WVRockscene's top 10 songs of 2008

10 "Trainwreck" by The Demon Beat

9 "Rocketship" by Attack Flamingo

8 "Useless" by The Red Velvet

7 "Out Of Nowhere" by The Concept

6 "Not This Time" by The Emergency

5 "Kill Our Idols" by '85 Flood

4 "Stand Up And Be Counted" by Bud Carroll and The Southern Souls

3 "Everything Changes" by Sarasota

2 "Grandpa's Place" by Jeff Ellis

1 "Your Song" by The Dig-Its


Marinelli Does Morgantown

J Marinelli returns to Morgantown to help close out 2008 with holiday shows at 213 Green Street Saturday and a New Year's Eve show at 123 Pleasant Street. It's been only a few months since he and his angry one-man band left Magic Town for Lexington, Kentucky. Since then, he's returned for the 123 anniversary show and was honored by a whole slew of Morgantown musicians on the "Morgantown Does Marinelli" compilation.

Marinelli said over e-mail that he's settled in and Lexington is treating him well. "I'm teaching English at the University of Kentucky, and playing some good shows. Kind of like what I did in Morgantown, but with different scenery. Plus, one thing I noticed about Lexington (and most of Kentucky, for that matter) is that, like Canada, everyone is very, very kind."

For the most part, Marinelli said he and his one-man act have been well-received at Lexington-area shows. "It has varied, but for the most part people -- especially other musicians -- have been very kind and enthusiastic."

When asked about "the Lexington scene" and any cool bands and venues, Marinelli dropped more names than we could shorten, so we reposted it below:

"The Dame (which is essentially Lexington's 123 Pleasant Street), Cultural Preservation Research (a DIY spot that has shows five or six nights out of the week), Lower 48 (a new basement club), Al's Bar (is kind of like a pub -- very good food as well -- which focuses more on roots music like alt-country, bluegrass, and rockabilly), and Brooklyn Pizza (a pizza joint upstairs from Lower 48 that has all-ages punk shows -- awesome). There are also house shows on a regular basis."

"Apples In Stereo (who more or less live in Lexington now, which is awesome because they've been a Marinelli favorite for more than a decade now), Tight Leather, Very Emergency, Infected, The Loaded Nuns, Idaho, Alaska, The Teenagers Responsible, Attempt, Hair Police, All-American Werewolves, Cadaver In Drag, Big Fresh, Killer Meteor, and many many more... all awesome."

"There's also a VERY strong hip-hop scene: Cunninglinguists (you might want to check on the spelling of that), Devine Cerama, JustMe, etc."

"I should also mention WRFL (88.1 -- www.wrfl.fm), Radio Free Lexington -- a radio station that is on par with East Orange, New Jersey's legendary WFMU. And I'm not just saying that because they put "Keep It Fake" into rotation either."

"Lastly, there are some great record stores as well: the amazing CD Central (ask the guys in Fox Japan about that place), POPS Resale (used everything -- miles of vinyl), and The Album (all hip-hop, very underground)."

Marinelli will definitely be staying busy over the holidays, as he is set for a steady string of important rock-related dates. Saturday is the show at Green St. with Slate Dump and Rifle Camp; Sunday, he travels to D.C. for a show at The Black Cat with Stewart Lupton and George Karos (Marinelli was recently favorably blurbed in the Washington Post); Monday, he'll head into Paul Cogle's Echoes recording studio in Falling Waters (listed at 9 a.m. sharp on his MySpace page) to re-record "Pre-Emptive Skankery," the follow-up to "Keep It Fake."

"I've recorded two different versions of that record and I'm satisfied with neither of them...We'll see if the third time truly is a charm." We'll also note real fast here that the "Stone Age Kicks, Volume I" is available now on cassette, and Marinelli said that Volume II will be out next year.

Later Monday night he'll rock The Blue Moon Cafe in Shepherdstown with The Bloody Nines, and will head back to Morgantown, take Tuesday off, most likely, and play the 123 NYE show Wednesday night with One Hundred Hurricanes and Lake and Ocean.

Marinelli said he was looking forward to seeing people at the shows and during the holidays, and admitted that he was flattered that everyone had came together on the "Morgantown Does Marinelli" compilation.

"Being presented with that collection truly was my "George Bailey Moment." If you don't know what I'm talking about then you should probably watch more TV around this time of year."

--- photo: Andy Pickens


WVRockscene's top 10 CDs of 2008

10 Bud Carroll and the Southern Souls (EP)

This super-solid seven-song debut effort is a nice introduction to one of the best guitar players around, and now that the band has added Jon Cavendish on piano/organ, the Black Crowes-esque sound you hear on songs like the reggae-flavored "Stand Up And Be Counted" will match up with what you see with the live act. "Hell Raisin' Kind," "Time Don't Wait Around," and "I Don't Believe You" are the more rockin' tracks; "It's Been A Minute" shows the softer side of the former American Minor member. Now, with his own band, Carroll looks to develop his own following, which he and the band have been doing quite nicely. Maybe it's the solos.

9 "Know It All" by The Dig-Its

We actually avoided visiting this band's MySpace profile when they started uploading the new tunes back in, like, March, before we got the CD. We're glad we waited, so as not to spoil the surprise to the follow-up to their eponymous "Green CD" that we picked up what seems like a lifetime ago. "Better Days" and "Goddamn Shame" hew close to The Dig-Its timeless version or punk and/or rock; "Summer Days" and "Wrong Way" are more recent-sounding incarnations of punk, "Mama Tried" approaches rockabilly, and "Your Song" -- well, it's one of our favorite songs of the year, honestly. We're still trying to get the opening riffs of it as a ringtone for the cellphone we haven't bought yet. The band may have a different singer these days, but they're still one of our faves.

8 "The Empire Penguin Strikes Back" by The Concept

Their first stab at a CD was, in their own words, not that great an idea. With this seven-song effort, our friends in The Concept prove that they can kick out the jams on CD just like they do live. Newer songs like "Ye To The 10th Degree" and "Out Of Nowhere" have Team THC branching out stylistically, maybe. You also get some songs you may have heard if you've been writing "The Concept" on your eyelids, batting your eyes at the band, like "That's The One," "Not The Only" and their growl-core version of Tom Petty's "Learning To Fly." The CD closes with the instrumental "Ben's Song," showing that they can do stuff besides write songs about guitar picks falling into some awesome tasting artificial fruit drink. Oh yeah.

As much as we love this band, they are at a bit of a disadvantage in the countdown here 'cuz we're so familiar with 'em; if we'd have got this CD in the mail, not having any clue about who these guys are, we'd have peed our pants.

7 The Emergency (EP)

The third installment in, as we call it, "The Trilogy" finds this Magic Town trio finally reaching the end of its run. This superbly produced nine-song effort, however, has all the catchy Brit-rock you've come to know and love, and is a solid follow-up to "Doo-Lang Doo-Lang" and their first CD, "How Can You Move?" Richly layered songs, with the dynamic duo of frontman Rob Wehrle and bassist Aaron Crothers setting the band apart. "Not This Time" nicely encapsulates the band's two-minute pop side, "Soaking Up The Scene" is the Brit-rock side, and the bittersweet "Bring On The Good Times" is an apt way to close up shop. Seriously, we've loved all the CDs from these guys.

6 "No Star Could Be As Large" by Attack Flamingo

So these guys e-mail us one day and are all like "Check out our CD and stuff!" -- we're paraphrasing, but we're glad we took Attack Flamingo's advice. Where the Blues Brothers were on a mission from god, Attack Flamingo is on a mission to god, with all their well-written, catchy, synth-based space rock.

"Rocketship" and "Burning" are two standout tracks; but although Attack Flamingo relies heavily on the synth, we hesitate to call them an electronic band, because the songs are well-written, catchy, and powerful. This CD takes the cake for surprise hit of 2008 for us. There is no award for "Surprise Hit of 2008" by the way, it's just something we made up cause it's true. This band has a sound and style that we thought the band below at #5 may have approached on their full-length debut.

5 "Lights Won't Go Out" by The Red Velvet

This full-length debut effort by this Huntington-based four-piece is one of the more solid CDs we've got all year. Between releasing their first demo and this one, they've thrown in re-recorded versions of a few songs, incorporated some of what guitarist Russ Fox seemed to have in his Sinks Of Gandy outfit, and came up with a few great new songs like "Chasing The Sun," "Above The Clouds," the title track, and the more straight forward rock of songs like "Today" and "Useless." The Red Velvet's songs are beautiful, atmospheric, catchy, and with the triple threat vocal attack of frontman Jordan Andrew Jefferson, Fox, and their drummer, Jonathan Jefferson, you don't know what to expect next, which is good.

4 "They Will Surface" by Hyatari

Huntington's Hyatari is way more drone than you, and this recently released six-song, sixty minute effort proves it. From orchestrations like the 15-minute "Abyssal Plain" to the more pretty melodic changes of "Prolonged Exposure," Chris Tackett, Brett Fuller, and Mac Walker remind you that sometimes, words can get in the way. The low, slow, gut-pummeling low end and the atmospherics provided by guitar and synth give the entire effort a kind of elemental feel. Think of the best Nine Inch Nails instrumental stuff and you may not be too far off; put some headphones on and "drone" out if you're into this kind of sound.

3 Sarasota

This CD reminds us of our favorite all-time punk records. Ten songs, nine originals, and all punk rock, this coherent self-titled effort and Sarasota's version of punk rock evokes Face To Face, maybe. Standout songs are the hopeful "Everything Changes" and "Woe Say Canseco," with a chrous of just one big "WHOAH" on it.

Frontman Mike Schritter belts out powerful, emotive vocals with lyrics that read like they're straight out of his personal diary; while keeping his version of punk downright distressed, with all the despair and self-destruction, there's a maturity and hope underlying it all. From "All We Know" through "Boy You Never Learn," "By The Wayside" to "Cigarettes And Alcohol," "Kerosene" and the acoustic closer "Can't Remember To Forget," this CD is easily one of our favorites of 2008. Thanks to Dave of The Concept for hooking us up with it for free!

2 "Stone Age Kicks Vol. I & II" by J. Marinelli

Honestly no other CD spent more time in the WVRockscene stereo than this 16-song tribute by Marinelli to some of his favorite artists. Marinelli went back and added songs by artists ranging from Woody Guthrie and Billy Bragg to The Pixies, to what was Volume I, a cassette only release.

Upon downloading the CD and promptly burning it onto CD, we were duly blasted with Marinelli's one-man roots punk act on Beat Happening's "The 'This Many Boyfriends' Club" but, the surprising, great thing to hear was Marinelli's not-so-overdriven side; he drops his electric caveman guitar and picks up a banjo and harmonica on killer covers of "Head On" and "Wave of Mutilation" by The Pixies, the heartbreaking Neil Young song "Winterlong" and the bitter Rolling Stones track "Dead Flowers" has the now Lexington, Ky. resident belting out the lyrics, with no distortion or anything like that. "Ride A White Swan" has Marinelli covering T. Rex, leading his own old-timey tent revival, and he commandeth ye to shake it.

But, you still get the cantankerous, overdriven Marinelli style of rock you've come to know and love off "Pity The Party" and "Keep It Fake" -- his versions of Daniel Johnston's "Grievances," and "Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron" will definitely wake up the neighbors.

Dylan's "Positively 4th Street" and Woody Guthrie's "Pretty Boy Floyd" are two standout tracks, and we've come to like Marinelli's overdriven, understated cover of "Hey Whoopy Cat" by The Emergency more than when we first heard it, honestly. If you're known by the company you keep, in the lyrics of the cover songs he sings, Marinelli says a lot about himself. A great CD to get introduced to Marinelli's not-so-angry one-man band. You know you'll never get that cassette.

1 "Covering The Distance" by Jeff Ellis

Ellis follows up on last year's epic "A Front Seat For The End Of The World" with this solid 12-song effort. Where "AFSFTEOW" was harder in parts, "Distance" has more of a rockin' acoustic-based alt-country and bluegrass sound, but layered with a big sound, and with Bud Carroll on lead and his Southern Souls backing up Ellis among other guest musicians, Ellis proves why so many people have come to dig his music.

Songs like "I'm Not Leaving This Time," the title track, and "Goodnight Capital City" have the more well-rounded brand of Wilco rock; "West Virginia Hills," "The Men In Sago Mine" and the uber-catchy "Grandpa's Place" drop the bluegrass on ya, and our favorite, "Something Bad's Gonna Happen" portends bad things, the only real "downer" on the upbeat, mature CD.

Just like on "Front Seat" Ellis' songs feature Carroll's soaring solos, and Ellis' longtime friend and former Guinness Clarke's Wine bandmate Phil James on piano and organ give the songs depth and textures you don't hear in a lot of bands.

Between hearing Ellis play most of the songs at a solo acoustic show at Taylor Books back in May, hearing the advance copy, and now the final, mastered version, it's clear to us how talented he is, and this CD just helps reinforce it.

"Covering The Distance" -- Ellis' third solo release, is not only an outstanding followup, it cements the 27-year old Marshall student and Army reserve member as having the top two local CDs over the past two years, in our opinion, and that ain't bad.


69 Fingers returns to Charleston

Orlando (via Charleston) ska band 69 Fingers returns to town this Christmas for two special holiday shows with their friends in The Concept. They’ll play the Brickhouse this Saturday and throw their fourth annual Christmas party at the Glass next Thursday, after opening some presents from Santa, maybe.

Recently, a few members of the band had things put in perspective; their front man (guitarist/singer Steve Osborne), bassist (Brian Hitchcock), and drummer (Lucas Scarpelli) were recently involved in a pretty bad car wreck down in Florida.

“As of right now, I can’t even hold a drumstick,” Scarpelli said.

“I got it the worst after flying through the back seat and f’n up my left hand and nearly ripping my ear off but other than that, I walked away from the accident. Also in the van was Steve, Steve’s brother, Hitch, and our friend Andrew. Just to be clear, we were sitting at a stop light. Wrong place at the wrong time.”

The band, all Capital High alums (except for the sax player, Mason Acomb), with their punk rock (and fellow Capital) friends in The Concept will look to catch up on the good times, like they had when The Concept went to Florida for shows with the band.

“It was good times, like always,” Scarpelli said. “They’ve been down a couple times and each time they’re here, we play a couple shows in different cities like Orlando, Daytona, and Sarasota,” he added.

It’s the close friendship between the two CHS punk bands that has led to a collaboration on the punk rock epic “The Decline” by NOFX.

“It’s definitely been an idea and we have played through it a few times,” Scarpelli said. “I’m sure when we do play it live, there will be people who will love it. It’s an awesome 18-minute song.”

But intra-band collaboration on punk rock classics isn’t the only thing that goes down when 69 Fingers and The Concept team up.

“We also do a lot of drinking. A lot.”

Aside from tying one on, 69 Fingers has been busy with new material, Scarpelli said. “We’ve got enough new material to make our next album and can’t wait to unleash it to the world. It’s just getting the money to do it is going to take time.”

Scarpelli, the only original member of 69 Fingers left, admitted that he wasn’t sure the ska band could survive in Charleston. “We moved to Florida to keep the band going. I feel that if we had stayed in Charleston, we’d probably not exist to this day.”

“The band has been together for eleven years now. The only original member is me. I could speak for the rest of the band when I say 69 Fingers means more to us than anything right now.”

--- 69 Fingers, The Concept, The Big Bad, and Down Goes Frazier play The Brickhouse in St. Albans Saturday at 5 p.m. The Brickhouse is located at 52 Olde Main Plaza, it's an all-ages show, of course, and cover is $7


Our local band merch list to Santa

Looking for that special gift for that special rock and roll someone this holiday season?

We here at rockscene have noticed a lot of area bands coming out with new shirts recently, and thought we'd put a little something together for those local fans who might want to get their rocker friends a special, local, present for Christmas.

Huntington's Black Knots just posted some new t-shirt designs that look pretty rockin'. By supporting them, buying a shirt, you don't just give the gift that keeps on rocking all through 2009, you may help a Knots member with actual "bailout" money, or, funds to get their driver's licenses back, maybe. Looks like we'd fit in just fine with those non-drivin' rockers. They've also just posted an update on the recording of their new album, "The Guitarmageddon" due out next year.

It's gonna be a black Christmas this year; it's safe to assume that our friends in The Renfields have some Re-animator themed t-shirts available. We picked one up at their 10.25 show at The Blue Parrot. The band name (Re-Nfields) on the front is in the same green font as the movie, easily recognizable to anyone who'd seen it, and the back has a sketch of Dr. Von Renfield with Vincent's undead head on his desk. Team Transylvania may have some masks and other merch available too. But why stop there? If you haven't heard any of their CDs yet, take our advice and pick some up, or they'll send the murderous Santa from "Silent Night, Deadly Night" to your house Christmas eve.

Few things go together like fast cars and rock and roll. Our Shepherdstown friends in The Demon Beat just started selling some new shirts with an automobile on 'em, quite possibly in solidarity with the ailing, near death U.S. auto industry.

Nobody has more local band shirts available than Caustic Eye. Swing by their MySpace and check out their sales window. You can peruse items like t-shirts (Jeff Ellis/Burt Reynolds Death Metal/Maximum Headlessness), mugs, and for that hard to buy for significant other of yours, a BRDME tie! Best tie ever. We hear they're gonna check on any available Karma To Burn re-issued shirts. Best thing is, you can shop online. Tell 'em we sent ya and receive no discount or special treatment!

The Empty Glass is still selling their "Top 100" t-shirts, 'em 'ere with the Glass logo on the front, and all the bars and clubs listed by Nightclub & Bar Magazine as best in the U.S. on the back. Broaden your cultural horizons; pick up a shirt and read about all the other cool bars in the country that you'll never go to.

Now, a lot of rockin' local bands will have shirts for sale that we just don't know about, so if you're not mentioned here, comment us up and let people know. And, of course, Merry Christmas from WVRockscene!


Hyatari resurfaces with new CD

Four years after “The Light Carriers” won critical acclaim for its low, slow, punishing yet melodic metal, Huntington’s drone trio Hyatari is set to release their new six-song CD “They Will Surface” Friday night at Club Echo in Huntington.

“A lot of people thought we broke up,” bassist Chris Tackett said. “We’ve just been really busy with our lives.”

Tackett said he’s glad to finally get the CD out. “It’s like closure I guess,” he said. “It’s always exciting to release a new record, maybe even more so with this one, considering what it took to get it off the ground.”

While the band (Tackett; Mac Walker: guitar/synth/sequencing; Brett Fuller: sounds) took their sweet time getting the sophomore effort done, Tackett said the actual making of the music was the easy part.

“The material comes pretty easy,” Tackett said. “A lot of the best parts happen while Mac and I are recording. Same thing on “The Light Carriers;” we start recording an idea, and it evolves as we go. It’s a really fun way to record, except when you’re on the clock.”

Being on the clock takes on more importance when you're pounding out 10-minute orchestrations with no vocals, creating sonic landscapes that, in parts, sound like the best Nine Inch Nails instrumentals. While “They Will Surface” has six songs, there’s almost an hour’s worth of material. The songs run long and flow together with few discernable starting points.

Tackett noted the similarities and divergences between “Surface” and “Carriers.” “They were written pretty close together. Some of the stuff on “They Will Surface” was supposed to be on the first one. Our first idea was to do a complete turn around from the first record; really soft and quiet, no drums. It didn’t quite work out that way. It’s somewhere in the middle I guess. It’s still heavy, but we branched out on some of the trippy stuff we touched on for “The Light Carriers.”

One particular focus point for Hyatari’s release show will be the video they plan to run as accompaniment for their music.

“I’ve wanted to do the visual thing since the Chum days, but it was too expensive and I didn’t know what I was doing,” Tackett admitted. “With Hyatari, the idea of adding visuals really needed to happen…It hasn’t been easy putting this together, but technology has come a long way in the last ten years or so.”

“I just did a lot of research, got some footage, and edited together what I thought would fit the music and the album artwork...We haven’t actually seen the whole thing in action yet. If all goes as planned, it should really add a new dimension to the live presentation. We’re really excited about it.”

The video is just one more piece to capture the listener’s attention.

“You have to be pretty creative to hold the listener with instrumental stuff,” Tackett said. “Since you’re not locked in to writing “normal” songs, you can really go off in any direction. It’s more fun in a way. I’ve always been a fan of instrumental bands. They seem more interesting to me, to listen to anyway. I hate writing lyrics and never pay much attention to them. I look at what we do as sort of weird orchestration, heh. Like writing a soundtrack to a movie that doesn’t exist.”

The video, matched up with the album artwork, should tie in nicely with the elemental feel the songs have; the drums and bass provide the low end tectonic shifts, and the guitar and synth build an atmosphere.

Tackett admitted that the DIY aspect of the band, from recording to distribution, is something that came in handy with the self-released end product. “I’ve come up short with every record label I’ve dealt with,” he said. “But now we can control all the sales. Rod [Lanham] at Caustic Eye sort of helped us along in the process. He dealt with the manufacturer, and is helping with the distribution. I’ve known Rod for a long time, so it was an easy fit.”

Hyatari enlisted the help of longtime drummer friend Jude Blevins for the live show. “Jude is a perfect fit for this band,” Tackett said. “He’s been driving back and forth [between Beckley and Huntington] for rehearsals, so he’s definitely committed to the project. The songs take on a whole new life with live drums. It’s really got me focused on the band again.”

Hyatari will be joined by Youngstown, Ohio-based Rebreather for the CD release show. “Those guys are awesome, and we’re really happy about having them on,” Tackett said.

While downplaying any expectations (“All we can do is put it out there and see what happens,” he said) about the new CD and mentioning potential East coast shows, Tackett said the support from fans and critics is pretty cool.

“It does mean a lot to me,” he said. “We all put a lot of ourselves into doing this, with little or no local following. It doesn’t really matter when it's all said and done. We do this for ourselves and just try to make great music. It isn’t for everyone and we understand that. When we put out “The Light Carriers” we had no idea it would do what it did. But we’ve gotten an overwhelmingly positive response from that record, which does make you feel pretty good. Especially when you're not expecting it.”


A Very Vandals Christmas: "Oi to the World" by The Gentlemen!

You've heard the horror stories associated with Black Friday and the Christmas season-induced shopping frenzies, and the culture wars between the "War on Christmas" fearmongers and attention seeking atheists, who mess up Christmas for people like us here at WVRockscene, just trying to get their Christmas on.

We've always thought Christmas could use some more punk rock; if you haven't heard Joey Ramone sing about not wanting to fight over the holiday, well you just haven't, which sucks for you.

We were looking for the ultimate feel-good punk rock Christmas song of the season, and we may have found it...

Thanks to Morgantown's resident Celtic punk rockers The Gentlemen, we can get our very punk rock Christmas on for free. They've uploaded their version of "Oi To The World," originally done by The Vandals and later by No Doubt, (which you may know as Gwen Stefani's original band. Wait a minute.) on their MySpace profile.

Check out The Gentlemen online; if you like bands like DKM or Flogging Molly you may or may not (statistics point strongly to "may") rock The Gentlemen.

And, maybe, someday, if we write a letter to Santa or Governor Joe Manchin, they'll come down here to Charleston. But we don't think they'd all fit on the Glass stage anyway. And we're not likely to get up to Morgantown anytime soon, unless they invent some cheap affordable transportation anti-matter beam that is proven safe.

Great, now we're depressed again. Thanks a lot SAD.

photo: Nikki Rotunda


New tunes from The Redbloods

Our friends in The Redbloods just posted some new songs to their MySpace. Finally. That's a joke based on their name display, but it's not funny if you don't swing by and listen to "Bonfire" and "Invisible" after reading this. We'd heard their three-song demo EP and look forward to hearing more from these guys. Check 'em out and trip on that picture of the band.


Down to the Underground

We recently came across Huntington Underground, a cool new source profile on MySpace dedicated to covering the local band scene out there, on the moon. Hey, Huntington needs all the good news they can get; the city was just made up to be the poorest health city in the U.S. by some yahoo, Bobby Pruett hasn't coached the MU football team in years, and because of people like Plaxico Burress, there may be a new bar ban under the incoming mayor. Nice.

We think Huntington Underground will do a good job covering stuff out there, from shootings at bars to domestic violence calls at the mayor's home. Seriously; some cool bands, videos, pics and links on their page. Check 'em out, and good luck to them.


"They Will Surface" 12.12 @ Club Echo

Thanks to our good friend Rod Lanham at Caustic Eye, we got an advance copy of the new six-song CD "They Will Surface" from Huntington's Hyatari. The band is set to release the CD December 12 at Club Echo in Huntington, which, as far as we're concerned, could be on the moon. We don't get out much.

The CD rocks, look for something more on it soon, and check out the band and this (again) conveniently placed flyer.


The Demon Beat mini-tour starts today

Our good friends in The Demon Beat kick off their six-day tour of West Virginia today way, way, ... waaay out there in Shepherdstown, which, lucky for us, is in West Virginia. Lucky because we've rocked out each of their CDs and look forward to catching them Sunday at the Glass. Check 'em out if yer near any of these dates; they're playing with some cool local bands in Morgantown, Huntington, and Charleston.

Reference the conveniently placed tour flyer below for dates, and check the band out online to rock with us.


CD Review: "No Star Could Be As Large"

CD: No Star Could Be As Large
ARTIST: Attack Flamingo

We've always had a kind of love-hate relationship with most electronic bands. Some seem to go overboard with the knob tweaking and seem to lose direction, forgetting to write actual rock songs with hooks. We love the sounds and textures of a lot of electronic bands, but the songs, structurally, are no good.

On their debut effort "No Star Could Be As Large," Huntington's Attack Flamingo presents us with the perfect mix of hard driving space rock, heavily textured with synth, with actual drums, killer guitar solos and emotive, powerful vocals, with lyrics that read like they're straight out of an astronaut's diary.

It's basically a concept album about an astronaut's trip into outer space, beyond the moon, sun and stars, and into a meeting with god at the edge of space. Think Bowie's Major Tom meets some Smashing Pumpkins with God Lives Underwater's "Life In The So-Called Space Age" thrown in, and you're not too far off.

The band (Sean Knicely: vocals, guitar; Marty Brown: guitar; Joey Spurgeon: synth; Phil Smith: bass; Sam Hodge: drums) definitely combine for more than the sum of their parts.

Broken into "Earth," "Moon," "Star" and "Hero" themes, the CD is one of the rare occasions where a band's image (CD cover) and sound converge perfectly. That'll stay the way it is as long as Dido and her lawyers don't get their way. That's another story.

Right in time for the lucrative space tourism industry to take off, Attack Flamingo presents us with their own 2008 space odyssey.

The CD opens with the somber, slightly overdriven piano on "Songs of Home," which gives way to synth, as "The summer sun is singing songs of home" and "darkness surrounds" upon leaving Earth. There's more fat synth on "The Earth Grows Small Below" on the way to the moon, as there are "no more skies, hindering my eyes."

"Rocketship" enters "The Star" with hard rockin' guitar and an abandoned ship, leading to the instrumental "Drifting." "Burning" is one of the more rockin' tracks on the CD.

On "A Small Voice" the astronaut finds "The Hero" growing inside, as Knicely sings

"Come with me and we will fly
Come with me and we will never die"
The song has cool acoustic guitar with tribal sounding tom; a laid back sound that rolls right into the last track, "Breathing," the final meeting between the astronaut and the star.

"Breathing" has a really cool kid chorus and, has the astronaut flying away with the star. While the lyrics reflect a spiritual yearning, and the spacesuit is but a thinly veiled metaphor for the flesh, the songs don't come off as something preachy, just deep.

Working with Broadmoor's Russ Fox seems to have helped emphasize the band's spacy sounds; panned synth accent the songs, with cool layered vocals, sometimes with cool effects. Fox, who plays guitar and sings in the atmospheric Huntington-based rock band The Red Velvet, lends his talents well on the CD. Listen to it with headphones for the maximum effect.

And while we here call the band "electronic" they're really a rock band with heavy synth elements. They call themselves "elecrtonica" and that works for us. The songs are mainly guitar-based rock with atmospheric synth. HEAVY atmospheric synth. This is one of the coolest CDs we've came across this year, and has been in the stereo steadily since we got it a while back; hence the delay for this review.

It'll be interesting to see where the band goes from here. They've recently added Barboursville-based DJ SirBoy (Hodge), and they've posted remixed versions of a few tunes on their MySpace profile, so that's promising. They've also just anounced they've signed with Sarasota, Florida-based LBA Records.

And, after going to the end of space and beyond, maybe they'll come back down to Earth on their next effort. Either way, whatever direction they take, for Attack Flamingo, the sky is obviously not the limit.


A Night Out With The Renfields

Saturday night, we got to catch one of our favorite bands, thanks to Kasket Entertainment. The Renfields brought their Transylvania pogo punk stylings and re-animated lineup to the Blue Parrot in Charleston for Kasket's Halloween show & costume party.

The last time Vincent and crew came to town was last December, and since then the lineup has basically changed in its entirety; there are new versions of The Fiend, Jaymee Lee, Set Ramses (we can't tell) and Dr. Von Renfield IV looked like Dangerkat's drummer. We spent some time talking to our werewolf friend and crowd control specialist in the band, Lucio, who danced around the crowd and humped the amps while the band was onstage.

The one thing that hasn't changed is the frontman; The Abominable Vincent Renfield is still leading Team Transylvania. After saddling up at the bar with a pitcher and watching some of the OSU-PSU game, and talking with our good friend Mark (who was there to help film), we talked for a while with Vincent, one of the nicest, coolest dudes we've came across.

We talked about the new lineup and equipment (the band, this time, ran samples through the PA; very cool), with Vincent explaining that instead of making a new CD, they spent the money on equipment instead to make the shows rock more. Mission accomplished.

The Renfields @ the Parrot 10.25
“The Incredible Melting Man”

With Kasket booking local hip-hop rabblerousers Meuwl and B-Rude, and White Mic from Holla Boy, we were treated to some hip-hop before the pogo punk. There were several cool people we knew from DuPont H.S., including Scotty Reeves and Puff, and we ran into Jeff Doss and Mr. Ledbetter too. 'Twas like a mini-high school reunion, but with only cool people.

It was during this time that we sat around talking with Vincent near The Renfields merch booth. We explained to Vincent that The Concept, specifically Dave, whom we'd talked to the day before, very much wanted to catch the band again, but they were up in Pittsburgh for a show with The Composure. Since The Renfields played last, it gave us more time to consume our favorite legal beverages and explain ourselves to people who just aren't satisfied with our coverage of the local scene in other outlets. Sorry.

After all this time it was time, finally, for The Renfields to play. Running through favorites like "Phantom Hearse," "A Creature Walks Among Us," "Slumber Party Massacre," "Black Christmas," and, of course, since it was a Halloween show, "Halloween Night" -- in case anyone did not know how to spell Haddonfield, now ya know! Awesome!

But it seems like no matter how many Renfields CDs we get, or how many uber-catchy, mono-recorded songs they put out, no song is more killer than the punk rock epic, "Prom Night." It was all we could do to keep still whilst filming; trying not to jump up and down or run into The Big Bad's bassist, The Colonel (who was down in front rocking out with us), was tough, as our amateur footage will clearly document.

The Renfields “Prom Night”

But the coolest thing was getting to see one of our favorite bands. Even though we don't really like scary movies, we love The Renfields. Even though they didn't win the costume contest, they are number one with us. We hope they come back soon.

“Renfields Mania”


CD REVIEW: "Covering The Distance"

CD: Covering The Distance
ARTIST: Jeff Ellis

The world has turned and left 27-year old Jeff Ellis where he wants to be: back at home in West Virginia.

On his new 12-song CD, "Covering The Distance," Ellis picks up where his last effort left off. But where "A Front Seat For The End Of The World" was focused on his time in Kuwait as part of the Iraq war and had a bit of a harder edge, "Distance" has big acoustic-based rock songs on it with a little bit of country, bluegrass and folk thrown in, and is about Ellis picking up the pieces of his life and celebrating his roots.

As Ellis opens up on songs like the alt-country "When You Come Back Around," the hard rockin' chart topper "I'm Not Leaving This Time" (with cool lo-fi drum samples) and the title track; big band rock numbers with the richly textured feel provided by Phil James on piano and organ, and Bud Carroll's soaring solos, Ellis looks to get back lost love.

Which is good, because we felt really bad for him when we heard him sing "Time Slips Away" on "Front Seat."

Ellis kicks out the bluegrass on the frollicking "West Virginia Hills" and "The Men In Sago Mine," -- seemingly the best and worst about our state, from whitewater and Rhododendrons to coal mine disasters, wrapped up at once.

He gets a little mushy on tunes like "I'm Not Sure If It's Love" and the very cool "Sleepyhead" -- a tune dedicated to time in Hawaii, we think. With echoey bells and guitar and Carroll's solos, the lazy recounting of time on the beach with a chick reminds us of tunes off Beck's tropically tinged "Sea Changes" -- very cool.

The upbeat attitude takes a nosedive on "Something Bad's Gonna Happen," as Ellis feels a "storm blowing in" and decries apathetic attitudes towards "the opening chapter of the ever after" and bemoans his "meaningless existence." Ellis sings on the chorus:

"I wanna lay down, curl up on the floor
hope that I die when I wake up tomorrow
or sometime before"
Like most songs on the CD, Ellis puts in a cool bridge to provide a hook. Ellis sings over and over on the outro "The shit that I've been taking ain't working no more." With piano and powerful guitar, it's one of our favorite tunes on the CD, and a nice song for these crisis-abundant times.

Quite possibly our favorite song on "Distance" is the infectious toe-tappin' harmonica soaked Americana tune "Grandpa's Place." With Jimmy Lykens of the Souls on uprght bass and a nicely added accordion, Ellis takes us on a stroll down memory lane as he recalls Sundays at his grandparent's house. In parts, Ellis' vocals (combined with the harmonica) evoke Dylan, and near the end of the song a twangy acoustic solo walks up and by this point if you haven't started moving some part of your body in rhythm, please check for a pulse.

A bender to end all benders provides the motivation for "40 Days," as Ellis tries to convince someone up there that, if they help things stop spinning, Ellis will stay dry for a month an a half. There's more killer bluesy Carroll riffage on this tune. "Goodnight, Capital City" is kind of a depressing bar-based tune as Ellis finds himself quite lonely, heading home after last call.

"Distance" closes with "The Day Paul Went To Sleep and Never Woke Up," a somber acoustic song about Ellis' uncle passing.

We got hooked up with the advance copy in May, and it's been remixed twice and then mastered for the final product, which must be rockin; the advance copy, recorded by Eddie Ashworth (Pennywise, Sublime) in Athens, Ohio, could from our lay perspective, stand as a final version.

With this release on the heels of "Front Seat" (and his recent first place finish at the Mountain Stage NewSong International finals) Ellis cements himself as quite possibly the best songwriter in the state. Ellis and Carroll have combined to make some of the best music we've heard; together they form some kind of superteam of rock.

Ellis, with his friend James, Carroll and crew, and a half dozen guest musicians, mixes it up on this CD with impressive results. This CD has been in our regular rotation for five months and is definitely worth picking up.

mp3: “Something Bad’s Gonna Happen” by Jeff Ellis

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Morgantown Does Marinelli

Sometimes, something comes along so awesome, we have to help git the word out. Such is the case with this new all-star tribute to J Marinelli put together by some of the finest rockers in Magic Town. To pay tribute to his contributions to and recent departure from the Morgantown scene, acts like '85 Flood, David F. Bello, Sandra Black and Rifle Camp came together to cover some of his most rockin' tunes.

You can check the songs out at the blogspot site. And definitely check out Marinelli and his CDs, ye shall not be disappointed.

Related: DA article on Marinelli tribute comp


Q&A w/Jeff Ellis

We caught up with Huntington's Jeff Ellis in advance of this weekend's Newsong International finals to talk about his new CD, the process of the contest, and his predictions for tonight's Ladies Night at The Empty Glass...

WVRS: You’re set to play Ladies Night at the Glass Thursday night; have any worries about that?
JE: Only that no ladies will show up (ha, ha!). No, I'll have my right-hand man, Mr. Phil James, with me. If people aren't diggin' on the original tunes, he'll just play the Purple Rain/Journey combo. That usually works.

WVRS: You’ve made it to the finals of the Newsong International songwriting contest. What has that whole process been like and what particular songs have you played to make it this far?
JE: The first round was just submitting a recording. I think I sent in "I'm Not Leaving This Time" off of the new album. For the regional round, I drove down to Decatur, played two songs (I'm Not Leaving This Time, Russell and Honeybee), then drove straight back to school at Marshall. It was an incredible experience! The venue (Eddie's Attic) had delicious food and a good draft selection, and the performance room had one of the best sound systems that I've ever had the pleasure of playing through. I highly recommend that any singer-songwriters out there check out Newsong. The benefits and opportunities are many.

WVRS: You recorded the new CD in Athens, Ohio, how did that go?
JE: Excellent! Eddie Ashworth is the finest producer I've ever had the pleasure of working with. We immediately hit it off and were finishing each other's sentences before too long. He had a vision for the album that very much lined up with mine. We're both extremely proud of the results, and will most likely be teaming up again in the very near future.

WVRS: Once again you worked with Bud Carroll and his Southern Souls on the recording of the new CD. How much do they add in the way of sound and how easy is it to work with Carroll & crew in the studio and on stage when you’ve played out together? Will you ever form a super group?
JE: Bud's a phenomenal musician and songwriter and I'd go as far to say that the Southern Souls are the best band in WV right now. They had two weeks to learn the material on the record, and they exceeded both my and Eddie's expectations. A great deal of this record's sound is thanks to Bud, and I hope to work with him again on some stuff in the future. We actually did a few live shows together earlier this year, but we're both so busy with our own stuff that its hard to get together. Who knows, maybe we'll team up again for a project down the line? I'd be down for it.

WVRS: You bring in about half a dozen musicians to help on the new CD, how did the other musicians work with you and round out the sound?
JE: Eddie and I made a list early in the pre-production of what instruments we wanted on each song, and we pretty much got everything we wanted in the long run. With the exception of Bud and the Southern Souls, Phil, and Jessica Atkins, pretty much everyone else is from Athens, courtesy of Mr. Ashworth. I wasn't even there for a lot of the over-dubs, but like I said, Eddie had my full trust. If he said he was gonna bring something in, I knew it was going to only add to the finished product.

WVRS: The new CD is a bit of a shift away from the harder edges of your last CD “A Front Seat For The End Of The World” -- can you describe your approach to songwriting between then and now?
JE: With AFSFTEOTW, I wrote big band arrangements for a full-band show. Then, after a handful of full-band shows, I began doing mostly acoustic shows and couldn't play half of the material properly. With Covering the Distance, I tried to write stuff that I could play with or without the full band and not lose too much in the transition. Some songs work better than others in different settings, but I can play most of the new material solo and still be satisfied with it. The narrative portion, on the other hand, is still very much the same style of good 'ole fashioned storytelling.

WVRS: You’ve got the Newsong finals Saturday and the new CD out very soon, what are the immediate goals for you as you move forward, if you have any?
JE: I try not to get too far ahead of myself. I plan to promote this album as much as I can and try to play more shows. I'd love to see a label pick it up, so I'll continue shopping it around. In the meantime, I'll just do what I always do: keep writing, playing, and recording and hope for the best.


Be in The Gentlemen's "Country Roads" video

Show up at 123 Pleasant St. in Morgantown Wednesday night with yer Irish or West Virginia related clothing for the filming of The Gentlemen's "Country Roads" video.

Morgantown's resident Celtic punk band will be sharing the stage with the .357 String Band, a Wisconsin-based bluegrass punk act. Sounds like a cool show; if you haven't heard The Gentlemen's version of the famous John Denver song, or if you just like bagpipes, check the band out online, or show up at the show.

New J Marinelli songs!

Our friend J Marinelli has just uploaded two new tunes to his MySpace profile. "Ideology" and "The Ballad of Eddie Freedom" are available for your listening pleasure as of this writing.

Marinelli returns to 123 Pleasant St. in Morgantown next weekend to help them celebrate their 10th anniversary. If yer up that way you should go to the show. If you have to work, quit!


Byzantine reunites (kind of) in new projects

Former Byzantine members Matt Wolfe and Skip Cromer share the stage this Saturday night at The Empty Glass in Charleston as Wolfe's new band The Scrap Iron Pickers join Cromer's Burt Reynolds Death Metal Experiment to help welcome San Francisco's Chrome/Helios Creed to town.

Since Wolfe and Cromer last shared a stage in Byzantine, they’ve each became proud parents and have moved on with their lives, and, their respective bands. Wolfe works with Byzantine singer-guitarist Chris Ojeda at FedEx in Charleston; Cromer is staying busy in Western Pennsylvania.

“I work two part-time jobs, I go to school full-time, I play in four bands (if you include BRDME) and I’m a dad so I'm pretty booked.” Cromer said. “My fiancĂ©e bought a house in McKeesport and I am currently squatting there till she kicks me out.”

Cromer will make a rare trip to Charleston for the show; the last time we caught him in the form of BRDME was at last year's Adamfest at the Sound Factory.

Wolfe and the aforementioned Pickers (longtime Noizbox/Stone Ka-Tet/Ghosts of Now bassist Roadblock and former Noizbox and Freak Tent’s John Sizemore) played their first show a few weeks ago at the Glass.

“We were a bit nervous and perhaps also a bit ill-prepared, but overall it went really well,” Wolfe admitted. Wolfe said that like so many others, the Scrap Iron Pickers were formed out of friendship.

“Johnny, Roadblock and I have known each other for a long time, and we’ve always been friends. So, about six months ago Block and I were talking about putting something together at just about the time of Johnny’s exit from Freak Tent. We thought that would be a great lineup for what we were trying to do, which is something completely out of the norm.”

Wolfe noted his enthusiasm for being in the young new band. “I embrace change in this case. This is a totally different type of animal and I think it's great!”

Cromer admitted to producing two brand new BRDME tunes in the smelting process that is known to produce his version of death metal.

“The first new jam is called “Two Girls One Cup.” If you don't know what that’s all about then do a search on the internet for it," Cromer said. "The other new song I will be playing at the Glass is called “Achy Breaky Parenting” and it’s about how Billy Ray Cyrus exploits his kid for money.”

Cromer also talked about other bands and projects he’s involved with.

“I currently play bass in an extreme metal band called A Moment of Clarity, I play lead guitar and vocals on my newest project that currently doesn’t have a name, its cool though, very Pink Floyd meets good prog. Also an old band I was in when I was in high school got back together. It’s like a horror rock kind of thing called Attic Unknown.”

Rumors of a possible Byzantine vinyl effort of past tunes necessitated the asking of the perfunctory “Is Byzantine dead forever?” question, with surprisingly awesome results this time around.

“I think there is a good possibility that you will see us take the stage again at some point,” Wolfe admitted. “Just not anytime real soon.”

Still, half of Byzantine will be onstage at one point Saturday night, and Cromer will have the chance of catching up with Matt and OJ and surely offending someone there -- hopefully with just his music.

“I talk to everyone pretty infrequently,“ Cromer said. “The last guy I saw was OJ and that was last December. I spoke with Tony [Byzantine guitarist Rohrbaugh] the other day actually, he's silly.”


Q&A w/Johnny Mercury (Pt. 2)

Part two of our Q&A with Johnny Mercury is even more rockin' than part one. If you missed that by all means check it out and check out the tunes on his MySpace profile...

WVRS: What influenced your decision to move out west?
JM: Change of pace and more musical opportunities. I originally was moving out to Los Angeles to fulfill a record contract with an indie label and in short, got dropped before I made it to L.A. It boiled down to the label wanting me to pander to the punk and indie rock demographic. I've never liked punk or indie rock and rebelled against it, and it made it hard for us to work together. I won't place all of the blame on them. I was having problems holding a band together in West Virginia and had to scrap an almost finished version of a CD. Some of those songs surfaced on my latest CD, Real Gone Rockin, in some form or another.

WVRS: You self-produced your last record, are you doing the same this time around? When will the new CD be finished?
JM: My ex-wife, Erynn Starr, helped me out quite a bit with aspects of production and mixing on my last CD and I found that to help a lot so I am throwing around the idea of having a co-producer for this upcoming CD. I'm really looking for someone who can double up and co-produce and help engineer. I did both for my last CD and took me longer than it should have.

This new CD is going back to what I started off in and my first and foremost love, country music. Before I picked up a guitar I was going to country, bluegrass and gospel shows and concerts and I have always been part of country and honkytonk bands. I've put it off for some time and I think I was waiting to get this last CD out of my system.

WVRS: If you had to pick one show or moment that was the most rockin' what would it be?
JM: Playing to a full room at CBGB's definitely tops of the list. When I struck out on my own as a singer-guitarist doing my own music, a lot of my friends and the fans of bands I played guitar in literally laughed in my face and said that me and my rockabilly would never go anywhere. So, getting to perform my own music to such an appreciative crowd at such a legendary venue was a big high for me and a big "told ya so" to the naysayers.

WVRS: I guess it's safe to assume that as time passes not too much will change with your sound. What makes rockabilly so appealing to so many rock n' roll fans, of all stripes?
JM: To answer your first question, even though I'm going to be doing more country now I can say my sound won't change as much one would think. Songs over time like "Sad, Cold and Lonely," "Blue Boy," "Since You're Gone" and "You Better Be My Baby" were all written as country songs then "rocked up" -- which in essence is what rockabilly is anyway. These are the songs that fans have come to really enjoy and sing at shows.

So, it won't be a big stretch to enjoy the new songs. The first two songs from my upcoming CD, The Sun's Coming Up, will be "Almost Gone" and "The Darker Side of Midnight" and I hope to have them online within the next month. You can listen to the upcoming songs as well as ones from the current CD at www.myspace. com/johnnymercury.

What makes rockabilly so appealing? Ask 10 people and you're liable to get 10 different answers. I got into rockabilly in the early 90's because it was the most logical choice for me musically and appealed to me because it reminided so much of the high energy music I played in the church. I love country, blues, jazz and gospel, which in various portions make rockabilly.

In the early and mid 90's there was no internet to speak of so for a while I honestly thought I was the only person doing rockabilly. Later on, around 1994/95 I met Jeff Walls (Hillbilly Frankenstein, The Woggles) and Rick Miller (S.C.O.T.S.) through their shows at The Levee and The Empty Glass and they started telling me about other bands that were doing rockabilly across the country. I started meeting a lot of really nice people who shared the same passion for the music as I did and we learned together.

People who like rockabilly music do so because of a many reasons. One, it's a great alternative to commercially programmed radio. When you hear a good rockabilly band it's a great experience and you certainly can't turn on the video channel and watch it!

Rockabilly is guitar driven, and rock & roll music is becoming less skilled on the guitar. If you really want to play rockabilly on the guitar, and not some generic punk power chord hybrid, you really need to know how to play the guitar, plain and simple

Lastly, rockabilly is upbeat and fun, great for toe tapping, butt wiggling and for the dancers, a great trip on the dance floor. Even though there is a high turnover rate within the rockabilly scene, the ones who do hang in there are very passionate about the music and the most loyal fans you'll ever find.


Motown Salutes the '80's @ 123

Man, no venue seems to host more charitable events than 123 Pleasant Street up in Morgantown. And nobody has been more instrumental in putting them together than '85 Flood's Aaron Hawley.

This Friday a ton of cool bands will come together for the annual Habitat For Humanity benefit and fundraiser, saluting bands from the 1980's by playing some of their tunes. It's like VH1 teamed up with WVU's U92 and 123, except this wouldn't happen if not for the bands, and especially Hawley.

"I think this year's [benefit] will rule the school," Hawley said over e-mail. "The idea is the same as the artist-centered tributes, except we're opening this one up to a whole decade."

Hawley's '85 Flood, Billy Matheny & Haley Slagle, Librarians, It's Birds, Thred, Big Right Hand, Russian Tombstones (endorsed by J Marinelli) and a few more bands will converge Friday night for a great cause.

"I've seen the setlist and I anticipate something for everyone at this shindig; for those people who think the 80's is super hip, bands like X, there's something for them. For folks who want to hear Duran Duran and Huey Lewis, there's something for them as well."

We're not sure how Huey Lewis made the cut, or why WVU has to have a conservative newspaper funded by Washington crammed up their ass (thanks David Horowitz), but one thing is for sure, no matter your politics, and that is that no town comes together for a good cause like Magic Town.

"I'm impressed at the way this town's music scene rallies for the cause as well," Hawley said. "Everyone is just psyched to be a part of what a cool scene we have here in Morgantown."


Q&A w/Johnny Mercury (Pt. 1)

We first met Johnny Mercury roughly 10 years ago at The Empty Glass. We'd been dispatched there by a mag from Huntington called Hotface to try to (nervously) interview him and string some words together in a coherent style. We dug his rockabilly style back then, but couldn't predict how much the genre would grow on us over the years.

Well, Mercury moved out West a few years ago, has worked with a lot of cool rockers, put out a self-produced CD, "Real Gone Rockin'" last year, and is set to put out a new one soon. We caught up with him to let area rockers know he's still alive and still rockin'...

WVRS: How is life treating you out there?
JM: Life is going very well and can't complain too much. I've been lucky enough to play music steadily and even though there have been some ups and downs, I have had successes and I feel the best is yet to come! Since living in the Pacific Northwest I've had the pleasure of playing guitar for some of my rockabilly idols like Rudy Grayzell and Sid King and the Five Strings as well as Wanda Jackson, who cut some top rate rock & roll back in the day. My music has been used for indie films, a handful of CD compilations, a television pilot and most recently for a Kroger/Fred Meyer advertising campaign. Best of all, I've done it all on my own terms.

WVRS: I guess you can get a lot of good coffee out there; how cool is Seattle?
JM: Yeah, my taste in coffee has definitely sharpened since living out here. There are a lot of boutique coffee shops, coupled by a Starbucks on every corner (laughs). My favorite place to drink coffee and meet with friends is Verite Coffee in Ballard, which is a suburb of Seattle and where I reside.

How is Seattle? I love Seattle! I lived in Portland, Oregon for over five years and just relocated to Seattle two years ago. The Pacific Northwest has a lot of culture and cosmopolitan appeal without as many trappings as say, Los Angeles. Seattle (as well as Portland) is very liberal compared to the rest of the country and offers a lot to artists who want to carve their own path. Seattle and Portland both produce more independently released CDs per capita than any other city in the country.

WVRS: We got to see you at the Empty Glass, where was your first gig here in WV and where were your favorite places and memories here? Where did you grow up in WV?
JM: Well, I grew up in a little town called Spring Hill which is in Kanawha County outside of Charleston. I started playing music there under of the guidance of Chuck Terry, a fantastic guitar player and singer. He took me under his wing and at 15 years old and after two weeks of playing guitar I starting playing in a gospel group with him and his wife Kathy, who were a singing duo called The Born Again Believers. My two best friends George and John Priestly played bass and drums, respectively.

I can honestly say those early years of riding around in a beat up mustard yellow van with red sticker letters on the side are the best memories I have playing music. We played almost every Friday, Saturday and one to two times on Sunday playing churches, revivals and homecomings, primarily of Pentecostal and Apostolic denominations. We played all over Southern West Virginia and never really made any money. If we were lucky to get some gas money and there was something left over, we could get a can of RC cola and a Little Debbie Fudge round. I'm serious.

The reason why this is so special it because it was playing music without thought of marketability, trends, scenes and being cool. I later moved on to play lead guitar with a very successful gospel quartet called the Goodwin Family which was bigger in sense of accomplishment but those early years will always be the most special to me because Chuck taught me how to play the guitar, sing and most important, how to read musicians on the stage and lead a band.

The first show that I played under "Johnny Mercury" was at the Empty Glass and must say is hands down the best live music venue I've had the pleasure of being a regular performer at. I mean, how can you beat the atmosphere and vibe? I've met musicians over the years who cite the Empty Glass as their favorite venue as well.

The best memory at the Glass would be opening up for Hasil Adkins when he recorded a live CD back in the late 90's. I had actually played on the same bill with him when I was 17 years old at a festival in Belle, WV (I think) where he was escorted off stage for being drunk and screaming obscenities into the mic. It was the first time I heard him and had no idea what he had contributed to the rockabilly/psychobilly genre.

-- In part two of the Q&A, Mercury talks about why he left West Virginia, the new CD, and the power and appeal of rockabilly.


LOCAL REPORT: Entropy Returns

Entropy rocks Wheeling Saturday night

The day after seeing a local metal show in Wheeling, sitting around eating candy corn and watching the Steelers/Browns game on TV. Trying to decide how to start off telling you interweb people who DIDN'T make it, and/or couldn't make it out to catch one hell of a show. I think the best way to start is with a history lesson (hope ya'll liked history in high school cause Professor Jay is about to conduct class).

First off I'd like to state that I've been going to local Wheeling shows since sometime in 1994 or 1995, so the better part of my adolescence and all of adult life, and it takes a LOT to impress me anymore. Also I'm a musician, so I can be over critical most of the time and over opinionated about my musical taste. That taste is ALSO very eclectic, it ranges from Johnny Cash to Deicide, and Journey to southern Bluegrass, and from Parliament Funkadelic to Bad Religion etc., etc.

The Wheeling area music scene goes through its ups and downs, much as I'd imagine most other area music scenes do. At this point, Wheeling is experiencing a boom, and that is for sure! (I'm just not looking forward to the eventual decline that all booms encounter). This current boom was witnessed last night by all in attendance at the Wheeling Island Voodoo with local Wheeling talents Disobey and Entropy and some shredders from Beckley, Liquid Filth.

Disobey started the evening off, (well, actually Wheeling itself started the evening off with a firework display for the sternwheel festival down on the river). But anyways, aside from the fireworks outside, there were fireworks inside as well, and I'll get to that now.

As for Disobey's set, I gotta tell you honestly here, I remember seeing these guys awhile back when they first started, and they were ok. Not saying I didn't like them, not at all I liked them rather much actually. Would I have called myself a fan a few months ago? No. These guys are friends of mine, but still I'm impartial, the music just wasn't my thing. After their set last night would I call myself a Disobey fan? Yes!

These guys have definitely matured as a band. It was the first time I've checked them out in a long time, and I had no idea what to expect. I like it when a local act surprises me. Disobey has a style of music that they call Black and Roll, dunno what that means exactly, but whatever it is, it works for them! I think what stood out from their set was a cover of “Breakin' the Law” by Judas Priest. I know what you're thinking, a cover? And it was good? My answer, YES! Go check'em out for yourself and see what I mean.

Next up on stage was a band I had never even heard of before called Liquid Filth. I came to find out they weren't from Wheeling at all, but they had came up from Beckley to play here, so I had to check these guys out. I ended up missing the first half of their first song because the Voodoo was fucking humid and hot as hell, so I had to step outside to cool off and smoke a cig or two between bands.

As I heard the rumble of bass and jugga jugga's and wugga wugga's of the guitars I knew the shit was getting ready to start. I came back in to witness some really great quality music, I'd classify it as a Southern Metal meets Power Groove Metal; kind of like if Clutch, Down, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Pantera had some strange DNA accident in a medical laboratory involving moonshine and chip-dogs. (if you don't know what a Chip-dog is, you ain't drinking enough beer).

These guys did some great tunes and were cool guys, nothing really bad I can say about the set. Would I call myself a newfound Liquid Filth fan? Probably not. They were good, but in my mind it just didn't click as something I would grab and throw into my iTunes for future listening. But then again, I thought the same thing about Disobey the first couple times I saw them too, so I never judge a band completely until I give them a solid chance. I'd definitely check out another show if they come back to the area.

To round out the evening was Entropy. It's been awhile since these guys have played out, mainly because of line-up changes and the entire reforming of the band actually. These guys were the only band from this night that I would have called myself an active fan of before this show. I'm happy to report that they did NOT disappoint at all. They are honestly one of the few "heavy hitter" bands left in the wheeling area. While their music is rather heavy and furious, when I say "heavy hitter" I am not speaking of their music style, I'm more speaking of how they are one of the most cohesive and talented bands in our little area. They aren't the typical "karate kick" influenced metal that is plaguing our area and others as well. If anything they are doing something different by playing actual "music" -- not many people know that anymore.

Tell ya what kids, go to Wikipedia and look up "music" there. I seriously DOUBT there is even a vague mention about emo combovers and synchronized karate spin kicks in your Chuck Taylor All-Stars...yeah. Hell, they even had some dude come up and blow a fireball from his mouth. Not only is that dangerous, but it's also way more metal that karate, unless you're Chuck Norris, and you sir, you are NOT Chuck Norris.

Entropy IS the metal version of Chuck Norris though. They definitely delivered everything they were supposed to, despite the fact that the night was drawing to a close and most people were tired and hot as fuck by the end of the evening, they persevered and gave one hell of return show! So do yourself a favor and come check out a show if you can make it out.

So if you even wanna check out some good metal, and also some rather off-the-wall drunken banter between songs, come check out a local Wheeling show. I shall quote a wise man (Strong Bad) "you'll come for the Jugga Jugga's,...but you'll STAY for the Wugga Wugga's." To sum everything up, I can describe this show and local wheeling shows in general up in three words, "Wild AND Wonderful!"

-- by Jay (Big Daddy Pork Patty) Littleton, bassist of B.O.R.S.O.

PHOTO: Stephani Hagood


CD REVIEW: Sarasota

Boy, we really dropped the ball on this one. We had heard about the dual CD release show for Sarasota and The Dig-Its back in February, but due to our desire to get The Dig-Its "Know It All" we overlooked one of the best local punk CDs we've ever got our hands on.

Thanks to Dave Cantrell of The Concept, now we know just how hard this Huntington-based four-piece (don't call it pop) punk band rocks. The 10-song CD (nine originals, one cover) is one of the most impressive, musically coherent efforts we've listened to recently.

"All We Know" opens things up with singer-guitarist Mike Schritter "...dreaming of something a little different" than his lonely, depressing hometown. Like most of the songs on the CD, there are sing-along choruses with killer backing vocals; "Where do we go? Does anybody know? Where do we go when this is all we know."

"Boy You Never Learn" is Sarasota's apparent response to their parents' disapproval of punk rock. As Schritter sings in his gutteral, emotive style on the chorus:
"I'm too damn young to care what you think/too damn old to ever change. I hate to say, but the harder you try, the more I stay the same."
"By The Way Side" could have easily been the title for the CD; a narrative of solitude, depression and the hope of finding a new home emerges, with more great lyrics: "Staring up at the sun, from the bottom of the sea. I can't believe the clarity..." and a voice inside "screaming 'somebody throw me a line.'"

"Everything Changes" -- one of the best songs on the CD -- helps turn the corner from nihilism to hope for the future, despite "...picking back up on bad habits," (read: drinking) and a loss of self-control. Schritter sings on the chorus:
"Everything changes, so I'll wait and see. If everything changes in my life, it will be my only guarantee."
The substance abuse theme continues with the aptly titled "Cigarettes and Alcohol" with more great sing-along choruses: "If these walls could speak, they'd lock me up and throw away the key. If these walls could speak, they'd say I finally got what was coming to me."

Probably our favorite song is "Woe Say Canseco" -- not just a word play on a disgraced former MLB slugger -- but the real gem of the CD, it seems. It opens and closes with a Get Smart sample, but in the middle it's cathartic punk rock at its best. As the band waits for "dinosaurs to die out," Schritter is "...ready to say fuck it all and dive head first into the crowd." More awesome lyrics: "I'm better than anyone I know at doing all the things the world hates the most. We're all searching for meaning, how do you describe a feeling? I don't know." The chorus is just one big "WHOAH" so yes, West Virginia, there are whoahs in the CD.

The lovelorn "Kerosene" and the acoustic, introspective "Can't Remember To Forget" round out the CD nicely.

If we'd paid $15 or $20 for this CD at an FYE or something, we'd still be satisfied. There's a NOFX song called "The Desperation's Gone" that comes to mind when hearing this band: the desperation is very much alive in Sarasota's music and lyrics.

If you ever wanted a look at what it means to be in a punk band, like punk rock, or just live around these here parts and do either of the first two, you'll find this CD easily recognizable. Musically and lyrically, Sarasota hits all the right notes on this CD.