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:
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 (email@example.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
photo: Gordon Grant
L-R: John E. Sizemore, Jude Blevins, Jon Dunlap, and Jason Robinson (plus the not pictured Jimbo Valentine) comprise the improvisational rock project The Elvis Presley Murder Files, which plays the V Club Thursday night, and really doesn’t know who killed Elvis...
Reposted from The Huntington Herald-Dispatch
Gathering on a Sunday to rehearse for just their second gig, the guys in The Elvis Presley Murder Files practice just like they play: by the seat of their pants.
The instrumental, improvisational rock outfit brought back to life by guitarist John E. Sizemore and bassist Jason “Roadblock” Robinson, whether it’s live on stage, or live at Sizemore’s house, makes it a point to shake things up and throw any semblance of musical structure out the window.
And before you get to how, really, what EPMF is doing is closer to jazz than what a lot of area rock bands are doing, you have to get the easiest, yet toughest, question out of the way: who killed Elvis?
“I don’t know if Elvis was murdered, and really, I don’t care,” Sizemore said to some group laughter, whilst throwing out the hypothetical suspects of Jerry Lee Lewis, and maybe Richard Nixon.
The Elvis Presley Murder Files play the V Club Thursday night as part of the This Ain’t No Disco series.
After the subject of “the king” had left the building, the discussion turned to what makes EPMF unique as a rock and roll project. Started out originally by Sizemore and a friend a few years ago, and recently re-animated with his Scrap Iron Pickers band mate Roadblock, the two each point out that they really don’t know what to expect on stage.
“We do the same thing here at practice that we do at the shows, pretty much,” Sizemore said. “We might start out loosely with a theme, and then somebody will start on something and that’s it. We’re getting a little more structured, but not really. There might be one or two songs structured for this next show, but they probably won’t be the same for the show.”
After recruiting drummer Jude Blevins and guitarist Jon Dunlap for their first show in April, and bringing on Huntington’s Jimbo Valentine for synth and ambient duties, Elvis Presley Murder Files was fully formed.
“It’s jazz,” Robinson explained. “In traditional jazz a group of musicians would show up at a club, someone would yell out a key, and sometimes they’d have a melody to go off of, and they’d start playing. It’s come to the point now where jazz is even getting more structured. And that’s why I call the Scrap Iron Pickers jazz, too. It’s almost more progressive fusion, and a little heavier. But Elvis Presley Murder Files is like pure, freeform jazz. It doesn’t matter what anybody is doing, it’s just musicians making music together in an improvisational way.”
“And not to compare us to Miles Davis, but hell, he didn’t practice with those musicians,” Sizemore said jumping back in. “They showed up for the gig and did the gig. And that’s kind of what we’re doing in spirit.”
“It’s just freeform improvisation,” Roadblock continued. “If people come to see the show, they might not correlate it to jazz, but that’s what it is. But, we don’t do heroin, so it’s not jazz, and we all take baths, so it’s not hippie,” the bassist said to much laughter.
Blevins, a member of the Huntington-area doom/drone band Hyatari, having driven an hour and forty-five minutes to rehearse at Sizemore’s Nitro home, said the Elvis Presley Murder style suits him just fine.
“It’s kind of like Satchell, when me and John [Vanover] get together; open and freeform. You’ve got to have some fun with it.”
While comparing and contrasting what they do in Elvis Presley Murder Files to Scrap Iron Pickers, Roadblock said the former wouldn’t exist if not for the latter.
“I think the Scrap Iron Pickers’ CD [Redeeming Metal/Union] actually pushed us more to do Elvis Presley Murder Files. On the second half of the CD [Union] we went out and actively looked for people we wanted to play with, and brought them in the studio to record.
“That’s the difference between Scrap Iron Pickers and Elvis Presley Murder Files; [EPMF] is just like a different personality of us. Some of the Elvis Presley Murder riffs, you might hear in Scrap Iron Pickers stuff, and vice versa. But Scrap Iron Pickers is more structured. Elvis Presley Murder Files is no limits, no rules or nothing.”
Sizemore said the collaboration in Scrap Iron Pickers, and the musical chemistry between him and Roadblock, lends itself well to the unstructured style Elvis Presley Murder is going for.
“Block’s a good friend. And he’s a good friend I make music with.”
“We kind of know what each other will do musically,” Roadblock said, jumping back in. “And we don’t have any big hang-ups in our lives outside of music.”
“We’re just musicians making music like everybody should be playing, not getting hung up on who’s writing what and playing what,” Sizemore said. “We all constantly write, so whoever wants to can bring anything to the table. There’s no standstill with the music.”
While saying that he makes it as high a priority as his and everyone else’s life allows, Sizemore said he hopes to continue the fun times making music.
“I want to keep doing this. Absolutely.”
Maybe unwittingly drawing a parallel between the Elvis Presley Murder style and their own lives, Roadblock summed it all up.
“Sometimes it can fall apart, but the cool part is bringing it back together.”
IF YOU GO:
The Elvis Presley Murder Files
Where: The V Club, 741 6th Ave., (304) 781-0680
When: Thursday, July 28, 10 p.m.
Recently, Mike Ferrell, bassist for the newly formed Huntington band Pilot the Machine, introduced us to his band online, so we thought it was more than appropriate to catch up with him for a Q&A in advance of their debut show tonight at Shamrocks.
Topics include the member’s (Scott Ryan: vocals; Ferrell: bass; Jeremy Clarke & Chris Young: guitar; Ryne Arthur: drums) experience in other relatively successful acts, West Virginia rock band stereotypes, recording new songs with Barry Smith, and oh yes, maybe most important; having fun rocking out...
WVRockscene: You guys have all been in other bands that achieved some level of success, how does having honed your chops so to say in your previous bands help give you a head start, even though you’re a relatively new band?
Mike Ferrell: Well from my personal standpoint I have learned a lot about the music industry in general, some good things and a lot of bad things...LOL. I have always been a hard worker and shameless self promoter in bands I’ve been in and all of us being in previous bands we feel we have all paid our dues, so I don’t buy into the fact that every new project you’re in, you have to go through this painful pay-your-dues mentality that the music industry throws at you.
I’ve made a lot of good contacts in the business with stints in previous bands in Florida mostly when I was in Spun. We recorded our debut CD at Paramount Studios in L.A. with Barry Conley producing (Chili Peppers, Sugar Ray, L7) so in that aspect I got to see first hand how some of the top producers work and what all is involved. Also got to see the bad side of things as we had a crooked manager who liked to steal from us which eventually led to our breakup, so you live and learn I guess.
I filled in on bass for Crossbreed for a brief time when they fired Charlie Parker (previous bassist on Synthetic Division - Artemis/Sony) and although my wife and I had just had a baby and couldn’t commit to a full-time gig with them, I learned a lot about the record industry and touring -- most of them not pretty LOL, and a lot of pressure to produce results.
Moving back here from that scene not long ago was really eye opening. I want to help create a better and thriving scene like it was back in the days of Chum and even Guru Lovechild and such, where people actually came out to shows, etc. (side note - I grew up and been good friends with Chris [Tackett] and have known John [Lancaster] and Mac [Walker] since they were like 14 years old, LOL, glad they’re making a little comeback.)
It just seems like the bands around here always want to trash each other or compete against each other instead of helping each other and working together to make this scene great once again. The talent is here, with a lot of great bands, but just hard to get everyone to get along, lol. That’s how it was on the Florida scene; everyone helped each other out and no one said or put down other bands. I honestly never heard or seen anything like that. That is one big reason their scene thrives like it does: it’s not just all talent, etc.
We have good enough and great talent here that’s not the problem at all -- it’s getting more people interested in coming out to shows, which will lead to more clubs opening because they would then have the support and which will lead more bands forming or relocating to this area, etc. It’s like a windfall effect, but it starts with bands helping each other and supporting one another.
The other members have all been in successful local bands as well, and so once again even though we are new to the scene as this band we are all seasoned overall, so to speak. Sorry for the ramble, just want this scene to be the best it can be! That’s why I’m so grateful for people like you that give it their all to make this scene the best it can be...and the club owners for stepping up to the plate and keeping live music in their clubs and giving bands like us a chance to do what we love to do!!!
rockscene: How and when did you guys meet/form and coalesce around a sound?
Ferrell: We’ve actually only been together going on roughly 6 months. I met [singer] Scott [Ryan] about a year ago through Band Mix I believe and we started working on a project similar to this one but it fell through and he reformed The Apology, and I stepped in on bass, but then eventually that folded and we were luckily enough to have met the other members through friends and various show we had done with them in the past...so it all just kinda came together...we started jamming and basically had 10 songs written in a few months and transformed from there.
rockscene: In your ReverbNation bio you talk about trying or wanting to dispel stereotypical attitudes when it comes to the music and/or bands coming out of the Tri-State area in general, and West Virginia specifically; do you think these kinds of attitudes or stereotypes from out-of-state sources hold area bands back?
Ferrell: Well honestly I think it does to some extent, I mean some bands can pull it off by playing to that mentality. We want to be taken serious, and sometimes people that live in bigger cities don’t respect that because of the mindset they have of bands from West Virginia or Kentucky.
I think this area has some super talented bands that I would put up against the best bands in any city in America, but somehow the industry as a whole doesn’t give these bands the respect that they deserve. They think that because you live in New York City or L.A. that you’re great.
Well we have great bands here as well! Hate to go back to Chum, but I mean they were one of the most underrated bands ever. A lot to do with them being from West Virginia in my opinion. Same with Bobaflex, Split Nixon, Karma To Burn -- the list goes on and on; great bands, and all deserve better than what they are getting respect-wise from the so-called industry.
rockscene: You’ve got these new songs you recorded with Barry Smith, who more recently worked with John Lancaster on Phantom Moon, how excited are you for people to hear those and what is up with getting a full-length debut out?
Ferrell: Barry’s a great engineer and friend. I’ve known Barry, gosh probably 18 or more years. Awesome to work with and I have so much respect for him as a musician as well. We recorded three previous songs in another studio and ended up not really being happy with their turnout and sound.
Barry was able to bring out our sound and was able to have us step up to another level. We’ll be going back to him in the very near future again for sure. Once again, although we are still in the early stages of this band (especially writing) we all feel our best material is yet to come. We just wanted to get a couple songs recorded and out to see if we could generate some interest. We want to write about four or five more additional songs to choose from, and then we will probably go in with Barry and do a full-length release. Hopefully over the winter at the latest.
rockscene: You’re playing Shamrocks tonight, -- between the debut, new songs, and just being a new band, it’s got to be an exciting time for you guys right?
Ferrell: We’re super stoked to be playing Shamrocks with Unload as they make their return to the scene after a little hiatus. Shamrocks will rock tonight for sure. Hope everyone reading this will come check it out and hang out with us and Unload...we promise a great show and a fun time!!!
--- Pilot the Machine plays Shamrocks Irish Pub (2050 3rd Ave.) in Huntington tonight.
CD: Bullshit Walks
ARTIST: The Demon Beat
Two words might best describe the songs found on Bullshit Walks, the new 10-song release from The Demon Beat, and those words are as follows: primal energy.
It’s this energy, not unfamiliar to fans of the Shepherdstown-area retro-rock trio, that is captured and is put on display for all to hear on this, their fifth release in as many years.
Whether this energy springs from sexual tension (likely), lovelorn isolation (likely), or band related aspirations and frustrations (unlikely) is for Adam Meisterhans, Tucker Riggleman and Jordan Hudkins to know, and for us to find out. But who cares? People who hear it know it.
Evoking something like The Who + The Stooges equaling some neo-grunge, garage-based power rock three-piece, with echo/reverb-drenched vocals, cavernous, almost 80’s rock band drums, this review, given the guitars in parts, can be filed under feedback and distortion.
Following up on their eight-“movement” concept record 1956, the band seems to have incorporated some of the guitar tones from that release into their previously known melodic rock (pretty progressions & changes, well placed jammed out and sometimes experimental bridges, hooks and epic choruses inside of the loud/soft dynamic song structure) output, still, with Meisterhans’ familiar, alternately soulful crooning and gnarly singing.
Standout tracks for us include “Give Me All Your Money,” a song that might tie together the band’s discography, (or not) “Get It” reminding you maybe of old Weezer, but for us, the best is to be found last on Bullshit Walks.
“Bang” sounds like it’s right out of 1956, a prom song only Marty McFly could sing to get his parents to fall in love, or at least just have sex, with Adam, Tucker and Jordan’s plane crashing into a mountain after the show, further cementing their place in rock and roll history. Or, not. A great, swaying, pretty song, though, that sums up the aforementioned isolation, desperation and sexual frustration, with a killer, distorted guitar solo thrown in that would blow away all those squares at the dance!
“Totally Blissed Out” is five minutes worth of slow-building, pummeling instrumental noise rock. And “I’m Not Really There” closes Bullshit Walks out with more hard driving, distorted guitar rock, and while the lyrics (“I want what I want, and what I want, it ain’t mine…I’m all out of good ideas…”) sound down in the dumps, the song is somehow uplifting, providing a nice end to the record.
That The Demon Beat has been self-recording and self-releasing (this time with help from Caustic Eye and art, again by Hudkins) their material only makes them even more punk rock, even more DIY than most bands. That they’ve established themselves, but still have a chip on their shoulder, and haven’t lost that energy and desperation that makes rock and roll great, will only continue to win them more fans, whether they get laid and/or rich and famous, or, not.
mp3: “Bang” by The Demon Beat
CD: The Line
ARTIST: Jeff Ellis
There might not be any better day to review a Jeff Ellis CD than the Fourth of July.
Ellis, the Chapmanville native and South Charleston resident, who, having turned his experience in the Middle East as a member of the Army Reserves into now four records’ worth of rockin’ Americana, folk, bluegrass, alt-country, and yeah, rock, returns right in time for the Fourth with his new 10-song EP The Line.
Like on his previous efforts, A Front Seat for the End of the World, Covering the Distance, and most recently, The Forgetting Place, Ellis’ lyrical themes cover topics sung from only the perspective a soldier and a veteran can sing from.
Subjects totally appropriate to appreciate on Independence Day: faith, family, and friends -- but run through the prism of being involved in a foreign war, and maybe losing your own faith in it.
This ain’t Lee Greenwood or Sean Hannity’s version of a soldier’s diary, though. Like many soldiers before him, Ellis quite clearly has been finding his way through this whole thing with his own questions and doubts over the past decade, as the war on terror has continued without any end in sight.
But where The Forgetting Place and Covering the Distance touched lightly on the war, they seemed to hover mainly around Ellis’ own experience “coming home,” as it were.
The Line finds Ellis returning to more conflict-oriented themes and thoughts, like on AFSFTEOTW, with his continued branching off into a more alt-country and bluegrass sound than what was found on that great, iconic record.
There are killer, sludgy, dirty riff rock songs, “God Ain’t On Our Side No More” and the very nicely redone “In My Time of Dying.” Ellis, throughout, displays his vocal range, from delicate rasp to guttural power.
But on alt-country and bluegrass songs like “For You,” “Hard Times,” the somber title track and “How Do You Fight a War Like This?” Ellis not only finds the domestic job front lacking, and his friends unable to understand what he’s dealt with as a soldier, he ends up having most of what he ever believed in thrown into doubt, and turned upside down.
Maybe no song encapsulates Ellis’ own attitudes more than the dreamy alt-country tune “Tim’s War,” sung from the perspective of a soldier who signed up for the army after 9/11 to avenge the attack, ends up in Afghanistan, but over 400 days of fighting, moving past revenge, just wanting to get home, now arrives home with doubt and unease at “a darker perspective only vets understand.”
Just as on the aforementioned records, Ellis, on The Line enlists the help of friends Bud Carroll, Jimmy Lykens, Steve Barker and Jon Cavendish (of the now defunct Southern Souls) along with his Guinness Clarke’s Wine friend Phil James.
But Ellis recruits even more guest musicians on this one. Ed Price, Mike Parker and Bobby Withers (who rocks lead guitar on “God Ain’t On Our Side”) round out the sound throughout on pedal steel, banjo and guitar. Ellis is joined on vocal duty by Jess Kauffman and Lauren Weldy (always a nice touch) and he welcomes Sasha Colette and the Magnolias for an alternate, stripped down bonus version of “Dying Days,” before closing the EP out with a bonus, acoustic version of “God Ain’t On Our Side.”
Ellis even has Eddie Ashworth making appearances as a guest musician, and this is worth noting to point out the very coherent sound Ashworth has helped Ellis achieve in the studio over these past few records. Just as Ellis writes great, well-arranged songs, has help from great musicians, and makes great records, there is a very consistent sonic thread that permeates and transcends Ellis’ records; a feat for any musician to achieve in any studio.
If there’s ever a Jeff Ellis Greatest Hits or compilation of the songs from AFSFTEOTW through Covering the Distance and The Forgetting Place now into The Line, if you shook up the records and made your own mixtape, it would, even with the skipping of the genres, all sound like it was from the same recording sessions.
But this is a great EP to check out just to keep tabs on Ellis and keep in touch with where he’s at, in a sense. He has been able to take his experiences in the desert, and with his acoustic guitar, make what can only be called real national treasures, and this one arrives right in time for the Fourth of July.
mp3: “God Ain’t On Our Side No More” by Jeff Ellis