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Millennium Music Conference Recap, Night Two
February 14, 2009 - Jim Price
The 13th annual Millennium Music Conference is happening in the Harrisburg area this weekend. I’ll continue to bring you updates from the conference through the course of the weekend.
The second night of Millennium showcases took place Friday evening throughout the Harrisburg area. The familiar dilemma repeats itself for me every year; deciding which bands and showcases I will attend out of the many taking place. Many of the bands and artists who appeared on the acoustic stage during the day or otherwise networked with me during the daytime conference were performing showcase sets this night. Who do I go to see?
This night, I split time between two venues. I first headed to Carley’s Ristorante in downtown Harrisburg to enjoy several solo performers and duets. Kicking off this showcase was Cheryl Engelhardt, the New York City-based singer, songwriter and pianist who earlier in the day hosted the Millennium “Pursuit of Passion” panel. Cheryl displayed a nice voice and pleasant, bubbly persona as she tickled the ivories on the piano, performing a selection of songs from her CD’s, Nothing to Change and Craving the Second, plus other original song material.
Following Cheryl was Philadelphia’s Bill Monaghan. Bill played piano, assisted by Brian Dibiagio on guitar. Bill displayed a smooth voice and a pleasant, conversational style. His musical flavor varied between folk and piano pop, with reminders of Don Maclean, Billy Joel and Gordon Lightfoot. Bill even did a Joel favorite, “Piano Man,” which turned into an audience singalong. Along the way, Bill took the time to give some background on each song he did; “So Close to God” was his tribute to his brother, Michael, who passed away a few years ago. “Homeland” was about his travels abroad, and the hospitality shown to him in other parts of the globe. And showing a slight Celtic flavor, Bill finished up his colorful set with “Irish Blessing.”
I had seen Reading’s Valerie Nicole earlier in the day at the Trade Show acoustic stage, and finally I would get to see her full-blown “official” performance. Accompanied by guitarist Keith Privigyi, Valerie performed selections from her new full-length CD, From the Heart, as well as her debut EP Soul Searching. Valerie started off the set performing on piano; doing songs such as “Fed Up” and “Can’t Imagine,” as well as the title from From the Heart. Valerie then picked up her own acoustic guitar and continued, doing such selections as “You Never Really Loved Me” from the EP, and songs from the new CD such as “Livin’ for the Moment,” “Live Your Dreams” and “Misunderstood” (which she is currently filming a video for). Valerie’s voice was clear and bright, and her lyrical themes were mostly positive and upbeat.
Next was another New York City-based performer, Avi Wisnia. Avi displayed a bright personality and a touch of wit as he performed music with a mellow jazz and R&B groove. He performed a selection of original numbers from his debut EP, Avi Wisnia Presents:, such as “Something New,” “Sunday Afternoon,” “I Wish That I Could Stop Writing Songs About You,” “Rabbit Hole” and more. Avi’s style was often playful, and his slight comic style even hinted at Adam Sandler at times. He engaged the audience and had them cheering along quickly.
At this point, I departed Carley’s and headed to Rumors in Enola to finish my evening. I had received the debut CD by New York City’s Shadows Lie several months ago, and liked their hard-hitting, Evanescence-styled sound. I arrived at Rumors just as their showcase set was beginning. I was quickly impressed by lead singer Kira Leigh and her clear, siren-like voice. Her voice was so sharp and steady that her vocalizing actually served as a solo instrument itself, along with guitarist Frank’s lead solos. Shadows Lie did a number of dark, hard-hitting songs from their debut CD, Echoes, such as “Ghost,” “Overwhelmed” and “Dead End.” They also performed a uniquely dark and sharp-edged arrangement of Journey’s “Separate Ways.” I was impressed with Shadows Lie’s overall sharpness, power and melodic quality. Fans of Evanescence-styled rock (or Altoona’s own Acalasia) should investigate Shadows Lie and hear what they have to offer.
Closing out the Rumors showcase was Long Island-based power trio Gee Davey. Lead singer and guitarist DJ Pearlman, bassist Ray Kuhner and drummer Mike Bontempi delivered melody-geared, straight-up-the-gut guitar rock, performing driving original songs from their two CD’s. Pearlman’s guitar solo displays were fiery and precise, and his bandmates backed him with hard-hitting, crunchy rhythms. This was spirited meat-and-potatoes rock, and a strong display to close out the second night of Millennium showcases.
Philadelphia's Bill Monaghan with guest guitarist Brian Dibiagio, performing at Carley's Ristorante.