by Lauren Rosier
Over 200 artists took over downtown Lancaster during the ninth annual Launch Music Conference and Festival this past weekend. The event was held over a three-day period with music to enjoy for everyone- from country to electropop to a Star Wars heavy metal tribute band.
The festival kicked off on Thursday the 13th with artists performing on eight different stages. I caught the hardcore/spoken word duo of Blind/Bird early Thursday who delivered a solid set of musical poetry. The duo, comprised of Jonathan Gerlach and Benjamin Evans, performed songs about relationships and heartache that were relatable and real.
Bethlehem, PA-based pop punk band, Cedar Green, returned to Launch Music Festival and performed at Lancaster County Convention Center’s Freedom Hall stage. A band you’d see on the Vans Warped Tour, the energetic four-piece played around a 30-minute set featuring songs from their latest EP, recorded with DC-based producer Taylor Larson a year ago. Check them out live at the Barbary in Philadelphia on April 28.
Launch is no stranger to pop punk bands and bands like New Jersey’s Bad Case took the stage at Freedom Hall for a Warped Tour-worthy performance. One of the bigger stories of the weekend was Lancaster’s own Carousel Kings returning home to perform an energetic, killer set to their dedicated hometown fans.
One of the marquee artists, country star Frankie Ballard, performed on Thursday night to full house at Chameleon Club hosted by Lancaster country radio station, I-105. The turnout was spectacular and Ballard’s live show was even better. Ballard was backed by an all-star, three-piece band on guitar, bass, and drums to play a full set lasting at least an hour and a half. The country star performed songs from his latest release, El Rio, including “Cigarette,” “Little Bit of Both,” and “It All Started With a Beer” as well as other tracks like “Sunshine and Whiskey.”
The great thing about Launch is that not only do artists have the opportunity to perform to a large audience, but they also have the opportunity to network with various notable music industry experts. From artist management, public relations, touring, to entertainment attorneys, the musicians and even aspiring music industry professionals, were able network with some of the best in the industry.
The first panel talked about how attendees could have the best conference experience featuring panelists Jim Digby, Jen Kellogg, Kevin Lyman, and Launch founder and owner of The CI Companies, Jeremy Weiss. Other Friday panel topics consisted of bands, solo artists, and business, as well as behind-the-scenes, legal advice, and the conference’s most popular panel, Can You Handle The Truth, with panelists critiquing artists’ music.
A new feature for this year’s Festival was Fest Friday, an outdoor setup at Binn’s Park with three stages featuring the main stage, the York College-sponsored stage, and the acoustic stage. Members of the now defunct York-based alt-rock/indie pop band, Kingsfoil, formed a new project, Astro Lasso. They performed on the main stage Friday night in a beautiful outdoor setting, one they’re not normally used to.
One band you’ve got to see live is Brooklyn’s Midnight Mob. The four-piece hard rock band blends some of the greatest elements of sub-genres to create a sound all their own. Fronted by raspy-vocalist, Blackey Deathproof, the Brooklyn four-piece featuring bassist Carly Quinn, guitarist Mickey Squeeze, and drummer, Beatz, delivered a high-energy show that any rock ‘n roll lover would love.
Rock ‘n roll, however, didn’t take over the stage. The folk/Americana duo, Porter & Sayles, took the main stage following Midnight Mob and if folk music isn’t your thing, it would be after hearing the flawless harmonies paired with the delicate guitars from Porter & Sayles. They’re a duo that you’re going to want to watch.
South Carolina electropop band, Glass Mansions, took over the York College stage, and delivered a killer set featuring songs from their Gossip EP as well as their latest single, “Nightswimming.” The attitude-drenched vocals of Jayna Doyle combined with guitarist Patrick Beardsley and keyboardist Blake Arambula, Glass Mansions is an electropop/rock band that creates music that makes you want to get up and dance. Glass Mansions is yet another band that should be featured on the Vans Warped Tour in the coming years.
Add Philly indie rock band, June Divided, to the list of bands that should be featured on the Vans Warped Tour. The four-piece band is fronted by songstress Melissa Menago and is one of the staples of the Philly music scene. Their recent EP, Body Wars, features some of the band’s greatest songs to-date and their set at Fest Friday introduced the band to the Lancaster music scene.
Saturday opened again with the conference featuring more mentoring sessions, a public relations panel featuring publicists Stephanie Maksimow and Jen Appel from Catalyst Publicity Group, Maria Gironas from Reybee, and Heather Griffith from Fearless Records. The panel talked about probably one of the most important things as an artist: publicity, the way to handle it with fans, and the proper way to approach publicists.
Saturday evening was packed full of incredible performances from tons of artists. Perhaps, one of my favorite discoveries was Baltimore-based rock band, Megosh. The trio is unlike any rock band you’ve heard before; their set was a crazy blend of progressive and melodic hard rock (if that’s even a thing). They performed in nearly perfect conditions outside on the York College stage in the center of downtown Lancaster under the stars and in front of the former Watt & Shand building.
There were so many incredible artists of different genres that performed; some of which I was able to catch, and others that I wanted to see, that I missed. The conference was stacked with industry experts featured at the conference’s panels providing great advice to aspiring musicians and industry professionals. It’s truly incredible that Jeremy Weiss has planned nine successful years of Launch in my hometown of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It’s definitely a must-attend for music industry folks and artists alike from one of the greatest minds in today’s music scene.