"Philly Music Conference '96"

by Geoff Wilbur

October 30 through November 2, 1996, music industry professionals and musicians converged on Philadelphia's Doubletree Hotel for four nights and three days of information exchanging, schmoozing, and merriment. New York industry attendance was strong, with Thursday night showcasing bands benefiting from the many label execs who made the trek but went home for the weekend. Seminars were well attended, and the wide variety of music played by showcasing bands was impressive.

Here are reviews of some of the showcases I caught in Philly:

Philadelphia's Central Figures performed that catchy, hooky, pop/rock (with an edge) thing, as drummer Rusty Crowe joined Jim McGinty and Chris Coward for this gig. The three standouts were "True to Life" and the more uptempo, rockin' "This Lonely Notion" and "Porch Swing."

Dayton, Ohio's Jayne Sachs delivered her usual top notch show. There was a raw edge to Jayne's band's straight-up, nineties-flavored, catchy rock, complete with its offbeat lyrics (as in "Me & Bogie" and "The Cigar Song") and Jayne's trademark, identifiable vocal style.

Block delivered an acoustic set that showcased his songwriting skills and performance skills. He is the consummate lyricist whose emphatic acoustic guitarwork augments his charged vocal style. His music feels fun, but it makes you think if you aren't careful. This Burning Bush/Radical recording artist is a big league talent with the potential to break a national mega-hit.

Epic Records' emmet swimming had the crowd dancing and weaving like a room full of drunk drivers. This band is powered by strong vocals and catchy bass and rhythm guitar lines. The songs are catchy, dance-inspiring, alternative, radio ready pop.

Of the several top notch blues-based rock bands I caught there (and I'm guessing there's so much great unsigned blues rock out there because so little of it is getting signed), Bayonne, NJ's Bad Attitude particularly impressed me with its set of original, catchy, melodic, blues-based, groovin', take-no-prisoners hard rock. When necessary, they also can turn a good blues-based rock ballad.

There were two showcases I'm particularly sorry to have missed, though scheduling conflicts necessitated it. Niagara Falls' Kama Sutra is absolutely mesmerizing live, while Toledo's unique, original Uncle Knucklefunk puts on a massive, lively, fun, big time rock show. (I've caught showcases from both bands at Undercurrents in Cleveland in years past.)

My trip to Philly wasn't all high-powered music biz stuff, though. Every year on the weekend following Halloween, near Lewes, Delaware, the annual World Championship Punkin' Chunkin' is held. (This year was the 11th annual.) It's a two day event, featuring rides, food booths, other county fair-type events, and a live music stage. But what it's all about is the heaving of pumpkins through the air via manpower, mechanical power, and explosive power. It's a one-of-a-kind event.

I attended the first of the two days, Saturday, in place of a day at the PMC. It's an experience. The music that day was opened by Beatlemania, whose true-to-life Beatles covers had the crowd dancing. Mainstream, strumming, slightly alternative rockers Mercy River followed, losing the battle for most of their crowd on the already chilly day to a suddenly appearing sleet storm. Still, as they listened to Mercy River from more sheltered areas, those in attendance were treated to, among other songs, the incredibly catchy "Maybe I'm Lucky." Mercy River was followed by the Platters, who were lucky Mercy River's drummer could read music, since he had to sit in the first few songs until the Platters' drummer arrived. It was a fun diversion that included some good music, but the weekend belonged to the PMC.

Watch the RENEGADE for PMC '97 information as next fall approaches. The PMC is always at the end of October. If it wraps around the weekend following Halloween, you may want to consider setting the music biz aside for an afternoon and adding a side trip to Delaware for something REALLY unique... and some music, too..

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