve never heard of them before. They had 3 guitar players but it all sounded so cohesive! I always get nervous when I see “extra” musicians on stage, but these guys really know how to bring it all together. They also have a line on their Facebook page that says” its about coming together, bringing all they can to the table, and letting it come out the way it’s meant to be…” That is what they do. It definitely comes out sounding smooth and well rehearsed, and their energy and vocals just bring the house down!
The last band of the night and of the MMC was Observe the 93rd. I know I see these guys all of the time, but my MMC traveling buddy, CK, comes down from Boston and she has liked these guys since she first saw them a few years ago, and we all know that I like them, so who am I to argue. With so many bands playing all throughout Harrisburg, OT93 still brought a great crowd. For this show they had Todd Williams filling in on bass, and Brett Sheib on guitar. Even though part of me misses Derek playing guitar, it is awesome to see him be free and be able to move all around the stage and focus completely on his vocals. Observe the 93rd will be hopefully be playing May 30th at Johnny Joe’s. I seriously hope we are back to normal by then!!
The last band out for the month for me was Road Case at Johnny Joe’s. It had been entirely too long since I saw these guys. Again, another amazing band that just doesn’t have enough places to play anymore. The Harrisburg area is really struggling finding places for local talented bands to play.. Anyhow, Road Case had Johnny Joe’s packed and people dancing along all night long. It was awesome to see so many people out supporting them. Clint had some nice and pretty new guitars to play, and they sounded as good as they looked. It was a great night of rock n’ roll and so glad I was able to see this show.
I absolutely LOVE all of the Live/Recorded shows bands/musicians, etc. are sharing on Facebook, YouTube, or wherever. My first live show of Quarantine was Six Bar Break. It was so awesome to prop up my phone and listen to their show while I made dinner. But I’ve enjoyed so many great shows, I can’t possibly list them all. The Dropkick Murphys show on St. Patty’s Day was super sweet! I had one heck of a mosh pit happening in my living room!! The dogs thought I was going crazy. I also loved Go Go Gadjet’s show, it’s crazy to hear all of the different aspects to their show that they took the time to explain a little of the behind the scenes stuff. These guys have been busting their butts for years and adapting along the way.. Plenty of solo stuff happening every night, multiple shows per night. I loved Ritt when he said you all really need to set up some kind of set list so you don’t all go live at once! Give Ritt a call, he will get you on the list. Haha! The Jellybricks were the most creative they had some kind of almost virtual jam where they were all at home, but still managed to play songs together. I was impressed, I don’t know how they managed to stay in time with one another and no one had a connection that lagged. I love how people are overcoming this obstacle in our lives. I hope we can continue to work together and get through this craziness.
I know this virus is hitting so many of you, in ways I can’t even imagine. I don’t want to brag, but my husband and I are both essential employees, so we are not burdened like everyone else (this is not my day job.. lol). If ANYONE needs help in any way, groceries, medicine, or even just a friend to talk to, please reach out, 717-580-1939 or RachelRocks@pamusician.net. I can’t do much, but I also have a gaggle of friends that are willing and able to help. Please don’t struggle, and don’t think that you are alone. We are here for you… We want to help however we can. When you get help, after you get back on your feet, just pay it forward. We are a community, and as a community we need to stick together.
Please stay home and stay safe!! But I hope the bars and liquor stores are ready for us when they unlock their doors!! Hang in there everybody!! If you plan on going live or if you have a video to share, hit me up at RachelRocks@pamusician.net. Have the best month you possibly can!! Since you can’t support live music this month, how bout supporting bands or businesses, hit up their websites, order merch, buy a giftcard, or do whatever you can to keep us all afloat.. Oh and of course.. ADVERTISE in the PA MUSICIAN MAGAZINE!! Thank you all who have continued to support us during this difficult time, we truly do appreciate all of you.