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!