The WVRockscene Toast of Ian Thornton


To help celebrate the contributions Ian Thornton has made to the Huntington music scene over the past few years, and in advance of him putting on the second annual Huntington Music and Arts Festival, we went to some knowledgeable cats and asked them their opinions of Ian, and their thoughts on what he has been able to bring to Huntington, whether it’s good talent, good manners, or, just plain old good ideas...

As a musician, a music fan and someone who has both booked bands and birthed a music festival, Ian Thornton’s been on the Huntington scene inside, outside and upside down.

OK, maybe not upside down since he’s still working on his Cirquebass act. But seriously, Thornton’s been one of the most vital conduits in our city as a voice for hooking up music and the people by cultivating and celebrating the scene.

The idea of a music festival, the Huntington Music and Arts Festival, celebrating that music For Us, By Us, is a beautiful one, and one that’s just what we need.

-- Dave Lavender, Huntington Herald-Dispatch

As a music writer, my job is to evaluate and criticize anything within the scene. Ultimately, though, my job is to sift through everything that comes through and decide what warrants the attention of those who might read my work.

Most people think that the job of a promoter is the opposite. Promoters are known as money-grubbing businessmen with little knowledge of music past what is commercially successful.

However, Ian Thornton isn’t a typical promoter. He isn’t concerned with making money as much as he is about getting the word out on quality acts. He’s taken chances and failed, but he’s also been quite successful -- all in the name of championing good music.

But that’s not all. He’s also a musician -- and a thoughtful one at that. He has an ear for what is worthy, and he does his best to help give raw talent a chance.

Regardless of which hat he wears, Ian knows not only what he’s talking about, but how to be effective in both roles. He’s helped jump start a following for numerous local and regional acts as a promoter and has been involved in some stellar acts around Huntington.

If our scene ever needs some kind of representative, we’d be hard pressed to find someone better than Ian Thornton.

-- Dave Mistich, Charleston Daily Mail, Graffiti, WVRockscene

I really enjoy Ian’s hair most of all. He easily has the best alt-country rocker hair in Huntington. I salute him!

-- Chuk Fowlord, WVRockscene

I wish every town had an Ian Thornton. His enthusiasm, dedication, and general hospitality are unrivaled. Ian was the initial factor in making Huntington a true home away from home for both of my bands. Not only is Ian an amazing and accomplished promoter, but also one hell of a musician in his own right. I could tell him thank you a million times and it still wouldn’t do his generosity justice. Huntington is lucky to have Ian, and every band who he has helped tour through is lucky to know him as well.

-- Tucker Riggleman, The Demon Beat/Prison Book Club

Like most people I know in Huntington, I was introduced to Ian by Bud Carroll (the Kevin Bacon of Huntington, if everyone claimed they “know” Kevin Bacon). In fact I was on my way to Bud’s house when Ian called me with the idea of a music festival at Ritter Park. I told him that if anyone else had brought up the idea, I probably would have dismissed it. But Ian is a pugnacious, persistent fellow, who sets his sights on something and makes it happen, so I’m not surprised that he pulled off the first HMAF with flying colors. He is a shaggy haired, music-loving bar rat, so it’s no wonder that about a dozen bands have called on him to play bass in the last couple of years. Yet, when Ian went seeking sponsorships, all by his self, for the most part, companies entrusted him with their most precious asset, MONEY. And I bet he didn’t even wear a tie to the meetings.

Ian gave me far too much credit as an co-organizer for the event, especially considering now he has produced exactly one more music festival than I ever have. All I ever said was “Good idea” a whole bunch of times and, on maybe one occasion, “Bad idea” (there’s not enough body paint in Huntington for THAT).

It’s not even just the festival either; this time Ian has worked with the area’s most popular music venues to promote the fact that live music is happening all around us at these places all year round, and somehow, everyone seems to be working together for a greater good of the “scene.” It seems like Obama could learn a lesson or two on diplomacy from Mr. Thornton who, when the time comes, gets my vote for mayor.

-- Adam Harris, Mountain Stage

Ian Thornton is my friend. Sometimes bands can be like rival packs of wolves circling a carcass trying to get the flank on one another in order to get at the best parts of the dead thing first. The carcass in this case being the microcosm of the Huntington music scene, a low stakes game without much pay out on its best day. The wolf packs were our former bands The Love Coats, and American Minor.

A lot of people on the local scene resented us for our success and did a pretty transparent job of masking the fact.

Ian Thornton was not one of those people. I can remember his smile and affable demeanor upon our first meeting at a show we played together at the old Monkey Bar/Huntington Music Hall. We might have met before this, but this is the first time I can clearly remember as I was living in Illinois at the time and was rarely in Huntington at this point. I would have no clue how much things would change for me, and even less of a clue how much of a part of my life he would become. This was 2005.

Flash forward to sometime in 2008. My post-American Minor outfit was releasing our first EP at Shamrocks Pub. Ian and I are actually friends at this point. We hang out on a regular basis, mainly at bars, but friends nonetheless. We are treated so well by Ian that I rarely play any other Huntington venue for the next two years.

2009 -- I fill the lead guitar spot in The Whirling Dervish. Ian and I unknowingly become band members because once TWD disbands we start recording an album that is abandoned then reconvened in the form of a group that is now known as The AC30.

2010 to present -- I am a regular at Shamrocks Pub. I struggle with mild to intermediate social anxiety and work pretty hard to overcome it. Mostly without the aid of alcohol, it’s tough to feel comfortable at bars when you aren’t drinking yet. Shamrocks with Ian at the helm was one place where I really felt welcome and comfortable. The Deadbeats Sunday nights became an institution. Ian created a situation where anyone could come and get on the stage and feel welcome and comfortable. He always treated the groups more than fair. And if an out of town band only brought a few heads Ian would kick them money out of the bar sales to get them to the next destination.

In a world where bands are treated like second class citizens by most clubs I ask, who does that? Answer: Ian Thornton.

2010 to present -- Ian Thornton and Shamrocks part ways. Much blood is shed and many fear a division in the already fragmented scene. Most people would hang up their hat. Ian puts even more effort and time into the second annual Huntington Music and Arts Festival after losing money out of his pocket the first year. I for one love him so much and believed in his idea that I orchestrated the first American Minor reunion in hopes of bringing enough people to make a success of the event.

This year he doesn’t need help. His efforts are going to come to fruition and by next year don’t be surprised if the amphitheater won’t hold HMAF. This is due to the tireless efforts of Ian, a man who I am proud to call my friend and band mate. Long live Ian Thornton!

-- Bud Carroll

Support the Huntington Music and Arts Festival in the Pepsi Refresh Contest by following this link and voting for HMAF to receive $10,000 in grant money. Vote by midnight Sunday though, as the contest expires at the end of the month.

Pepsi Refresh Contest link:

HMAF online:

And Ian needs some volunteers to help with this year’s HMAF:
(Reposted & truncated from Facebook)

Hey guys and gals, HMAF is gonna need some volunteers this year to help out with such things as selling beer and food, merch booth, taking tickets, etc., and could use your help. Trust me, none of this is going to be very strenuous and it’s all within the festival grounds so you’ll still get to watch the acts on stage while you work.

We also won’t be putting you to work for the entire festival, just a shift or two so it leaves you plenty of time to enjoy your HMAF. We’re going to need at least 20-30 people to be able to provide all the essentials for the festival.

1. Free admission to festival and all 3 shows that coincide
2. Free lunch
3. Free drinks (non-alcoholic of course)
4. A really cool HMAF Staff t-shirt

If you are interested, please shoot me a message on [Facebook] or my email (2010hmaf@gmail.com) and I’ll send you the application for you to fill out. Thanks for your contribution to HMAF!

-- Ian Thornton

Related: HMAF Fundraiser Party Saturday at the V Club in Huntington with Deadbeats & Barkers, Qiet, and Grim Charles

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