Archive for Opine

This Sentence Really Pisses Me Off (In Defense Of The Harrisburg Music Scene)

I read a blog post earlier tonight about a new record label forming in Harrisburg. It’s a nice story. I know all the guys working on the label. And I think they’re going to do very well.

The purpose of this post, however, isn’t to spotlight the new label. I’m not even going to link to the post that described the new label. Rather, I’m going to harp on one sentence. The sentence that led the post. And the writer isn’t 100% at fault for typing this. It’s an easy target. The story about the new label led with this sentence:

“Any musician or music fan in the Harrisburg area knows that the local music scene leaves much to be desired.”

As a person who earns a full time living producing concerts and events in virtually every local and regional music and music related venue, I take issue with that statement. The “local music scene” is a direct reflection of the local demography. And the local demography simply lacks the population to support anything more than what we generally have to appreciate here in the Susquehanna Valley.

And the term “local music scene” – what is the writer referring to? Simply the city of Harrisburg? One would be remiss to exclude York, Lancaster and even State College from the regional offerings of live music in the midstate.

Constant comparisons to major metro areas like Baltimore, Philadelphia or even Pittsburgh are absolutely unfair when talking about a local music scene.

Sure, a music fan would likely have to travel more than sixty miles to catch some of the bigger shows – and by “bigger” I mean some of the hotter, most relevant national acts on the circuit. Plain and simple, we do not have the million-plus population to make the Harrisburg region a must-play market for many touring bands. But get this- we often get some of the bigger names months and years before they break, but it’s up to the causal music fan to go out more often than once a month to catch those acts on their way up (or down).

Let’s talk our immediate region for a second. In Harrisburg, York and Lancaster, we’ve got the following venues hosting live, touring bands four or five nights per week – Chameleon Club, American Music Theater, Whitaker Center, The Strand Capitol and Cap Live, The Abbey Bar, The State Theater, Cafe 210, Championship, Midtown Scholar Bookstore, Gullifty’s and dozens more bars, pubs and coffee shops too numerous to list. On those dozen or so venue’s calendars is the full gamut of touring and local talent and it’s all happening nearly every night of the week.

Years ago, I had a discussion with my good friend Sara B Simpson. The gist of my argument at the time was “man, the Harrisburg music scene sucks.” (Not unlike the writer of the post I’m pissy about right now). And she made the completely valid point that the scene is just fine – it’s out there, but you have to find it. And if it were more mainstream and over populated, people would bitch that there are too many meat heads at shows. And then we’d argue that nobody is happy, no matter what.

So break it down for me- what, exactly, is there to be desired about the “local music scene”? The quality of the local bands? I wouldn’t necessarily argue with that. But think about it – if a band has the chops enough to do something valid and career bolstering, why would they hang around Harrisburg when Brooklyn, NY is merely three hours away? Or Asheville, North Carolina? Or Nashville, TN?

The writer of the post wasn’t being malicious. Or spiteful. Or vindictive. And his viewpoint is understandable. But I’ve traveled to some cities that one would think there would be a jumping music scene…but there simply isn’t. There aren’t a dozen venues – legitimate, stage and PA and light rig-having music venues with dedicated pages on their websites promoting their individual calendars and a staffed sound and light technician and someone dedicated to booking their calendar…like there are here in Central Pennsylvania.

I used to work in a pretty hardcore direct marketing job that drilled the sales force on the importance of having a great attitude. We heard it every day. And it’s stuck with me because it’s absolutely true. Want great results? Have a great attitude. Want bad or mediocre results? Have a bad attitude.

It’s really as simple as that.

I came to terms with the reality of the fact that Harrisburg and Lancaster and York aren’t home to any major league universities with tens of thousands of students living within the city and starting student and youth-centric businesses and influencing the business landscape enough to support multiple rock clubs in the same city having five nights of music per week.

But we’ve got a dozen. A dozen legitimate music venues in our region. And they all have great stuff on their calendars three or four nights per week. And the other two or three nights per week there are dozens of bars and pubs and coffee shops hosting open mic nights, pickin’ parties and other music-themed events.

But you have to look for them.

This region’s music scene is what you make of it.

It’s out there. And we’re fortunate to have the number of options that we have.

Semantic Adventureland

Have you noticed the shift in use of language lately?

It’s not a “used” car anymore. It’s “pre-owned”.

We decided to stay in on Saturday night after a hellishly long two weeks so a quick stop at the Blockbuster on Union Deposit Road was in order.

Browsing through the aisles, I walked past the used…er, previously-viewed DVD’s and went straight to the new release section.

Not feeling like watching anything with too much depth, we settled on Adventureland. (It’s from the same guys that did Superbad and, while it was pretty funny, it was sort of a disappointment compared to the urinating-on-oneself hilarity that was Superbad.)

ANYWAY- we get to the counter and place the selection (along with two boxes of Whoppers) on the counter and I presented the check-out guy with my card. He scanned it and with a quick beep, I immediately recognized the look on his face. He was about to inform me that I had a late charge.

But what happened next was anything but normal…instead of informing me of the late-fee on my account which stemmed from returning Beautiful Girls after eleven days instead of ten back in June, the dude behind the counter told me something completely unexpected.

In the same “okay, sir…you have a late-fee of seven dollars and thirty seven cents” tone had by most Blockbuster employees, this dude said “okay, sir…you have a restocking fee of a dollar thirty three”.

A restocking fee.

“I’m sorry…a what? A restocking fee?”

“Yes, sir…a restocking fee. From Beautiful Girls back in June”

“Well, was it late?”

“Um, yes sir. You brought it back on the eleventh day and it was due back in ten.”

“Uh, okay…so it’s a late fee.”

“No, sir. We don’t have late fees anymore. It’s a restocking fee.”

“Yeah, dude…but your “restocking fee” is charged because the movie was returned one day after the day it was due…therefore, it was late. So, it is, in fact, a late fee.”

“No. It is a restocking fee. You see, because you kept the movie a day later than you were allowed, someone out there wasn’t able to rent that movie because it wasn’t here. So when you returned it, we had to restock it on the shelf. Restocking fee.”

Bro…if I returned this movie the day after I rented it…and it was on-time, you or you or you [there were three employees behind the counter at this point] would have to take that movie from the return bin and place it back on the shelf where it belongs. “Comedy”, in with the “B’s” somewhere after Back To The Future and before Boogie Nights. And you wouldn’t charge me a restocking fee then, would you?”

“No, because it would have been on time.”

“HA! So it IS a late fee!!”

“No, sir…it’s a restocking fee.”


At this point, my girlfriend was practically kicking me in the shin (her way of telling me to “drop it, already!”).

Look…this is my point. We’ve progressed and kept time over two thousand years.

I can watch porn on my iPhone in my pocket.

The toll lanes are automated with EZ Pass.

We put a man on the moon.

And have made discoveries and advances far beyond anything our forefathers ever could have dreamed up.

So why do we make it so difficult to communicate with one-another these days?

Say it like it is, Blockbuster…it’s a fucking late fee.

Does it have to be this difficult?

A List Of Rules For Central PA Snowdays

1. Drive worse than you normally would as people have grown to expect it.

2. At any sign of accumulation, cancel ALL schools and government employee schedules for the day.

3. If you work in the news industry, run misleading headlines and stories alluding to the notion that it’s far worse outside than it actually is.

4. By no means and under no circumstance should you attempt to clear the sidewalk in front of your home. Especially if you’re a renter or Section 8 Recipient.

5. Do not expect to Harrisburg City to deploy resources to clear the streets. Canceling everything is cheaper. (Submitted by Rusty)

6. If you are still one of the unlucky ones whose job did not cancel work for the day, today is your day to make a lame excuse to your boss about why you were late/have to leave early.

7. Go to the nearest Giant/Weis/Wegmans and purchase more milk, eggs and butter than you can ever possibly eat or need in a three or four day period.

8. Regardless of how beautiful the snowfall looks, feel free to whine, bitch and complain to anyone who will listen about how much you can’t stand the snow.

9. If someone is complaining to you about how much they don’t like the snow (as in #7) you have a full 24 hour pass to tell that person how much you don’t like them. If they get offended, go outside, make a snowball and throw it at them.

10. By no means should you attempt to help the elderly or disabled.

11. Take those plastic chairs from your porch/patio/backyard and place them in the parking spot in front of your house- letting the world know: “These are MY chairs and this is MY spot, dammit!” Even though you probably only get a spot right in front of your house either once a week or you’re unemployed and never leave the house anyway. (Suggested by reader Spyder)

And final Rule for When It Snows in Central PA-

12. Everybody, FREAK OUT!

The Class of 2012

My little sister is a cheerleader.

(You, in the back…shut up.)

Anyway, she’s a cheerleader. And is a senior in high school.

And the high school cheerleaders/football players have a bunch of goofy but old and unquestioned traditions they play out year after year.

I was never a football player or a cheerleader so I don’t really understand the value or reasoning behind much of this behavior- but it’s all about tradition and tradition makes it okay…okay?

ANYWAY- Thanksgiving day is the “big game” between my hometown and the “rival” town next door. (Again- “rivalry” is more of a traditional term. There are no Jets vs. Sharks knife fights.)

So the night before the “big game”, the cheerleaders bust out their best arts and crafts and proceed to decorate the homes of the starting-team football players. By “decorate”, I mean they make signs on poster board that say things like “Go, Fight, Win!” and “This is OUR house, baby!” (whatever that means) and hang them on the houses of the players. It’s goofy, but the kids like it. So that’s fine.

ANYWAY- the other side of that tradition is for the cheerleaders. The freshman cheerleaders do the same thing for the departing senior cheerleaders. They each pick one cheerleaders house and “decorate” it with signs encouraging them to…um…cheer their hearts out.

If you’re a semi-regular reader of this site and the comments associated with each post, you’ll occasionally see a comment from someone who signs off as “your sister” (it’s my sister). Most of the comments made here by my sister are riddled with grammatical and spelling errors and I oftentimes call her on it. Not because I’m being mean, but because it’s a pet peeve of mine. I feel that if one is going to take the time to express oneself in a public setting, then one better know how to spell correctly.

So she hasn’t commented here much lately.

And I really thought that she was the only seventeen year old with horrible spelling and grammar skills. But apparently, the class of 2012- the freshmen in High School- are just as bad.

My hometown is called Hasbrouck Heights.

The kids call it “Heights”.

But this is how the girl who decorated my parents house for my sister spells it:

Heights. Or, for the class of 2012- it's h-e-i-g-t-s. Stoopid.

Election Day Prediction

It’s going to be one of two things tonight-

There are either going to be a whole lot of pissed of white people or there are going to be a whole lot of pissed off black people.

Plain and fucking simple.

This is going to be one of either the most incredibly exciting and unpredictable days in most of our lifetimes- or, it’s going to be incredibly underwhelming.

My money’s on the first option.

Blah, blah, blah…get out and vote.

I’m SO ready for Wednesday morning.

And if you’re looking to gather in a place to celebrate (or mourn) tonight- we’re having a party at ABC. Soulgrass Freedom Junction and Brooks West are playing music- doing interlocking sets with MSNBC ont the big-screen and C-Span on the smaller TV’s.

Hang on tight, America. It’s gonna be one helluva week.