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16th Millennium Music Conference Friday recap
February 23, 2012 - Jim Price
The 16th annual Millennium Music Conference took place last weekend (Feb. 16-19) in the Harrisburg area. This is my recap of what took place during Millennium weekend.
The actual conference portion of the 16th annual Millennium Music Conference got underway Friday in the host facility, the Radisson Penn Harris Hotel and Convention Center in Camp Hill.
This daytime portion of the conference featured a number of music industry-related panels and discussions, as well as mentoring sessions and the trade show. I had seen mostly all of these panels before at past conferences, and because I was helping staff the Pennsylvania Musician Magazine table at the trade show, I did not attend any of this year’s business panels.
The panels covered many different aspects of the music industry, and provided something for everyone regardless of experience level or area of interest. Marketing and promotion were addressed in various ways through such panels as “One Fan at a Time: Building Your Music Biz to the Max,” “Online Branding, Promotion & Marketing 101” and “Promoters, Booking Agents and Talent Buyers.” Studios, recording and production were featured in “Recording, Producing and Mixing Your Music Today.” Licensing and copyrights took the spotlight during the “Publishing and Licensing your Music in 2012” and “Navigating The Copyright Maze” panels, and legal issues concerning the music business were discussed at the “Legal Representation and Preparation for New and Established Artists” seminar. And enterprising musicians looking to build their business models could learn more at the “ReverbNation Workshop,” hosted by ReverbNation co-founder Lou Plaia; and the panel “Raising Money Kickstarter: Stories From Artists,” where several musicians outlined how they utilized the Kickstarter website funding platform to raise funds for their recording projects.
While not in attendance at the Millennium business panels, I did get to take in numerous performances throughout the day on the Pennsylvania Musician Magazine-sponsored acoustic stage at the Millennium trade show. Showcasing bands and artists were invited to sign up to perform at least two songs each, to show conference visitors what they offered musically, and also to plug their showcase performance sets later in the evening or weekend. Several of these performances were clear standouts; including the display by Miami-based singer/songwriter SJ, who showed an uplifting singing style and cadence plus a bit of a Jack Johnson flavor on his two songs. Also strong was two-thirds of Delaware-based trio Crossing Oceans (named because one of the band members, guitarist Walter Van Geffen, crossed the Atlantic Ocean en route to joining this project); they displayed delicate, folk-based melodies and strong vocal harmonies on their two-song presentation. A trade show stage visitor from previous years, Harrisburg’s Suzi Brown, again displayed her dazzling skills on acoustic guitar; strumming, tapping and working all corners of her instrument to present a rhythmic playing style on her three numbers, the instrumental “Logan’s Pass” (inspired by witnessing bighorn sheep clash when she hiked in Montana), “Move Again” and “New Wings for Icarus.”
Perhaps my favorite of this day’s trade show performances came from New Jersey-based group Amber Blues. Three of their four members provided strong melodies and harmonies, soulfulness and charisma on their set of numbers, which included two original songs and a stunning a cappella rendition of Billy Joel’s “The Longest Time.” After their mini-set, armed with didjeridoo, guitarist Jimmy Clark triggered a brief duel back and forth across the trade show floor with percussion merchant Fredrico on bongos, which brought unanimous applause from onlookers.
A plugged-in electric showcase set closed this day’s business portion of the conference, as New Jersey-based teenage lady rockers Short Lived Affair energized the trade show floor with their set of punk-driven original songs. Introducing their brand of “South Jersey kitchen-core,” the roster of singer Monica Kelly, guitarist Kaitlyn Young, bassist Taylor Coigne and drummer Rachel Visitacion mixed melody and edge on their fast-paced set, introducing many of their original songs including the single “Cliffhanger,” along with a torrid take on Fallout Boy’s “Sugar We’re Going Down.”
The evening presented decision time for this music-a-holic, as I had to ponder which showcases I would try to attend out of the 29 different showcase events happening throughout the Harrisburg area. I ended up catching parts of three.
I started by revisiting a performer I first met during last year’s conference, 74-year-old Nova Scotia-based singer and songwriter Lloyd MacHardy, who kicked off an early evening showcase at the Playhouse Café, a family-friendly coffee and snack shop located directly across the road from the Radisson. Lloyd is a late-bloomer; he started playing guitar and writing songs more than 30 years ago, but didn’t start performing publicly until within the past five years, when one of his peers encouraged him to give it a try. Lloyd is now “living the dream,” traveling across the continent and playing his songs at festivals, coffeehouses and other events. Many of his songs are humor-based and observational; he was triggering laughter from the audience with his “Psychiatrist Song” when I first arrived, and he also did such numbers as “Nothing Stays the Same” (an ode to how things change with time and age) and “I’m a Busy Bureaucrat.” Taking the stage next was a singer and songwriter from Bucks County named Eli The Hawk. Brandishing 12-string acoustic guitar, Eli introduced a delta blues-rooted style of folk music with his selection of original songs. He performed selections from his latest CD, “Fables in Time,” such as “Lazy Tuesday,” “The Legend of Belle Starr” and “Hues of Chartreuse,” as well as other compositions like “Octaves of Ontario,” “Vines” and more. In speaking with Eli at the conference, I learned that he is involved in several charitable endeavors, including a worldwide CD project in conjunction with the Ronstadt Family (the musical family of famed hitmaker Linda Ronstadt) that funds construction of housing for people in need, and funding efforts that support community arts programs in his home area.
After Eli’s set concluded, I headed to my second showcase destination of the evening, the Blue Moose Bar & Grill in the Linglestown area of northeastern Harrisburg. I was interested in seeing a band I had met earlier in the day at the conference, Syracuse, New York-based rock band Just A Memory.
As I first arrived at the Blue Moose, Philadelphia-based singer/songwriter Orion Freeman was performing. I saw Orion’s two-song teaser earlier in the day during the Millennium trade show. During this set, he again exhibited his gritty, hard-driving modern folk style on a selection of original songs.
Just A Memory was up next. Five members strong, this group displayed a tight, melody-based brand of modern rock that showed several dimensions. Their melodies and lead singer Joey Dimaggio’s vocal style are somewhat reminiscent of Fuel; but classically-trained violinist Leila Dean gives a constant string presence to their sound, and the detail of the group’s melodies and arrangements lends a progressive nuance to their presentation as well. Just A Memory did songs from their self-titled EP, along with newer numbers and one cover, a rendition of Stone Temple Pilots’ “Plush.”
I stuck around for the following band as well, Manian. Group namesake and lead singer Manian Van Hacker has fronted several Harrisburg-based bands over the years; I last saw him as a member of Stereo Logic nearly a decade ago. Like that project, his current foursome offered a melody-based modern rock sound consistent with current hitmakers like Shinedown and Alter Bridge. Manian is currently recording their debut release with former Bon Jovi producer Obie O’Brien, which should be available later this year.
After Manian’s set, I departed the Blue Moose to catch one more band I eagerly anticipated witnessing at this year’s conference, Pittsburgh-based country-rock quintet East Coast Turnaround, who were closing the showcase event at the nearby Double-K Tavern. This venue was nearby; however, a wrong turn took me on a 25-minute side journey before I corrected my trajectory and arrived at the desired location. (Someday I will invest in a GPS system.) Fortunately for me, this showcase was running slightly behind schedule, and East Coast Turnaround had not yet begun their performance by the time I arrived.
East Coast Turnaround – named after a similar slang term for a stimulant once used in the trucking industry – gave a rousing performance as they introduced the Double K audience to their rebellious and edgy brand of country and southern-fried rock. Singer/guitarist Chad Fetty, bassist Jason Fetty, guitarist Mike Butler, harmonica player Ray Kuchinka and drummer Tim Penska performed all of the songs from their 2010 debut EP “Season In Hell” including the upbeat “Cadillac Cadillac,” the prison ode “Love Life and Murder,” “Outta My Head,” their love song “Only You” and established showstopper “Where’s My Sunshine.” They also did their current Pittsburgh radio hit “Just Like the Rolling Stones,” plus numbers from their forthcoming full-length album “American Outlaw” such as “51,” “Southbound 75” and “Neon Church.” A rendition of Hank Williams III’s “Mississippi Mud” midway through the set filled the Double K’s dance floor, and the dance floor and house remained busy and festive through the duration of the performance.
Although the showcases were finished for the night, the music at Millennium was not. As was the case during last year’s conference, musicians converged on the host hotel Radisson’s front lobby after 2 a.m. with acoustic instruments in hand, and more networking and a jam session convened. The hotel staff was receptive to this for a little while, but eventually ordered an end to the party at 3:30 a.m. so the non-musical customers of the hotel could sleep in peace. This was probably best anyway, as the musicians would need some rest themselves to fuel up for the following day’s business panels and other Millennium activities.
From central New Jersey, Amber Blues performs during the Millennium Music Conference trade show on Friday.