Launch: Sat Edition, Maybe Music Hasn’t Disappeared Up Its Own Ass
I arrived at the Lancaster Convention Center around 1 pm on Saturday amidst a crowd of vendors, musicians and fans. The first thing I noticed about this particular festival, conference or whatever you want to call it was that for its age it was incredibly organized. The other great aspect of this event was there were no ego’s everyone was there to check out some good music by relatively unknown artists. After hanging out in the convention center for a few hours, with the weather finally on my side I was ready to set off throughout Lancaster to check out some live music.
My first stop was to check out Lancaster’s own Ben Rothermel at The Press Room. I was already running a little late when I arrived to an empty courtyard outside the restaurant. Luckily there was a small sign saying that the show had been moved, unfortunately the new venue was in the lobby of the convention center where I had just come from. After rushing back to the lobby I was all set to see Ben Rothermel. I have to say his music was a relief after having my ears pounded by a series of hardcore bands. Rothermel played subtle acoustic songs backed by an electric guitar. His songs were quiet yet profound, there was a real charm about Ben, in between songs he would talk to the crowd, ask what people wanted to hear. Ben seemed to be in good spirits despite his acoustic folk music competing heavily for airspace with the intruding metal/hardcore bands from inside the doors of the convention center. Below is a video of Ben Rothermel for anyone who hasn’t heard of him, also check back for TSI’s own Jason Konopinski interview with Ben.
After Ben’s set it was time to move on out of the cold confines of the convention center and into Downtown Lancaster (for real this time). My next stop was over at the Chameleon Club’s downstairs venue, The Lizard Lounge. The next band that I was going to catch was Baltimore’s True Urban Rhythm Notion or for short The T.U.R.N. The band is comprised of J Alex Watts Jr, George Cowan, Ian Macfie. Immediately after they took the stage it was clear that these three guys had amazing chemistry onstage with Watts Jr. quarterbacking the group from behind his drum kit. These guys are certainly not lacking in musicianship: they all had such a command over their respective instruments. After hearing the guitarist take several solo’s I got incredibly upset, solely on the grounds that he was much better than me at playing guitar. My nerves were calmed after talking to Watts Jr. later in the night who had alerted me to the fact that the guitarist was a Jazz Composition major in college.
The T.U.R.N have a sound similar 311 other “funk rock” type groups. To be honest, its hard to really pin point a comparison because to say the sound similar to The Disco Biscuits or Phish wouldn’t do their songwriting justice, but to compare them to bands like Dispatch or O.A.R. just wouldn’t do their musicianship any justice. If you are looking for songwriting that reaches the depths of Bob Dylan you won’t find it here, but if you are looking for fun music with substance look no further. For more on The T.U.R.N be sure to check back for TSI contributor Brandee Nichols interview with the group.
My next stop was over at Hotel Brunswick to check out Minnesota’s Brothers Loyalty. I arrived in the Galactic Room (Red Rose Ballroom) to thrashing music and screaming. I have a hard time writing about this type of “hardcore” music because, admittedly, it scares me. Nonetheless Brothers Loyalty had a stage presence like none other, they jumped around, balanced on drums. The band had fans going crazy almost to the point where I thought the floor was going to collapse.
I escaped downstairs in time to see most of the Main Street Mystics set in the Brunswick Bar. Led by TSI’s own Randy B, this band was easily one of my favorites of the day. The group blended Pop songwriting with jazz instrumentation with such distinctiveness and prestige. Guitarist Jon Healy at times had my jaw dropping down to the floor with his wonderfully virtuosic playing, while never letting me forget about my own failed jazz playing. Healy and Randy B were supported by an amazing rhythm section consisting of Vincent Coratello and John Foust on bass drums.
I ended my night back at the Chameleon Club and The Lizard Lounge. It was hear where I simply sat back and enjoyed the music solely as a fan and music lover. The first band I watched was The Mechanicals from Philadelphia. The band blazed through a 35 minute set that was incredibly fitting in the dark setting of The Lizard Lounge. The band finds its music situated somewhere between The Dismemberment Plan with arena rock sounds of The Foo Fighters. Next up was Johnny Action Figure of Reading, Pa. These guys were great indie rock band with pop elements that never seemed to sound cheesy. The lyrics were clever and sometimes tongue and cheek, expect big things from these guys.
Thus concludes my day filled with music, some good some not so much. It is amazing to see how far the Launch Music Conference has come in just three years. It confirms that Lancaster, Pa is slowly becoming a nurturing place where bands of any style can come and fine a crowd of fans that will listen attentively. The city opened up its arms to artists from all around and they did not disappoint (for the most part). Whatever type of music your into you’ll surely find it at Launch.