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Millennium Music Conference Recap, Night One

February 13, 2009 - Jim Price
The 13th annual Millennium Music Conference is happening in the Harrisburg area this weekend.  I’ll be bringing you updates from the conference through the course of the weekend.

While the business sessions and trade show portions of Millennium start on Friday, some initial live music showcases commenced Millennium weekend on Thursday night.  I attended the kickoff showcase concert at the conference’s host hotel, the Radisson Penn Harris Hotel and Conference Center in Camp Hill.  Local rock station WQXA 105.7 “The X” sponsored the “Under The Radar” concert, featuring eight different bands featured regularly on the radio station’s weekly Sunday night local music show “Under The Radar.”  Emceed by show host Maria Davis, this concert showcase provided continuous music, with bands alternating between two stages.

I arrived during the set by the leadoff band, Odd Thomas.  A foursome featuring former members of Drives Like Fire, Tribal Vision and Shortbus Graduates, Odd Thomas introduced a melody-geared, hard rock sound in the Nickelback/Shinedown neighborhood.  Their performance was strong and powerful, as they played muscular rockers like “Breathless,” “Dirty Hands” and the radio track “See How They Run.”

Taking things in a faster, punk-driven direction was the next band, Harrisburg-based quartet The Machetes.  Their sound was rooted in the hard, melody-geared punk tradition of Social Distortion and Bad Religion.  This band was tight and aggressive, yet showed a knack for catchy melodies and infectious shout-along choruses.  Some of their songs included numbers from their debut EP, Last Train Home, such as the title song, “Beat the Odds,” “Riot” and the milder-mannered “Carry On.”

Up next was a band I had seen during previous Millennium Music Conferences, York-based hard rockers The C.C.L. (Codorus Cruise Line).  Previously a trio but now four members strong, The C.C.L. introduced a number of new songs during their set, displaying a classic-rooted modern rock sound slightly reminiscent of Seven Mary Three.  Some of the new songs performed included “Wayside,” “Silver-Tongued Devil” and “Waiting;” the group finished their set with one song from their Down That Alley CD, “Home for Hollywood.”  Lead singer Brady Henry showed some stinging lead guitar solo work throughout the set.

The fourth band of the night was Reading-based Comic Book Heroes, four high school juniors who have already achieved some noteworthy acclaim; including being chosen nationally to be part of Radio Disney’s “Next Big Thing” program.  Comprised of lead singer/guitarist Ned Goldman, guitarist Steve Kosciusko, bassist Steve Kowalski and drummer Collin MacGregor (son of Foghat bassist Craig MacGregor); Comic Book Heroes introduced edgy, melody-geared modern hard rock over the course of their set.  This group was tight and polished for their young ages, and Goldman showed abundant personality and poise on the vocal end.  My first time seeing them, I quickly realized from this performance why Comic Book Heroes is quickly going places in the music business.

York-based quartet Kingsfoil then performed their brand of hook-laden, piano-underscored power pop.  This group delivered clever, developed melodies with solid grooves and interesting guitar and piano phrasing, topped by the smooth vocals of singer/guitarist Jordan Davis.  Some of Kingsfoil’s song selection included “Oceans,” the new I-Tunes-released single “Trees,” “Under Your Skin” and “Black Hawk, White Dove.”  Kingsfoil’s songs were smart and catchy; nearly all that they played sounded like potential radio songs.  (Kingsfoil performs this Friday night, Feb. 13, at an all-ages concert at Sozo in State College.)

Following Kingsfoil was northeastern Pennsylvania-based quintet OurAfter.  Altoona area music fans may remember lead singer/guitarist John Phillips as a member of popular cover band UUU.  OurAfter delivered a busy, hard-driving, melodic modern rock sound of the Incubus variety, performing songs from their recently-issued EP Tabula Rasa.  Their sound was dynamic, with lots of instrumental activity going on during each song.  Another interesting aspect of OurAfter’s presentation was guitarist Mike Dudley, who brandished a Chapman stick guitar during part of the group’s set.

The Shackeltons were one of the “buzz” bands of last year’s Millennium Music Conference.  The Chambersburg-based band showed why as they performed an agitated, distinctive alternative rock sound during their set.  The group’s focal point was frontman Mark Redding, a manic whirlwind of a singer who delivered drama and passion in his performance.  On the group’s opening number, Redding stripped a bouquet of flowers down to their stems as he emoted words of abandonment and despair.  His animated stage persona brought to mind such names as Jim Morrison, David Byrne and Kurt Cobain.  The Shackelons’ sound never stayed in one place for long, running the gamut from subdued to frenzied.  The Shackeltons next month will perform at the prestigious South By Southwest (SXSW) Music Conference in Austin, Texas.

Finishing out the show with an industrial rock flavor was Harrisburg foursome Mechanical Vamps.  Mixing cavernous, hard-rocking grooves with terse digital dynamics and programming, Mechanical Vamps’ sound slightly hinted elements of Filter and Stabbing Westward, with frontman Trevor’s blend of melody and intensity giving the group’s sound its own distinct personality.

This show provided a good kickoff to Millennium weekend.  All eight bands had different styles and sounds, which kept things interesting as the night progressed.  Kudos to the sound crew, who kept things sounding clear and powerful through much of the night.

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Brady Henry of Codorus Cruise Line (The C.C.L.)


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