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17th Millennium Music Conference Recap, Part 1

February 16, 2013 - Jim Price
The 17th annual Millennium Music Conference is happening this weekend at the Radisson Penn Harris Convention Center in Camp Hill, and I’ll provide recaps and updates as time permits.

The business portion of the conference started on Friday, featuring an assortment of panels, seminars, mentoring sessions with music industry professionals and the trade show. I spent most of the day at the trade show, helping to staff the Pennsylvania Musician Magazine table and acoustic stage, where showcasing bands and performers could play short sets of music to passers-by to promote their showcase performances.

Although traffic was on the light side for most of the day, the acoustic stage saw some impressive and diverse performances. Cherry Hill, New Jersey-based singer/songwriter Steve Leak started things off with a vibrant set of original songs; his gusto and enthusiasm made each of the three numbers – “American Man,” “Magic of the Rainbow” and “Opposites Attract” – shine and stand out. Wilkes-Barre-based acoustic duo Celtic Dreams provided a raw, classic folk-rooted sound during the three songs they performed; starting with the political-toned “Star Spangled Slander” and continuing with their own distinctive slants on Cat Stevens’ “Moonshadow” and Social Distortion’s “King of Fools.” Members of Philadelphia’s Parsnip Revolt and Baltimore’s Roll It Over, Terry Gayhart of Jonestown-based band Shift Seven, Cleveland’s Scott David and Harumi D, Donovan Rice of Philadelphia’s Standing Cinema, and two members of Baltimore’s Apollo Sun all took their turns on the acoustic stage, before one of the artists I most anticipated seeing at this year’s conference, Williamsport’s Michi, arrived and performed two of her original songs. Michi demonstrated a delicate, lighthearted voice and playful cadence as she sang and strummed her songs “Standstill” and “Glide Through the Flames.” Philadelphia-based acoustic guitar specialist Suzi Brown then dazzled onlookers with her mastery of the guitar on two compositions, working all parts of the guitar with intricate pickings, taps, slaps and slides; making it all look and sound smooth and seamless. Philadelphia-based solo performer Twin Ghost introduced his soulful and heartfelt style of acoustic folk-rock on two originals. Two members of Virginia-based rockabilly combo The Deathbillies then gave a rousing country-flavored read to Kiss’ “Rock and Roll All Night.” Weaving folk, rock and reggae together, Brandon Hardesty of Annapolis-based Bumpin’ Uglies gave a spirited performance on his two-song set; before rising hometown Harrisburg rockers Small Town Titans closed the acoustic stage and trade show with several strong original songs and a version of Tool’s “Sober.”

Business panels during the first day of the conference discussed such topics as jumpstarting music careers, recording, legal representation in the music industry, the current state of the record deal, publishing, music industry myths, copyrights, using Kickstarter to raise money for recording projects, survival in the current-day music industry and more.

The trade show and business portion of the conference was expected to close this day with a sound check performance by the Bernie Worrell Orchestra, but travel difficulties prevented the group from arriving in time to do the performance (they were slated to showcase later in the evening at the Radisson mainstage).

The evening featured plentiful showcase performances throughout the Harrisburg area, and I took in performances at three different venues. First, I headed across the road from the conference’s host hotel to the Playhouse Café to take in some acoustic and solo performances. First was Shepherdstown, West Virginia-based singer/songwriter Betty Jo Rockwell. Assisted by her husband, Scott, she displayed a clear, hearty and almost operatic voice on her selection of original folk and acoustic rock numbers, including an uplifting rendition of Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue.” For the second time I then got to see Celtic Dreams perform; this time, singer Edward Sott and guitarist Frank Shannon did a more in-depth selection of original numbers that delved deeper inside their musical persona with themes of introspection and concern over the troubled state of the world. They also performed a version of “House of the Rising Sun.” And the following performer, Harrisburg’s Dave Carr, welcomed audience members into his soulful, digital world as he shared instrumental compositions showing a variety of soul and light funk-driven flavors.

I then headed to Coakley’s Irish Pub in New Cumberland, which featured music on several stages. On Coakley’s basement rock stage, I took in most of the set by New York-based power trio Fans Of The Future, as they did hard-driving indie-flavored rock originals. I then headed upstairs to the acoustic stage to check in with local Harrisburg-based singer/songwriter Mycenea Worley, who used this Millennium showcase opportunity to share numerous songs from her forthcoming new CD. Mycenea again displayed a clear, passionate voice and delivery, and a strong knack for melody on new numbers such as “Locks,” “Home” and “The Leaf Song,” as well as established favorites from her 2009 “Love” EP such as “100 Days” and “Low.”

From Coakleys, I headed to the Drinkin’ Bone in Wormleysburg to close out the night. Female-fronted rock bands were the theme of this particular showcase, and I witnessed three impressive ones. Just taking the stage as I arrived was Brooklyn-based rock/punk trio J & the 9s. This group blended high-powered rock with a touch of Lady GaGa-styled theatrics courtesy of frontlady J9, who worked every corner of the stage and dance floor to get the crowd fired up. She sang, gyrated, danced, crawled and generated constant movement as she led the group through their original set; and she even broke out the flute on one number. Next was a band that blew me away when I first saw them two years ago at Millennium, Pittsburgh’s Lovebettie. Fronted by feisty and pompadoured singer and keyboardist Alexandra Naples, Lovebettie performed a strong set of songs blending catchy melodies, rock, pop and soul. Alexandra’s voice was strong and commanding throughout the set, culminating in the group’s thunderous “Are You Out There?” Making their fourth Millennium Music Conference appearance, North Carolina-based foursome Dreamkiller capped the night with their performance of powerful rock and metal-edged originals. Singer Christy Johnson was battling bronchitis issues, but still managed to deliver a potent voice and commanding stage presence, flanked by guitarist Jim O’Gara, bassist Erny Galvan and new drummer Scott Crawford.

During the past few years, musicians gathered in the Radisson hotel lobby and commenced late after-hours jam sessions. Although musicians were gathered and conversing in the lobby as I arrived back at the host hotel, hotel management prohibited the jam sessions this year.

A busy first day of the Millennium Music Conference was complete. Another full day of business conference and showcase performers awaited on Saturday. Stay tuned to this blog for the recap.

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Williamsport-based singer and songwriter Michi, giving onlookers a sampling of her music during Friday's Millennium Music Conference trade show.


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