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Millennium Music Conference, Night Four 2/21
February 26, 2010 - Jim Price
With no Millennium Music Conference showcases officially scheduled for Sunday night this year, I awoke on Sunday morning thinking I would check out of my hotel room, find breakfast somewhere, record an interview with a future band guest on my “Homegrown Rocker” program, make my annual pre-spring raid on the Bass Pro Shop complex at the Harrisburg Mall, touch base with two other friends that live in the Harrisburg area for dinner, and then return home.
The Radisson Penn Harris Hotel and Convention Center was offering a Millennium Sunday brunch special. Initially I was going to pass on it, but after being handed a complimentary ticket by my Pennsylvania Musician editor, Robin Noll, I decided this was a good option for breakfast. A number of other Millennium participants were in attendance at this brunch as well; and as it turned out, a few of them were in the right place at the right moment.
I was seated with my magazine colleagues Robin and “RachelRocks,” Millennium organizer and mastermind John Harris, regional band and show promoter Jim Fetzer, radio personality “Number One Son” from 105.7 “The X,” and another musician or two. We were chatting and enjoying brunch when members of two bands showed up at our table. One of the bands was a British entry at Millennium called The Stella Frays, and the other was Reading-based punk and psycho-billy rockers The Dead End Cruisers. The Stella Frays disclosed that their scheduled air flight out of Harrisburg wasn’t scheduled to depart until 2 a.m. Monday morning, and they wondered aloud if there were any possible places they could perform for one more night. Members of The Dead End Cruisers then echoed this sentiment. Cell phones went into action, and a quick game plan came together. With the phone number provided by RachelRocks, Jim Fetzer got in contact with the person in charge of booking bands at the Appalachian Brewing Company, Jersey Mike, and bounced the idea of putting together an early Sunday evening show featuring the two aforementioned bands, plus an acoustic artist or two. After a few minutes, Fetzer’s phone rang, and Jersey Mike gave the plan the go-ahead. The unofficial Millennium Music Conference post-party would happen from 8 to 11 that evening at the Appalachian Brewing Company, and would feature The Dead End Cruisers, The Stella Frays, acoustic performer Kelly Carvin, and perhaps another performer or two. Elated that this plan had come together, The Dead End Cruisers quickly set about promoting the show through social networking sites, to see if they could assemble an audience for this show on such short notice.
I went about the rest of my day as planned, with the only change in plan that I was now sticking around for the newly-organized post-party that night. I had hoped all along that there might be a show to check out on Sunday night like in years past, so I had received my wish.
I arrived at the Appalachian Brewing Company just prior to the scheduled 8 p.m. start, and although not crowded, at least a few fans and friends were present to enjoy the festivities.
Starting off the show was Kelly Carvin, a singer, songwriter and guitarist from central New Jersey I had met earlier in the weekend. Her nearly 30-minute set featured a blend of acoustic rock, folk, country and blues; as she sang original song material plus her own remake of Janis Joplin’s ever-classic “Me and Bobby McGee.” Carvin demonstrated a potent and passionate voice, and a relaxed and confident presentation. Some of her original songs included the country blues-flavored “Hushings,” the anti-war “Calling You Out,” “Revolution” and “The Fire Song.” Her heartfelt performance quickly won fans, and applause grew louder for Carvin as her set progressed.
Next on the bill was a two-song performance by a guest group called Where Eagles Dare. This group featured one member from The Dead End Cruisers, guitarist Psycho Benny, plus a singer, bassist and drummer. The group did two punk-styled numbers, exhibiting a sound reminiscent of early Social Distortion.
The atmosphere in the room was running high. The Stella Frays and The Dead End Cruisers had hit it off as friends during Millennium, and that camaraderie permeated the atmosphere in the venue. Both bands bantered and joked with each other throughout the night; clearly a trans-Atlantic friendship had evolved from this year’s Millennium Music Conference.
The Stella Frays soon took the stage. From Leeds, U.K., this trio did an amped-up blend of British-flavored pop and punk vigor. Lead singer/guitarist Stuart Cook, bassist Gareth Hughes and drummer Rich Priestley played gritty, hard-driving songs chock full of infectious hooks and singalong choruses. Their melodies showed the influence of British rock forefathers like The Who, the Beatles and The Clash, driven forth by an explosive modern-day punk adrenaline. Some song highlights included their boisterous opener “Our Society,” the upbeat “The Sunshine’s for You,” the punk-fueled “Sort It Out,” “Hold Ya Own,” the fast-firing “Get Back in Line” and more. The Stella Frays’ infectious song hooks, explosive energy and British wit made them instant hits with the audience, and cheers were abundant throughout their set.
Reading’s Dead End Cruisers then closed out the show with a high-octane set of punk-fueled rock and psycho-billy. Lead singer/guitarist Greasy Phil, lead guitarist Psycho Benny, bassist Jay Daddy and drummer Sweet Jonny mixed songs from their debut CD, A Thousand Miles of Whiskey and Sin, with newer tunes. Their overall presentation was fast and furious, suggesting a shotgun marriage of the Stray Cats and Reverend Horton Heat. The group picked up momentum as they went along, and the crowd likewise became rowdier and more appreciative as the set progressed. The Dead End Cruisers had elevated the mood of this event so high that nobody wanted this party to end!
But it eventually did, and the curtains were drawn on another Millennium Music Conference.
Again Millennium was a rewarding experience for me, as I met new friends, touched base with old ones, enjoyed a number of excellent bands and performers, networked and learned.
The preliminary word is that there will be a 15th edition of the Millennium Music Conference in 2011. Please check back with the website to find out the particulars about next year’s event as they become available.
Central New Jersey-based singer and songwriter Kelly Carvin kicks off this unofficial Millennium Music Conference post-party.