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Millennium Music Conference, Night Three 2/20
February 26, 2010 - Jim Price
As I’ve mentioned in years past, the biggest dilemma I face every year when I attend the Millennium Music Conference is deciding which bands and artists to go see on any given night of showcases. With some 270 different bands and artists scattered among 20-25 different Harrisburg area venues mostly over two nights, there is no way to see everybody. I had circled a few names I wanted to see, but as is often the case, at least a few of those names were performing at the same time on different stages; alas, I can only be at one place at one time.
This Saturday night, I had several different performers I wanted to see. However, they were scattered on different stages throughout the Harrisburg area. Some were playing in downtown venues along 2nd Street; going there would require paying a $5 parking garage fee. Did I want to pay a $5 parking fee just to see one or two bands and then drive off elsewhere? Or did I want to stick with one or two outskirt venues that were more spread apart, and didn’t require paying a parking garage fee?
I ultimately decided on the latter course. My simplified game plan would be to catch the first three bands performing at Jackson’s Junction in New Cumberland, and then head ten minutes south on Route 252 to the Field House in Etters to see the band I had most eagerly wanted to see this year, New Jersey hard rockers Rahway.
As it turned out, even this simplified game plan didn’t go quite as planned.
Although a few friends had advised me that the venue was somewhat hard to find, I did manage to locate Jackson’s Junction fairly easily just going by directions from the Mapquest website (I don’t yet have the luxury of GPS in my car). Jackson’s Junction is a small roadhouse-type establishment located in rural New Cumberland, “in the sticks.” I arrived early as the bands were setting up, and ordered up some wings from the kitchen.
Soon the first band was ready to go. From the Chambersburg area, SickleEye introduced a hard-nosed brand of classic-geared heavy rock; with a sound not far removed from classic Led Zeppelin or contemporary Godsmack. Singer Sam Hudson, guitarists Ryan Nicholson and Chad Davis, bassist Fabian Marroquin and drummer Jason Brookens blended older and newer original numbers; among them “The Day My Old Man Dies” and “Tremble” (songs that have received airplay on Rocky 104.9’s “Homegrown Rocker” local music program), “Hard Questions” and more. For their last song, SickleEye broke out a cover, doing Theory Of A Deadman’s “Bad Girlfriend.”
Next on the bill was another band I was seeing for the first time, Pottsville quartet Faith In Exile. Their sound leaned slightly more modern and aggressive, blending darker alternative and metal tones. The group’s song material was consistently hard-hitting and volatile, with explosive and angry choruses, dark melody lines and instrumental intensity on all fronts. Drummer Ron Gubala was especially a beast behind the kit; this guy hit fast and hard! He and bassist Allan Buehner established the explosive foundation for lead singer/howler Rob Allison and guitarist Brandon Poti to launch their assaults from. Faith In Exile were exciting to watch and hear, and their set went over well with the growing crowd.
Another band I had circled on my schedule would follow; Big Apple-based rockers Finespun. I had seen this band twice before perform acoustically during the Millennium trade show; now I would finally get to see them plugged in. Comprised of lead singer/guitarist Oren Barak, guitarist Patrick Brennan, bassist Doug Tammany and drummer Ed Grazi; Finespun generated a dark-toned, melody-geared brand of hard-hitting rock recalling Soundgarden and Alice In Chains. I didn’t catch too many of their song titles other than “Lie to Me” (not the Jonny Lang hit). Their melodies and vocal harmonies were strong, and their instrumental execution precise, especially Brennan’s heated guitar work. As with the first two bands, Finespun drew appreciative applause from the Jackson’s audience, and they stated their case impressively on the stage.
I had hoped to depart Jackson’s Junction at this point to try to locate the Field House. However, the stage manager of the next band, Graffiti Thrill, approached me and politely requested my assessment of their band when they performed, and also handed me a complimentary copy of the group’s EP. Much as I wanted to see Rahway at the Field House, I decided to hang around at Jackson’s and see what Graffiti Thrill was about. Hopefully I would get another chance to see Rahway further down the road.
As it turned out, I didn’t make a bad decision, as Graffiti Thrill offered a quality performance. From Connecticut, this foursome did straightforward classic-styled rock’n’roll. Singer/guitarist Justin Brown, guitarist Tony Salvatore, bassist Chris Bonner and drummer Zach Eldridge offered a sound rooted in the mainstream rock’n’roll tradition of the Eagles and John Mellencamp. They offered simple, catchy melodies, strong vocals and vocal harmonies, crisp execution and an upbeat presentation that even inspired some audience members to dance. Some of their songs included the hard-driving “Fever,” the slower ballad “Syracuse” and “Sarah.” Graffiti Thrill offered a strong enough performance to prompt calls for an encore when they finished; the group responded with a read of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Born on the Bayou” to close out the night.
Millennium Music Conference seemed to fly by this year, and it was hard for me to believe that it was already over. Or so I thought. Little did I know as I returned to my hotel room that I had yet more Millennium-related performances to experience.
The Chambersburg-based rock band SickleEye kicks off the Saturday night Millennium Music Conference showcase at Jackson's Junction in New Cumberland.