Local musicians help to launch others’ careers
Mark’s Place strikes the right chord with local musicians
Southern Maryland musicians looking to record some of their music could do a lot worse than heading to Mark’s Place, a small nondescript house tucked off Route 231. The home — which is identified only by a small sign and a faded blue guitar nailed to the mailbox — has offered Southern Maryland musicians an opportunity to hone their craft for the past several years.
“What we’re doing is offering a whole complete band for that individual songwriter that can maybe sing or play guitar or specialty instruments like the horn or a keyboard,” said 57-year-old Mark Lambert, who once performed with 1980s bands Joss and Icebreakers, and now plays several instruments in addition to his duties as producer and sound engineer. “You get to have your music and your name put on an album. Where a normal studio would run you thousands of dollars for each song, we don’t charge anything. We help them complete their song. If you’ve never been recorded before, this is the place to go.”
The band released an eightsong CD in November, and plans to release an unplugged disc sometime in February. Albums are available at www. cdbaby.com.
Harley Mike Gibbons, who graduated from Calvert High School in 2003 and was a guitarist and lead vocalist with Crossfire from 2003 to 2010, joined the house band at Mark’s Place a few months ago and helped put out the first CD. The 33-year-old Huntingtown resident will record his own song, “Rock to My Roll,” on the unplugged disk.
“It was absolutely great because I was finally able to hear my music played the way I’ve heard it in my head for years and couldn’t physically do it,” said Gibbons, who is a service manager at All-American Harley-Davidson in Hughesville. “I can’t play two guitars at a time, I’m not a drummer and the same thing with keyboards, so it was great to hear other musicians’ takes on my material and my creations and see where it goes. They’re creative, they’re easy-going, and they’re doing it for the right reasons, which is for the love of music.”
Vocalist and bassist Matt Archer, who was a member of 69 Band, had written some music while he was a member of Frederick County-based Beyond The Blues, and happened to meet Lambert about a month ago.
Lambert “had a truck driving song,” said Archer, who has been a truck driver for 27 years and is now a member of the house band, “and I said, ‘Well, I found the right spot to be in.’”
Archer — who once recorded at the renowned Muscle Shoals recording studio in Alabama, which Lynyrd Skynyrd sings about in “Sweet Home Alabama” — did vocals for the “18 Wheels Rolling” tune, which is slated to appear on the upcoming CD.
Other house musicians include keyboardist Steve Gibbons and vocalist Stevie Rae Koncen.
“We do it for the compassion for it, the love for it,” said house drummer Wade “Squatch Man” Richards, who has performed with Boyz From Virginia and once had a tryout for KISS in the 1970s. “It’s in our blood, it’s always been in our blood. When you’re a musician, either you have it or you don’t, and when you do have it, you eat, drink and sleep it. It’s a way of life.”
The only caveat to performing with the band is that musicians must have original material.
“We’re trying to push the music and help them inspire themselves,” Lambert said. “We all did the cover thing for years, and now it’s time for us to express ourselves and help others express themselves. We suppressed ourselves by playing covers for 10 years. But not everybody can [write original music]. Not everybody has that original thing; it’s easier for people to follow things they can hear. To create something right there on the spot that comes right from your soul? There’s no better feeling.”
“It’s like opening a present,” said house band vocalist and harmonica player Daniel Hinchliffe, who has performed with several bands, including Rampage and the United States Navy-based Seabees. “You never know what you’re going to get.”
And in the case of Harley Mike Gibbons, there was no doubt he had a gift.
“We assess musicians by how they fit in, and when Harley Mike came in I handed him some words and he started singing and I thought, ‘OK, this guy has no problem,’” Lambert said. “A good musician will just pick up new music easily, and for Harley Mike it was no struggle for him at all.”
It was also no struggle when the band first heard Koncen, who lives in St. Mary’s County and works as a server in La Plata.
Richards met Koncen at a tattoo parlor and was blown away after he watched a video of her performing a Led Zeppelin song, and invited her to Mark’s Place.
“They all thought I was the boy who cried wolf because she never called, but she finally called and came in here and we were all just floored when she started singing,” Richards said. “It’s just the emotion and
the soul she puts into it, and she’s a tiny girl. It’s incredible. She has a very wide range; she doesn’t have a wheelhouse. We haven’t seen anything she hasn’t been able to sing yet.”
“The first time she came over she said, ‘Let’s do a cover just to warm up,’” Lambert said, referring to “Stormy Monday” by T-Bone Walker. “She’d never heard the song before but she sang it — one time, live — and it was so good it’s on the CD.”
The band produced three songs that day, including “Baby Girl,” which Koenen wrote for her daughter, that will be on the upcoming album.
“They’re awesome,” said the 26-year-old Koncen, who graduated from La Plata High School in 2010 and was trained in classical opera. “They give good feedback. They’ve been playing a lot longer than I have, but I think we compliment each other.”
But not everyone is cut out for the studio.
“You have to watch out because you have a tendency to hurt feelings,” said Lambert, who also looks for a musician’s timing, versatility, attitude and ego. A musician might “have it in their mind what [a song] should sound like and you’re up there thinking, ‘If we did this it might make it a little
better.’ Some people get offended by it, but those with open minds have no problems.”
The band said they usually know right away when a musician has what it takes. “We had a guy a couple weeks ago and we started jamming,” said Richards. “If you’re a musician, the music just flows, but he was one step behind or one step below and it just didn’t work out.”
Musicians who have attended sessions at Mark’s Place have — through help from a large tome that contains an extensive list of available musicians — formed bands including Dunkirk’s Drive Train and Charles County’s Average Joes.
“We want to get Southern Maryland noticed because we have some great musicians here,” Lambert said.
Contact Lambert at 4433-771-0423 or marklam[email protected]hoo.com, or find Mark’s Place on Facebook.
Dan Hinchliffe, left, and Mark Lambert jam during a recent session at Mark’s Place.
Wade Richards pounds the drums during a recent jam session at Mark’s Place.
Mark’s Place will be releasing an unplugged album featuring local musicians in February.
Harley Mike Gibbons, who graduated from Calvert High School in 2003 and was a guitarist and lead vocalist with Crossfire from 2003 to 2010, will record his own song, “Rock To My Roll” on the band’s upcoming unplugged disk.
Stevie Rae Koncen records at Mark’s Place during a recent jam session. Her song “Baby Girl,” a tribute to her daughter, will be on the band’s upcoming unplugged album.
Matt Archer records “18 Wheels Rolling,” which will be on the band’s unplugged album, during a recent session at Mark’s Place.