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Millennium Music Conference Recap, Night One 2/18

February 19, 2010 - Jim Price

The 14th annual Millennium Music Conference started Thursday night with two showcase events in the Harrisburg area.  One took place at Gullifty's Underground in Camp Hill, and the other happened at the Appalachian Brewing Company near downtown Harrisburg. 

After arriving and checking into my hotel room at the conference's host facility, the Radisson Penn Harris Hotel and Convention Center in Camp Hill, I ventured across the Susquehanna River into Harrisburg to catch the Appalachian Brewing Company showcase event.

Heading into this year's Millennium, I already had a few artists and bands circled on the schedule that I was intent on seeing.  Harrisburg singer, songwriter and guitarist Mycenea Worley was one of them, and she had just begun her 20-minute set as I first arrived.  Worley's debut EP from last year, Love, introduced a rural rock and blues sound at times recalling Bonnie Raitt or even Janis Joplin.  I'm happy to report that Worley's live performance didn't just live up to expectations based on the EP; it exceeded them!  She sang her songs with a gutsy, emotion-packed intensity; you could tell this lady's heart and soul were in her music.  She performed several numbers from the EP; including "Nothin' Like I Thought," the upbeat "I Love You" and the darker and lowdown "Low."  I actually had a different Mycenea Worley showcase appearance for later in the weekend circled on my schedule, and this one was a late addition to the showcase listings.  But based on what I saw here, I think I will make a point of catching Worley's Saturday showcase performance as well.

Next was a full band, Johnny Action Figure from Philadelphia.  Four members strong, this group was impressive as well, offering a piano-driven pop/rock sound.  The group played selections from their newly-released second CD Good Eye; displaying playful, catchy melodies, vibrant vocal harmonies and a style that worked in elements of boogie and even swing.  This was good-sounding stuff, and Johnny Action Figure is a band I wouldn't mind seeing again.

Another solo performer was next.  She simply went by her last name, Jennings (her first name is Mary), and she calls both New York and Nashville her home bases.  She sang and played keys, and also delivered a stunning performance.  Jennings demonstrated a strong, multi-octave voice and a knack for alluring melodies and song hooks.  She also displayed a passion and intensity, and sank heart and soul into each song.  And again, this was a performer I hope I get to witness again before the weekend is through.

Another band I had circled on my schedule was Lancaster-based quintet The Sketties.  Their debut CD from last year, Up?!? Yes!! merged a playful and quirky modern rock sound with an almost circus or carnival presence, with songs that took unexpected twists and turns.  Although The Sketties didn't do any songs from the CD, the material they did perform offered much the same type of unpredictability.  Their sound came off as eccentric at first, but as the melodies fully kicked in, it was clear that this group knew exactly what they were doing.

Rockville, Maryland-based soloist Ryan Hammer followed with his display of acoustic folk-rock.  Originally from Reading, Hammer displayed a strong voice as he sang songs about the ins and outs of relationships such as the bluesy "I Just Fell In Love with You," "Never Be Back," "I'm Sorry and "Freedom." 

Closing out the showcase was Connecticut-based singer, songwriter and guitarist Karen Zimmer.  Zimmer demonstrated her style of acoustic folk/pop on songs such as "Something," "Heaven Can Wait," "Would You Love Me" and more.  Zimmer appeared a little stiff and tentative at first, but picked up momentum and confidence as she went along.

My first night of Millennium showcase performances complete, I retired back to the hotel, to rest up for Friday and the first day of conference business sessions.

I am looking for:

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Mycenea Worley during her stunning performance at the Appalachian Brewing Company.


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