Top 10 CDs of 2010

10. Todd Burge and The Odd Urges -- Distraction Packed

Todd Burge, “the dean” of West Virginia songwriters, as Mountain Stage host Larry Groce called him, debuted his new band The Odd Urges with “Distraction Packed,” following up on his last solo effort, 2008’s “My Lost and Found.” With his friend Billy Matheny (plus Joseph Hale and Rodney Crihfield) coming along for the ride, Burge takes listeners on a pretty wild (sometimes sad) ride through middle age over the course of ten songs worth of Americana, alt-country, and rockin’ folk flavored ditties. More than anything, Burge’s intelligent lyrics and witty word play keep the songs in your head months after hearing them.

Standout tracks: “Live it Up,” “I’m a Shark,” “Intervene,” “Whiskey Heaven”

--- Read the review here

9. Librarians -- Present Passed

The 10-song sophomore release from this Morgantown-based “baroque pop” four-piece sounds like no other CD we’ve got at WVRockscene this year, or years past. Sometimes approaching new wave (“Cranberry Palace,” “Hard To Unwind”) with some trippy acoustic-based material (“Candy Season”) thrown in but mostly always sung in hushed tones ala Leonard Cohen, these guys (Trey Curtis, Ryan Hizer, Billy Parsons, Kyle Vass) have a sound that isn’t exactly something you’d hear on the radio, and that’s what makes it great.

Standout tracks: “Candy Season,” “Cranberry Palace,” “Hard To Unwind,” “Kid Stuff”

--- Read the review here

8. Pat Pat -- Wizard of This

This new Morgantown-based trio, led by It’s Birds’ Brian Spragg, lay down nine songs of high energy post-punk indie rock (and sometimes grungy) type songs on one of the better debuts of 2010. Like he did on It’s Birds 2010 release “My Bloodless Wife,” Spragg incorporates a lot of challenging chord progressions and changes into the songs. But on the whole, the songs on “Wizard of This” are just a little more catchy. Not sure what Pat Pat (named after bassist Patrick Spragg?) are wizards of, exactly, but the tunes are rockin’.

Standout tracks: “Windham,” “WOEFAS,” “Dup,” “The Wavemaker Falters”

--- Read the review here

7. The Demon Beat -- 1956

Lyrically an ode to Carl Perkins, but with their own version of distorted, bluesy garage rock, this Shepherdstown-based trio sneaks into the top 10 with “1956,” not so surprisingly considering their previous material. Recorded over a few days during November and fittingly enough, mastered in Nashville, The Demon beat continue to expand their musical boundaries and explore new ground, conceptually. Not even 40 minutes long, “1956” is laid out in five movements, meant to be listened to as a record; talk about rolling back the clock. Singer-guitarist Adam Meisterhans still has his alternately soulful, guttural singing, as he tells Perkins’ story in his own words throughout. Everybody who loves rock and roll has pretty much fell in love with these guys, and this release will further extend the love affair.

--- Read the review here

6. Attack Flamingo -- Exit Anthem

The follow-up to 2008’s “No Star Could Be As Large” finds these Huntington-based electronic rockers expanding their sonic landscape (more acoustic) and expounding on their message of persecution, strength through faith, and ultimately, flight. Evoking something like Muse with Billy Corgan singing, it’s a superb sophomore effort that follows on the heels of their debut concept CD. Lyrically, “Exit Anthem,” is a concept album that places AF in a Stalinesque, New World Order-type prison planet, and the only thing that can save them is their music and faith. One of the more highly anticipated releases of the year at WVRockscene did not disappoint.

Standout tracks: “Counterfeit,” “Nothing,” “Y/our Kingdom/Cosmos,” “Remind These Wings of Infinite Skies”

--- Read the review here

5. Jeff Ellis -- The Forgetting Place

Huntington’s Jeff Ellis isn’t sneaking up on anyone anymore. Together with his friend Bud Carroll and the Southern Souls, Ellis, over 13 songs worth of rockin’ Americana, bluegrass and alt-country, put out another great record in 2010. Just throw it on the pile; with 2008’s “Covering The Distance” and 2007’s “A Front Seat For The End of the World,” added to his previous efforts, Ellis further cements himself as the pre-eminent rocker in West Virginia. Depending on your taste in music, you could put this record at number one on your list and you’d get no argument from anyone at WVRockscene -- because they’ve all been laid off.

Standout tracks: “If He’s So Good To You,” “Russell and Honeybee,” “Still Ain’t Over You Yet,” “Fooled”

--- Read the review here

4. John Lancaster -- Phantom Moon

The solo debut for the longtime Chum frontman and Huntington resident is great not just because of the songs; 14 songs of melodic, atmospheric hard rock, but because “Phantom Moon” is more than the sum of its parts. Pulling together an all-star list of guest musicians including Bud Carroll (among others) and guest singers including Dug Pinnick and Dave Angstrom, and collaborating over the web, the Huntington native proves he’s not done on “Phantom Moon,” an even better effort looking back on it after a few months. Conceptually nebulous, sonically coherent, with overtones of apocalypse and 24-hour alarmism permeating the lyrics, and a 90-second instrumental track thrown in, it is indeed one of the best releases of 2010.

Standout tracks: “A Burning Farewell To Us All,” “Liars,” “When Shadows Grow Teeth,” “This Fire Has Just Begun”

--- Read the review here

3. J Marinelli -- Pre-Emptive Skankery Sessions

Proving that punk rock is what you make of it and that you can make your own scene, the Morgantown native and Lexington, Kentucky resident returned in 2010 with 14 songs worth of his angry one-man band’s version of “maximum stomp and swing” on this vinyl release. Keeping things weird but always rockin’ with his caveman guitar, makeshift drum kit, harmonica, kazoo, and plug-in-and-go attitude, Marinelli revamps songs longtime fans know and love in echo-soaked, overdriven fashion, save for the stellar, stripped down version of “Pomade Years.”

Seeing someone sit down behind a skeleton drum kit with a guitar in hand, some might think Marinelli is some sort of novelty act; something silly or fake. Nothing is further from the truth. In an age of punk rock as fashion and a commoditized music culture, J Marinelli is a rock and roll rebel.

Standout tracks: “Rebel Without Applause,” “Hey Pinkerton,” “She’s My Cheerwine,” “Pomade Years”

--- Read the review here

2. Spirit Night -- What We Will Be

Shepherdstown native and Morgantown resident Dylan Balliett transforms his years at WVU into 11 catchy songs of intensely personal, acoustic-based atmospheric bedroom indie rock. With help from his friend, FOX Japan drummer Pete Wilmoth, who adds so much to the sound in the percussion department, and a few other friends contributing, “What We Will Be” sounds like a soundtrack to Balliett’s college years. This is a duo that played together in Morgantown’s Russian Tombstones, but absolutely came out of the blue this year with a great CD that you can download for free at the Spirit Night bandcamp site.

That these dudes can make a debut CD recording in various bedrooms, have something that competes with these acts sandwiched around it and put it up for free is a testament not only to Balliett’s songwriting, but what bands can do these days if they just have good songs and an internet connection.

Standout tracks: “Bear Costume,” “Brains,” “Don’t Miss Me,” “Gone Down,” “125”

--- Read the review here

1. The Fox Hunt -- Long Way To Go

Sometimes putting together a “best of” local CD releases can be tough. Sometimes, though, when it comes to picking the top release, it’s pretty darn easy. On their third full-length (and fifth overall) release since forming in 2006, this Martinsburg-based band makes it a no-brainer for 2010.

Released way back in February, over twelve great songs worth of drunken, lovelorn, and road weary Americana, bluegrass and country, with their traditional “fiddle-centric” (no drums) and acoustic (mandolin/banjo upright bass) sound, The Fox Hunt tells the story of living a rock band lifestyle, and all it entails.

The amazing thing is that pretty much all of the songs are “standout” tracks. Between the shared singing and songwriting duties of John R. Miller and Matt Kline, there are, simply put, no weak links on the record. The songs feature introspective lyrics (sometimes painful, sometimes uplifting) with great vocal harmonies. Great musicianship, superb production, awesome songs; this CD is the total package.

2010 found these guys not only playing South by Southwest and Mountain Stage, but touring Scotland, Ireland, and Japan, among other highlights. Maybe fittingly enough, keeping with the hard scrabble, travelin’ band narrative in the songs, Matt Kline left the band in October. But The Fox Hunt will no doubt keep making great music, and they’ll always have this great CD to show for their efforts.

--- Read the review here


Payola scandal rocks WVRockscene's Top 10 CDs for 2010

We got probably 30 CDs from bands from all over West Virginia and beyond this year. We were even lucky enough to get a whole slew of releases from out of state bands who may or may not have been passing through, and were kind enough to hook us up. Getting two Whiskey Daredevils CDs in any given year is always great.

As WVRockscene prepares to enter its fourth and likely final year of existence, it’s always both a pleasure and a challenge to look back and put a rank on what we feel like are the best local releases in a given year. There’s no real scientific ranking system like the BCS, which settles everything with no debate, but pretty much, the formula is as follows:
*Number of total songs on a CD

+ and/or divided by

*How much we personally like the music
There were a few variables that seemed to factor into how inclusive we were with bands; whether we count them as an out of state act or an in-state one. For example, Hurricane native Mark Bates’ spring release Down The Narrow could’ve likely found a spot in the top 10; he’s now not only living in Nashville, but the musicians on the record are not from around these here parts. It’s a great CD though.

Morgantown native J Marinelli may have recently moved to Lexington, Kentucky, but he’s a one-man band, one of our all-time favorite acts, and, hey, he recorded Pre-Emptive Skankery Sessions in the Mountain State, so, he’s supporting local business.

Hucklebuck is a pretty cool Americana/alt-country act with members from the Eastern Panhandle and Maryland, consequently, we didn’t really know how to count their solid debut Bender, so we counted ‘em as foreigners, but would have given ‘em a high slot in the out of state top releases, if there was one this year. Their song “Good Stuff” would’ve likely been our favorite song of 2010, if we put one of those together, which we did not. We got lazy.

There were a few releases that we didn’t snag, and we realize that. Anyone and everyone is free to put their own two cents in here re: why they think our picks suck, but doing so in a constructive manner would be much appreciated. Did you listen to more than one of the CDs? Or are you just dating the band’s drummer and hate all the other bands?

We don’t really know or hang out with anybody in any of these bands, so it’s not like we play favorites; these are just our favorite CDs from this year. So in a sense, you can indeed say we play our favorites. You, the reader, may have your own favorites and if you’d want to tell us why or just how much you like the CD please feel free.

Since the Huntington Herald-Dispatch is running our Top 10 in print over Thursday and Friday, we will here also tier the countdown similarly, so you can get the scoop here online or in print if you choose. They’re paying us the same for an article, so thank them for that and we of course will let them get first whack at it. Maybe they’ll get any hate mail instead of us.

We started WVRockscene to spotlight bands we like and think are rockin’, and for 2010, it’s mission accomplished.

Look for the countdown to start in a few hours...


CD Review: "There Ain't No Sanity Clause"

CD: There Ain’t No Sanity Clause
ARTIST: J Marinelli

The cover really does tell it all for this Christmas time release. We have been spending a lot of time in recent days on the J Marinelli bandcamp page, checking out the music he has been putting online. And lo and behold, a Christmas miracle late December 23.

Something about this review needs the mental imagery of the Morgantown native sitting around in a delightfully over the top bright red Christmas sweater. Marinelli keeps Christmas as real as ever on this just released Christmas time classic that’s everything but crass.

You might think that J Marinelli’s four-song Christmas Eve (eve) release is just another attempt to spread holiday cheer, or, conversely, another attempt by someone to shit on the holiday, or just release some stuff for free that didn’t make it onto his most recent efforts, this Fall’s Pre-Emptive Skankery Sessions or his cover series, Stone Age Kicks.

But it’s precisely that sonically, Marinelli is able to bridge PSS to the mainly softer, more acoustic-based material on Stone Age Kicks, simultaneously moving his sound into previously uncharted areas, all the while keeping Christmas punk rock and totally class conscious (as you know he would) that make this seemingly snuck-in-by-Santa present to his fans one of his coolest efforts.

Fewer songs might other times mean a shorter review, but not here.

Like on Kicks, Marinelli again revisits a Woody Guthrie song to kick off Sanity Clause, with a rockin’ acoustic version of “They Laid Jesus Christ In His Grave.” Marinelli, channeling Guthrie, reclaims the reason for the season.

Even Marinelli’s cover of old school L.A. punk band Fear’s “Fuck Christmas,” just 58 seconds long, has meaning for us all and especially those in need this holiday season.

Schizo panning of overdriven reverb-soaked screams and distorted guitar over satanic drums -- maybe the most unique and hardcore Marinelli tune ever? With the weird tape rewind or LFO type effects ending the song, this is a song that could’ve fit in with a few songs on PSS. It’s great to see him take this more experimental approach to his sound.

Marinelli shouts:
“All the children on the street hope they get something good to eat/But for me it’s not so great/Fuck Christmas!”
It has quite literally been awesome seeing how Marinelli has evolved his sound from Pity The Party through, really his best release, Keep It Fake, into the softer, more acoustic-type sound mainly found on Kicks, which finds Marinelli trading the jangly kazoo sound in for banjo and harmonica, into the more overdriven, echo soaked styles found on PSS. The only real exception on PSS being Marinelli’s touching, stripped down version of “Pomade Years.”

Before Calvin Johnson was a wide receiver for the Detroit Lions, there was Beat Happening’s Calvin Johnson. You may have either heard his band or read about him and his impact on the nascent Seattle scene of the 80’s and 90’s (Kurt Cobain famously had a K Records tattoo) but Marinelli’s simultaneously debaucherous and depressing version of Beat Happening’s “Christmas” really brings things down with down in the dumps lyrics.

Marinelli’s acoustic version of the Ramones classic “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight)” closes out Sanity Clause in total somber, minimalist acoustic Marinelli fashion, maybe not the version you’d expect, but just as touching as the version of “Pomade Years” on PSS.

Just like he did on PSS and just like the Ramones did, Marinelli takes other people’s songs and gives them an all new unique sound and importance to his own philosophy and ideas about how things ought to be. We here at WVRockscene hope Marinelli is having a merry Christmas, because man, he sounds depressed or something on one of all of our favorite Ramones songs ever, one we can actually remember seeing on MTV as a kid. Like the song really means a lot to him, like it has to a lot of people and fans of the band.

And that’s what makes Marinelli great. He can play acoustic or banjo soft or loud, play an electric guitar completely fuzzed up and overdriven or jangly, sing through layers of distortion and reverb or clearly. But it’s the passion on display -- for not only the sound -- but for his beliefs and insight and his ability to show YOU his beliefs through not only covers but also his own originals, and for his love for punk rock in general but rock and roll in particular is all about: rebellion.

The Guthrie cover, like “Pretty Boy Floyd” does on Kicks, places an outlaw Jesus in a light of really what we’d all like for him to embody --

Love and charity:
“He went to the preacher, he went to the sheriff/He told them all the same,
‘Sell all of your jewelry and give it to the poor’
And they laid Jesus Christ in his grave”
Class warrior and spiritual rebel:
“When Jesus come to town, all the working folks around/Believed what he did say
But the bankers and the preachers, they nailed him on the cross
And they laid Jesus Christ in his grave”
Whether it’s our lord and savior, or a bank robbing outlaw from Oklahoma, robbing from the rich to give to the poor, on Christmas day, no less, Marinelli not only reclaims historical outlaw types, he reclaims punk.

So pick up a copy of the latest from Appalachia’s resident populist punk rock poet and defender of all things real. Oh, as he’s been putting more of his stuff on his Bandcamp page, you can from there buy a copy of Keep It Fake. This, if you love Marinelli’s music, you should do for that hard to buy for Marinelli fan for Christmas. Maybe stick it in a stocking with a burned copy of the Stone Age Kicks series and an instant Christmas time Marinelli classic.


CD Review: "1956"

CD: 1956
ARTIST: The Demon Beat

That The Demon Beat would, lyrically at least, dedicate what is in effect a concept record to Carl Perkins isn’t really a surprise if you’ve ever heard singer-guitarist Adam Meisterhans talk about his old school rock and roll influences. And it’s definitely cool for anyone who’s gotten into old rockabilly and/or read up on Sun Records.

On 1956 the three dudes from Shepherdstown (Meisterhans; Tucker Riggleman: bass; Jordan Hudkins: drums) release what is pretty much an EP as far as length goes -- it’s under forty minutes total -- but more ambitious than just a few songs on a CD.

Oh, there are no real “songs” on 1956 -- five “movements” that sound on the whole like one big extended jam session set to some lyrics that Meisterhans can relate to. Four (on average) eight minute-long parts sandwiched around the third heavily distorted, shorter instrumental movement, 1956 reminds this listener of NOFX’s 18-minute long punk rock masterpiece The Decline, not for the sound or style, just as a coherent jam with lyrics to kind of tie it all together.

While 1956 lyrically hearkens back to the golden age of rock and roll, it isn’t even barely a month old; the band recorded it over a few days at the end of November and 1956 was then mastered, fittingly enough, in Nashville. It could’ve been mastered somewhere else, but since Perkins was, as Meisterhans says, “a simple Tennessee man,” maybe it’s no coincidence.

And of course it does not seem like a coincidence the band will release 1956 on new year’s eve at The V Club, as that’s the date Perkins released “Blue Suede Shoes,” new year’s day 1956, to be exact.

While the overarching vibe of 1956 ebbs and flows between cymbal crashing, distorted blues and hear-a-pen-drop quiet verse parts, The Demon Beat nails the loud/soft dynamic and fits the sound on 1956 into some of their previous hard rockin’ bluesy material. It’s nothing like “This Is No Fun,” or “Make My Move,” off last year’s Shit, We’re 23, more like the sound of “You Only Love Me When You’re Stoned,” off the Caustic Eye/Bud Carroll split they put out. A great sound, just a divergence from any pop or punk feel they’ve had.

It’s cool to hear Meisterhans alternate between the distorted guitar sound and the clear tones you may have heard fifty years ago. You don’t have to stretch to see why Meisterhans chose Perkins as a muse of sorts; Perkins was sidelined with injury after a car wreck in March of 1956, shortly thereafter Elvis Presley would perform Perkins’ “Blue Suede Shoes” on The Milton Berle Show, helping to launch not only his own career but the new medium as well. A tough break for Perkins indeed.

Maybe Meisterhans sees in Perkins’ story something similar to trying to break through to the big time with The Demon Beat. There’s not a lot separating his band and others that “make it” except maybe the right A&R guy getting his hands on a Demon Beat CD or seeing them live in, say, New York City. But this is an attempt to kind of psychoanalyze Meisterhans; leave that to another post.

One of the best parts on the record is the stomping kick and snare beginning to the second movement, as Meisterhans soulfully and barely audibly sings about screaming girls and bright lights.

At 5:50 into the fourth movement, Meisterhans absolutely goes off on the solo riffage, just jamming it out for a few minutes heading into the fifth and final movement. The fourth movement has one of the prettier chord changes on ‘56, as Meisterhans sings “If my ship comes in, and I’m standing by/and if it sinks, and I’m left high and dry/got to lie” it is maybe the highlight and hook of the entire effort.

Having followed the band since getting 2006’s Heavy Nasty in the mail from Riggleman, it’s been great following the direction they take with their sound through the self-titled EP and 23. Maybe they’re maturing, maybe it’s something simpler, but whatever they seem to put out rocks.

Everybody who’s followed The Demon Beat to this point can tell they have a kind of throwback sound and style. But until now it’s been mainly a 60’s and 70’s feel. Pulling the 50’s into their sphere of influences only makes The Demon Beat that much more appealing to rock fans. While not much longer than a half an hour and recorded in just a few days, 1956, like a lot of The Demon Beat’s songs, seems years in the making.

mp3: Movement 4 from 1956
Movement 4 by The Demon Beat

Related: Huntington Herald-Dispatch article on The Demon Beat from April


Larry Keel brings Natural Bridge to V Club Friday

Reposted from The Huntington Herald-Dispatch

The holidays are a time for being thankful, being with family and friends and maybe doing some charity. It’s all these things too for flatpicking guitar master Larry Keel.

Talking over the phone the day before Thanksgiving from the mountains of Southwest Virginia, Keel, like many others this time of year, talked about being home for the holidays; thankfulness, charity and family came up right away.

Talk about progressive-yet-traditional bluegrass, touring with his wife and bassist Jenny Keel, and an insurance policy on his near-iconic beard, also came up.

Keel, with his band, Natural Bridge (Jenny Keel: bass/vocals; Mark Schimick: mandolin/vocals) and the help of his brother, and his old friend Will Lee, are playing more than a few charity events over the holiday season.

Keel and company bring their high energy, genre-skipping version of rockin’ bluegrass and Americana to Huntington and Morgantown this weekend. They play The V Club Friday, Dec. 10.

Supporting causes ranging from a domestic violence shelter, to Toys For Tots, to a no-kill animal shelter benefit at the end of the month with his longtime friend and collaborator, the Fredericksburg, Va.-based “one-man jam band” Keller Williams, for Keel, already established as a kind of bluegrass deity for his fiery pickin', it's great to lend his music to great causes.

“It’s wonderful,” Keel said of playing the various benefit shows. “I really want to do as many of those as I can each and every year. It’s just special. I’m just extremely blessed and fortunate to be able take what I do and translate that across to people who are in need this time of year.”

This year has found Keel, like he has for more than a decade plus, playing out at various bluegrass or jam band-type festivals and bringing young and old together with his and Natural Bridge’s music. And like years past, 2010 found Keel collaborating with friends and bluegrass legends old and new and touring all over.

In May, “Thief,” the second installment of the Keel’s work with Keller Williams, was, like “Grass” in 2005, released to much love and critical acclaim, debuting at number one on the Billboard bluegrass chart.

“It was gangbusters right out the chute,” Keel said of Keller and The Keels second release.

Playing with Williams, whether it’s covering other people’s songs on “Grass” and “Thief,” or having Williams produce Keel’s 2009 record “Backwoods,” or playing some dude’s couch like they did for a contest this year, is always great, Keel said.

Learning and playing a few of the 13 cover songs on “Thief” was a fun challenge for Keel.

“He picked out all the tunes and showed us versions of ‘em and we got his arrangements down and went out and performed ‘em,” he said. “A lot of the songs I’d never heard the original versions of, like (Marcy Playground’s) “Sex and Candy.” We’d go out and play ‘em and people would be singing along and I’d be like ‘I guess I’m the odd man out.’ I didn’t even know any of the words,” Keel said laughing. “We just had a great time being spontaneous.”

The most immediate shows were set to be ones with his older brother Gary, and Larry talked about the early influence on him.

“He bought me a guitar when I was 8 years old, and taught me how to play melodies and rhythm guitar and all that,” he said. “After all these years, getting to get back together to play shows with him over the holidays, it’s one of the most special times of the year for me. It’s super special.”

Talking about his exposure to progressive bluegrass and his incorporation of that into his love of traditional bluegrass, Keel explained how it all came together.

“Well, you know, I’ve always loved bluegrass, that’s definitely always been the heart and soul of my music,” he said. “But from an early age I’ve liked all kinds of music. From jazz to reggae to blues and rock and roll, of course. I guess listening to it so much and loving all those different styles, it just kind of crept into my music. Kind of infected it, in a good way, you know?

“I just love every kind of music. Well, most of it. This new country or new rock developed for record sales, it just doesn’t have a heart or a soul.”

Keel and Natural Bridge are joined by Keel’s old friend Will Lee from Keel’s first band, Magraw Gap, formed in the early 90’s.

“Will has come back out on the road with Natural Bridge and will be at the V Club show and at 123 as well,” he said. “We’ve been really excited about that. Will and I have been playing music together for 25 years or more, and there’s a great chemistry there; we read each other really well.”

New music is on tap for Keel and Natural Bridge in 2011, Keel said. The band will be releasing digital downloads of new songs off Keel’s website. And as Keel brings his bluegrass into the digital age, and as the fans change the way the industry works, Keel changes with them.

“It seems like a lot of the bands and the music industry itself has changed so much, just in the last five years,” he said. “People aren’t buying CDs like they used to; people all have iPods or a computer and can pick their favorite four songs off a record for 99 cents apiece. So we’re getting on that train. On my website we’ll have a whole page dedicated to 99 cent downloads where I’ll be releasing a new song every 30 days or so. So we can take our time with, produce correctly and release the real version we want to release, so we can have something fresh out there.”

And as Keel keeps putting his own contemporary spin on traditional bluegrass, looking back, he realizes making music is what he was bound to do.

“I heard a quote one time, some musician once said they can’t see themselves doing anything else,” he said. “It’s what I’ve always known I wanted to do.”

photo: Bright Life Photography


Following a sudden lineup change, The Sword now riding new momentum

The Austin, Tx.-based metal band The Sword performs Nov. 30 at The Orange Peel in Asheville, N.C. The band plays The V Club Thursday night with Karma To Burn and Mount Carmel

Reposted from The Huntington Herald-Dispatch

It’s not every day you find a metal band releasing a record that debuts at number 47 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, then, preparing for a European tour a few weeks later, has its drummer abruptly quit.

But that’s where the Austin, Texas-based metal band The Sword found itself in October.

In 2010 the band (J.D. Cronise: guitar/vocals; Kyle Shutt: guitar; Bryan Richie: bass; Kevin Fender: drums) was opening for and touring with metal legends like Metallica and Ozzy Osbourne, and releasing its third record, the interstellar concept album “Warp Riders” in August on the New York-based independent label Kemado Records.

Talking over the phone from Asheville, N.C., The Sword’s co-guitarist Kyle Shutt talked about the highs and the low point of 2010.

“It was incredibly disappointing,” Shutt said of drummer Trivett Wingo’s decision to leave the band. “I wish it would’ve happened differently. But you have to accept reality and move forward. Now we’re back out here trying to make it up to our fans.”

Now, with Kevin Fender sitting in on drums, The Sword kicked off a U.S. tour Nov. 27, in Baton Rouge, La., and is joined by Morgantown’s Karma To Burn and Columbus, Ohio’s Mount Carmel.

They come to The V Club in Huntington on Thursday, Dec. 9.

“It’s been a blast so far, I can tell you that much,” Shutt said of the first few days of the tour. “It’s been good having some fresh energy.”

“Fresh energy” is a good way to describe what The Sword, together since 2003 and evoking Black Sabbath and Slayer, has brought to metal with its retro-type sound.

“I don’t know for sure,” Shutt said when asked what makes the band’s sound and new record so appealing to metal purists. “We just grew up a little bit, you know? We just wanted to make something that had more of a positive vibe to it; a little less aggressive, a little more tasty. We just try to write the best songs we can and go up there and be ourselves. We’re just happy that a few hundred people show up to our shows.”

Shutt recalled The Sword’s beginning around 2003, forming after playing a Halloween show as a Misfits cover band.

“J.D. and I were in different bands, playing around town, kind of in the same musical circles,” he said. “I played guitar, J.D. sang, our friend Ben played bass, and our other friend Ben played drums.

“After that show, J.D. handed me a CD that said “The Sword” on it, and it was a bunch of songs with a drum machine, just a demo, you know? He was like, ‘Hey, check this out, it’s my new thing I’m trying to do, and if you want to play guitar, let’s do it.’ I listened to it, and I was way into it.

“It was like five songs that made it onto “Age of Winters,” and a few others. Then, Trivett moved to town and he became our drummer. And we did one show with Ben, the original bassist, and that didn’t work out. Then, we were just a three-piece; J.D. sang and played bass, I played guitar and Trivett played drums. And at that show J.D. asked if anybody in the crowd wanted to play bass, come talk to us, and Bryan was there and he asked to join the band,” Shutt said, laughing again recalling that night.

Shutt described the sci-fi theme of “Warp Riders,” based on a story written by Cronise called “The Night The Sky Cried Tears of Fire,” also the name of the final song on the record.

“It’s more like a soundtrack to a movie that doesn’t exist. A lot of concept records actually have a discernable story that you can follow through the lyrics. This album is more like the theme songs for the story, you know? It really doesn’t have much of a narrative if you just read the lyrics. We were thinking about putting out like some sort of a comic book or like a graphic novel to piece together the whole story, but that was going to be way too expensive,” he said laughing once more.

To help expand the narrative of what the record is about (an archer, Ereth, whose planet, Acheron, has suffered an apocalyptic tidal lock and must restore balance with the help of a mysterious orb and a being called The Chronomancer), The Sword is releasing a trilogy of videos. The band just put one out for “Lawless Lands,” and will release one for “Night City” later.

“The “Lawless Lands” video just came out,” Shutt said. “I think Spin.com had it as their video of the week or whatever, so that’s cool. I love making videos, to tell you the truth. I wish that there was still an MTV to show them.”

Shutt said while 2010 has been a great year for The Sword, he’s looking forward to even bigger things in 2011, one highlight being getting to play with metal gods Slayer.

“I hope it’s only the beginning, seriously,” he said. “We’re in this for the long haul. I’ll go anywhere, play anywhere, fly anywhere. This is what we were born to do.”

If you go:
Who: The Sword, Karma To Burn, Mount Carmel
Where: The V Club, 741 6th Ave., Huntington, 304-781-0680
When: 9 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 9
Cost: $13 advance, $15 at the door
Online: www.swordofdoom.com/, www.k2burn.com/, myspace.com/mountcarmel1

photo: Joseph F. Carney III/EarthMusic Photography


Michael Withrow revives The Concept

The revamped Concept is (from left) bassist Cody Gurski, guitarist Brandon Cox, singer and guitarist Michael Withrow and drummer Neil Edwards. The band plays at the Empty Glass tonight.

Reposted from The Charleston Gazette

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Like many young adults in West Virginia, Michael Withrow decided to leave home in search of better job prospects. For the 24-year-old, though, his employment opportunities were wedded to his musical career.

The singer-guitarist left the Mountain State for Florida in February to join up with his friends in the Orlando (via Charleston) ska band 69 Fingers. His Charleston-based pop punk band, The Concept, had played its final show the month before at The Empty Glass.

Fast forward 10 months. Withrow has come full circle, and the new incarnation of The Concept plays The Empty Glass tonight.

Withrow wasn’t the only Concept member to head to the Sunshine State. His cousin and the group’s drummer, Ross Anderson, also went there to play trumpet in 69 Fingers.

“They were in a rebuilding phase and asked Ross and I to join, so I made the move down there,” Withrow said over the phone.

But after a few fun months in Florida, he came home.

“Everything went fine. I just wasn't satisfied with the job situation in Florida. It had nothing to do with music. The work down there is scarce. I wasn't able to make enough money to live down there, so I came back up.”

At home, Withrow entered his own rebuilding phase, re-forming The Concept in August with an all-new lineup. He recruited longtime friend and Dinosaur Burps DJ Neil Edwards as drummer and added Brandon Cox on guitar and Cody Gurski on bass.

“He [Edwards] and I had talked about it before,” Withrow said. “I actually texted him driving on my way back up from Florida and got to work setting it back up.”

He says that there weren’t any bad blood or chemistry problems with the original lineup; they had just run their course.

“We were practicing and working on new stuff. It was Ross, [bassist] Dave [Cantrell], [guitarist] Bryan [Flowers] and myself. At the time, I was wanting to tour and do more things with the band, and work schedules and conflicts like that for the other guys came up, so they couldn’t do it. We never actually split up; we just kind of stopped playing.”

According to Withrow, the decision to keep the original band name, despite him being the only original member left, was an easy one.

“I wrote all the songs, so it actually never crossed my mind that it would be anything but The Concept,” he said. “The songs I’d written had that name behind it. It was already established.”

It was his experience in 69 Fingers and friendship with the guys in bands like it, The Composure and Punchline that has given Withrow a renewed focus and appreciation of being the creative force in The Concept.

“There was a time when I wasn't focused on The Concept. But I wasn’t ever going to stop writing my own music. When I was in Florida, I was just concentrating on working with 69 Fingers, but the more I worked down there, the more I worked on my own songs and the more I got excited about reforming The Concept.”

While the new Concept is reworking some old songs, they also have new songs to play. And Withrow is very excited about those, as well as the direction the band is going in.

“We’ve been concentrating on playing four older songs in a new way that, I think, sounds better,” he said. “The new material has a bit more of an edge as far as guitars and drum technicality; Neil is an amazing drummer. The newer songs are way tighter, have more ‘oomph’ and better melodies and song structure.”

The new Concept has been getting its collective feet wet playing shows locally, but Withrow is aware that the band will have to leave the state to make a name for itself.

“We’re going to be playing a lot coming up. Maybe we’ll tour a lot in the spring and summer. We’re not going to concentrate on playing Charleston and Huntington as much as playing out every two weeks, doing weekend mini-tours out of town to kind of build up the reputation.”

In the meantime, the band is building its name here, gathering fans of the old Concept and attracting new ones, too.

“I think the crowds have liked it. They have kind of a refreshed look,” Withrow said. “And the more we’re playing out with new material, I hope there will be an even bigger response.”

Dinosaur Burps, The Concept and Dennis Hopper's Army
WHEN: 10 p.m. Thursday
WHERE: The Empty Glass, 410 Elizabeth St.
COST: $5
INFO: www.myspace.com/theconceptwv or 304-345-3914

photo: Bill Hairston


WVRockscene gets thankful, gives thanks

It’s a slow holiday week for us, so why not have the entity known as WVRockscene present a highlight list of things we’ve been thankful for this year?

Internet access -- Duh, we need the internet to have WVRockscene!

Podbean -- Compared to the previous mp3 hosting service we used, this site has been our rock when it comes to uploading and hosting rock music and the occasional poorly recorded interview. Check out the pullout player at the bottom left of the screen and don’t worry about the mp3s working.

Bandcamp pages -- A whole ‘nother platform for bands to get their music to fans and goons like us. Whether it’s J Marinelli, Pat Pat, Spirit Night or Caustic Eye’s page, we’ve got hooked up with more than a few great CDs via Bandcamp pages. It’s a great resource for all involved.

People who do nice things for no real apparent benefit to them -- Basically anyone who’s sent us a CD in the mail this year did it on their own nickel. Sometimes band members are getting lathered up with press-related goings on and include us; we’re flattered always. But sometimes we approach people about music and they are super nice about hooking us up; Eli Pollard sending us a burned copy of J Marinelli’s Pre-Emptive Skankery before it was out, Greg Miller sending us two -- count ‘em: two! -- Whiskey Daredevils CDs this year, and most recently Jude Blevins dropping off the super awesome Satchell shirt.

Entertainment editors at The Charleston Gazette and Huntington Herald-Dispatch -- Your humble narrator is lucky enough to have a kind, receptive outlet to cover bands in these papers. It’s always exciting waiting for articles to be posted online, and it’s always great when the bands are excited about being covered.

Photographers -- Tying in with the previous item, good band pictures make bad articles look good. At least visually. Trust us. Pictures not only are worth a few hundred good words, they can stand the test of time. There’s been a few times this year where we had an article coming down to the wire with no pic and they’ve come through. It’s always the highest priority to make sure the credit goes to where it’s due.

Jimbo Valentine -- You can see our feature chat with Jimbo in our Focus on the Flyers series from last year, but like photographers (which he is a pretty good one at that) what Jimbo does making visually stunning flyers with his awesome art is as important as photographers or writers to the Huntington scene. It just takes a second to see who’s playing, and he’s done a great job for a while now helping to get the word out about shows.

Justin Johnson -- The last but definitely not the least when it comes to things we’re thankful for. At one point Johnson covered the Huntington scene for the Herald-Dispatch, now, his Aural History of 1318 4th Avenue rolls back the clock to the 90’s. His knowledge of the Huntington scene and passion for writing about it and reliving it has been great to read (and hear). It’s been great to click on WVRockscene and see something new that we didn’t even know was going to be up, realize it was his work as an invited guest blogger, and instantly know it was going to be killer. It’s made visiting WVRockscene way more exciting in 2010.


Bonfire catches on in Morgantown

Already an item, Chris Quattro and Jodi Hollingshead lead Bonfire into 123 Pleasant Street Friday

When we covered the MAYSP Benefit show back in September, we heard about a new Morgantown band called Bonfire. Comprised of Depresbyterians members Chris Quattro (guitar/vocals) and Liz Toler (drums), joined by singer Jodi Hollingshead on keys and bassist Amanda Burris, and with a few shows under their belt, we caught up with the “cupcakewave” band over email to learn more...

WVRS: You haven’t officially been together long, right? How/when did you coalesce into Bonfire? Was it the nucleus of Chris and Jodi sitting around jamming? Bank Holiday Riots?
Jodi Hollingshead: Chris has been writing the music and some lyrics of these songs for years. It’s what he’s been playing on his own throughout his time in his other bands. Add my lyrics, Liz’s stripped-down drum style, and Amanda’s minimalism and you’ve got Bonfire. We all just wanted to play music. We’ve been friends outside of the band for a bit, so it just made sense to make music together.
Amanda Burris: I joined mid-September, which makes about two months as a full band.

WVRS: How often do you get to rehearse and where do you practice at? Do you have a heater? Is it literally still cold in the practice space?
Chris Quattro: We rent a space with a few other bands in town. We can play any hour of the day or night we want, which you can’t do just everywhere. It’s cold, but it’s home.

WVRS: How did your first show at 123 way back in September go? How have you been received at shows thus far?
Liz Toler: They always want us to keep playing, so I think that’s a good sign.
Jodi: It was the best first show a band could ask for. Being a benefit show really created a fantastic energy.
Amanda: At our last show at 123, we brought more people up to the stage than any other bands.
Chris: We’re really the first pop band out of Morgantown since The Emergency, and I think people like us for similar reasons. We’re catchy, we’re fun.
Jodi: We’re positive. There’s a lot of darkness in the Morgantown sound right now, a lot of talent, but a lot of darkness. I think we bring a bright positivity to the scene, which might be part of the reason the people who like us like us. People need happy, whether they know it or not, and they respond to it.

WVRS: Speaking of how you’ve been received playing out, forgive me for asking but with so many females in the band have you had a problem with drunk dudes being at a bar being jerks or anything like that? Does having have been in other bands make it easier to get on stage as Bonfire?
Chris: More often than not, our audience is made up of our friends and acquaintances, so they know us. People who know us know that we’re an “us.”
Amanda: It still is a novelty in this town that girls are in a band, though.
Jodi: Yeah, it’s certainly one of the first things people notice and say.
Liz: I haven’t really had a problem.
Jodi: Maybe it’s the drumsticks.

WVRS: You’ve got some of the more obscure/hilarious genres listed on your Facebook page; did we miss the boat on cupcakewave or crabcore? I get quiet grrrl. Is that just because you like cupcakes so much?
Chris: It started as a tongue-in-cheek opposition to “chillwave,” to be honest. But the boundaries and labels of genres are ridiculous. Everything has to belong to a clique. We don’t sound like any one category, and who does?
Jodi: Everything is a combination of context and interpretation.
Liz: And we really like cupcakes.


WVRS: Would it be safe to say that Belle & Sebastian and Vivian Girls are some of the biggest influences for you as a unit?
Liz: As a G Unit?
Amanda: Not so much for ALL of us. I would say that The Aislers Set and Henry’s Dress would be better descriptors.
Chris: I listen to those bands a lot, yes, but that product that B&S produces is more sophisticated than what I write. I come from a punk rock background, so a lot of my philosophy and therefore sound comes from that. Bands like The Pastels, Beat Happening and The Shop Assistants are favorites. I listen to a lot of tweepop, shoegaze and 1960’s rock/pop/soul in general.
Jodi: Perhaps the inspiration to write music is what we get most out of bands like Belle & Sebastian. A goal.

WVRS: So Chris, you and Jodi are an item, right? To both of you, what are some pros and cons of being in the same band as your significant other?
Jodi: Really, it’s kind of wonderful. Why wouldn’t you want to create something beautiful with the person you love the most?
Chris: Well and, there’s a difference between dating and being in a relationship, and having been in one with Jodi for two years makes it easy. It takes a lot to throw us off course. The only real challenge is leaving our baggage at the door on a bad day, but everyone has to do that. On the other side of the coin, we avoid some of the stresses a couple might run into if one person in the couple is in a band. No, “where were you last nights?”
Jodi: I think our pre-existing individual connections with each member of the band helps, too. We’re all friends, like real, actual friends. We’re very lucky.

WVRS: You’ve got shirts? What might they be looking like for potential buyers? You’ll have ‘em on sale at the show this Friday?
Jodi: Liz was super excited to have some merchandise at this show so she really got us going on it.
Liz: One of a kind!
Chris: All handmade, no two alike.

WVRS: Even though you haven’t been playing out long, you have an extensive online presence, on FB, Twitter, Myspace and tumblr. With the videos you’ve got uploaded and all the social networking sites, wouldn’t you say it takes way less time to make a name for yourself in the digital age or is playing shows and the kind of word of mouth popularity type thing still more important to a new(er) band?
Liz: It’s easier for anything. Shows are still important, but it helps with notification. Getting people there. A band doesn’t exist without an online presence.
Chris: Sure, it was harder ten years ago. It was harder to get people to shows. It was harder to get tapes and CDs out there.
Amanda: It’s not about flyers anymore. People aren’t looking for flyers when they walk down the street, they check their Facebook.
Jodi: But I think it still boils down to the show. Facebook might get people there, but it doesn’t make your band sound good.

WVRS: What is up with potential Bonfire recordings? Making a CD anytime soon?
Chris: No CD. Our super duper friend Brian Spragg is recording tracks for a cassette tape to be released within the next few months on Crash Symbols, a cassette label co-managed by another friend, Dwight Pavlovic.

CDs are dead. Sell a CD to one person, you’ve given to 50 for free.

WVRS: You played your first show with DFB back in September and welcome The Cowboy Relics to town Friday; looking forward to the show?
Amanda: Well, I’ll play with a bearded fellow any chance I can get.

photo: Emily Iafrate


CD Review: "Thief"

CD: Thief
ARTIST: Keller and the Keels

If Keller Williams is reading this, we just want to come out and admit that we didn't pay for Thief. But we didn't illegally download it or anything like that. Judging from Williams' liner notes, we don't want to get off on the wrong foot.

But let's set up exactly how much we wanted to hear the CD first.

A few phrases we've coined here include: "The best things come to those who wait," and "Better late than never." Both describe our feelings on landing a copy of this 13-song cover CD.

Getting hooked up with the second installment of Keller Williams' collaboration with Larry and Jenny Keel seems like some sort of cosmic convergence of the most awesome kind.

It's a funny story; when Thief came out a while back, we thought about trying to scam our way out of a copy, acting like some sort of big time media outlet for new music -- you know: fiction!

But we didn't try. But still, we were definitely keen on hearing the latest collaboration between these Virginia-based artists.

Well fast forward a few months and we were contacted by the Keel's very nice and awesome PR lady about setting up an interview for his show at 123 Pleasant Street in December, and oh by the way, she'd gladly hook us up with the CD, probably not having any idea of our love of Keel and the first Keller and the Keels CD.

Having had picked up a copy of Keller and the Keels' Grass at a Larry Keel and Natural Bridge show at The Sound Factory a few years back, we pretty much knew Thief would be awesome. We actually got to meet and chat up the Keels at the show for a now long defunct local music internet show; good people.

And in case you didn't know yet, Keel, the critically acclaimed, much loved flatpicking master, shreds. It would be great to hear him play some metal. Jenny rocks the upright bass and, together, Williams (a star in his own right) and the Keels take songs -- maybe not even their favorites, exactly -- and, kind of like The Ramones did with songs from rock and roll's past, put their own unique countrified bluegrass stamp on them.

Remember when you first heard about a bluegrass cover CD of AC/DC songs, and your mind kind of reeled? Hearing Williams and the Keels cover Butthole Surfers, Cracker, Presidents of the United States of America, The Raconteurs, and yes, Amy Winehouse, might seem like a stretch, but they nail it.

They even cover "Sex and Candy" by Marcy Playground. Remember that friggin song? This might make getting that Marcy Playground tattoo seem like a good idea, which, maybe not so much.

More obvious songs for the trio to steal may include "Cold Roses" by Ryan Adams, "Wind's on Fire" by Yonder Mountain String Band, and "Mountains of the Moon" by the Grateful Dead. Bookended by a pair of Kris Kristofferson songs -- he stands to make the most money off Thief royalties, as Williams points out in the liner notes -- this is a great CD to play on a sunny day aimless drive around town, doing chores, or anything else you wanna do.

The most awesome song for us to hear was "Pepper" by Butthole Surfers. Like over a decade ago, we wore out that Electriclarryland cassette we had. Williams even does a good Gibby Haynes voice.

But the title of the CD is a slight dig on the whole stealing other people's songs to make a record, and the tendency of you people to download music for free, and not supporting the artists.

Even though we were late getting this, we are so glad to have got hooked up with it. Apparently there was a Keller and the Keels Play Your Couch type contest. Hopefully that person cleaned off their couch.

But for us, we're gonna go burn a Grass/Thief compilation CD. And of course, we won't let anyone steal it off of us.


CD Review: "Wizard of This"

CD: Wizard of This
Artist: Pat Pat

Maybe it’s the nondescript name of Pat Pat, maybe named after bassist Patrick Spragg.

But Wizard of This -- the debut CD from the Morgantown-based trio Pat Pat is one of the more surprisingly awesome CDs we’ve heard all year. This relatively new band -- Brian Spragg (It’s Birds), Pat Spragg, and drummer Evan Devine (Megatouch, Ancient Shores) haven’t been playing out as a unit long, but this effort is a more than promising debut.

We’d heard about Pat Pat, of course, in the normal course of stringing stuff together for local shows; they recently played in Huntington if memory serves, and we’d been on their MySpace, where they’ve uploaded a song to tease potential fans, but it wasn’t until Tucker Riggleman pointed out Pat Pat’s bandcamp page that we were able to get the full taste of what these guys were going for.

Nine songs of catchy, high energy (mostly) post-punk jams with math rock-sounding progressions, and assorted weirdness in parts. Is that even a sentence? It’s what seems to permeate Wizard of This. Some parts seem to even have a grunge sound, if you listen to the record online, you just might hear a kind of Sonic Youth tone or something.

“Windham” and “WOEFAS” are two standout tracks; the former’s heavy groove, fat, distorted bass intro and the latter’s catchy chorus about Abby Sunderland (?), each with some insane noodling and/or tapping in parts.

“Dup” and “Osu” (“Oh, Sue”) start the CD off nice with that rockin’ kind of post punk sound. “Osu” has a spacey, jammed out bridge part back into thrash ending.

“The Wavemaker Falters” is a great song -- near haunting strumming opens and the song branches out and grows into a great jam

One song that kind of sounds like It’s Birds is “It’s The Salt,” with its Casio keyboard drum intro interspersing pummeling rhythm section, and nihilistic-type lyrics:
“You’ve got no right to your opinion
You’ve got no rights here
You’ve got no ground to speak from
You’ve got no voice”
One of the neat things Spragg does in It’s Birds and now in Pat Pat is bring challenging progressions and changes into the songs -- the songs on Wizard are catchy, and still in a pretty much rock song structure format -- but keep you on your listening toes, as it seems like the songs could break out into extended jams at any point seemingly but pull back together and keep the song moving.

Recorded in Pittsburgh with David Klug, it’ll be interesting to see what comes of Pat Pat. We recently heard that It’s Birds is playing their last show next month in Morgantown, but Wizard of This is a great CD to start things off with. The holidays are fast approaching and a burned copy of this would make a fine gift to that local rock goon in your family. Swing by the Pat Pat bandcamp page to download Wizard of This if you’re so inclined.


Saturday's the night for Spirit Night

Dylan Balliett (above) will be joined by his good friend Pete Wilmoth (and a few others) Saturday night as Spirit Night plays 123 Pleasant Street in Morgantown.

Simply put, Spirit Night's CD What We Will Be is one of our favorites of 2010. No idea was had on our end how much we'd love it. Well, for whatever reason there has been nary a Spirit Night show.

This Saturday, all that changes.

To see what is up with Dylan and Pete, we again caught up with the pair for a fun, informative Q&A.

WVRS: Dylan what is up with life for you right now? Are you living in Shepherdstown or back in Morgantown?
Dylan Balliett: I moved back to Morgantown in August with the intention of working on albums for Spirit Night and my other band, David Bello and His God-Given Right, but -- surprise! -- we haven't really gotten any work done on either. However, I think we're going to try to bang out a good portion of at least the Spirit Night album in the month or so we have left before we get kicked out of our studio. I'm going to record this one on my laptop just like What We Will Be which means I'll be mobile again as soon as we record Pete's drums and I'm not sure how long I'll be sticking around after that point.

WVRS: Are you worried they'll ban Four Loko?
DB: Honestly, yes. The thought of having to go back to being drunk on just regular beer is terrifying to me.
Pete Wilmoth: Oh, God. I'm proud to say I haven't tried this stuff yet. Call me a prude, but stimulants-plus-depressants just scare the hell out of me.

WVRS: Dylan did I see pics of you on the road with The Demon Beat and/or Tucker Riggleman? Have fun on the road?
DB: I lived with my parents for about eight months this year as I recovered from an injury and the resultant surgeries. Since my expenses were so low and I had a pretty big chunk of savings to live off of, I spent a lot of that time on tour with The Demon Beat. Honestly, I had some of the best times I've had in my life. I saw a lot of the country, heard a lot of hilarious and absurd jokes, and got to see The Demon Beat play every night. I feel really lucky to have been able to do that and I'm really grateful for the fact that they let me tag along. I love those guys and I miss them, but it's good to know that pretty much anywhere I choose to live, they'll probably be rolling through at some point.

WVRS: Dylan I thought I saw on Facebook that you recently recorded new stuff? Is that right? New songs? Have you been collaborating with any more local notables or friends of yours musically?
DB: There will be a new Spirit Night EP released before the end of the year. It'll feature three new songs (one of which is actually just a re-recording of an extremely old song of mine), one demo from the album, and possibly an alternate take of the title track. Right now, it's just me and Pete, but this time around Sean Gibat is mixing and mastering because I love his work and we've always talked about collaborating on something. I'm pretty excited about it.
PW: Dylan and I have recorded just *one* new Spirit Night song so far, although we have a handful more in the works. One reason we've been a little slow on the uptake is that Dylan has been busy recording with Dave Bello & His God-Given Right, and I've been busy recording with FOX Japan and The Overcoat.

WVRS: When we caught up for the Q&A w/you and Pete, you mentioned the possibility of shows. How did this 123 show get lined up?
DB: LJ gave us the show and then we picked some local bands we really love to open. I was so surprised that Sandra Black said yes because they don't seem to play so often anymore. We're all super excited about seeing them, as well as Juna.
PW: Oh, we had talked about it a while and finally just went ahead and pulled the trigger. We're lucky to have some great friends who are beyond capable of stepping in and fleshing out what would otherwise be a pretty bare bones operation. Dylan and I are both pretty thrilled with how it's turning out. I also can't properly express how pumped we are about the opening acts (Juna and Sandra Black), both of whom make wonderful music and are pretty in line with our aesthetic, as well.

WVRS: Are you and Pete gonna be able to practice before the show? You don't live nearby each other right?
DB: We live about a block apart now, haha. We've done about five practices so far and will hopefully be able to squeeze in another one or two before Saturday night.

WVRS: Pete how excited are you for people to see what you bring to Spirit Night live as far as percussion? Definitely richer arrangements and more instruments than what you get from a drummer in most rock bands right?
PW: Well, it's certainly more instruments, with the hand percussion and everything. I don't know that it's richer, per se, but I certainly have to think differently about it. Even in the live show, there are songs where I'm sitting at the kit, but it's more like I'm playing concert percussion.

WVRS: Can we expect the same stable of guest musicians & friends that we heard on the songs on the CD? Who all will be performing with you on stage? Are you going to be able to capture the same sound live as you got on What We Will Be?
DB: The live band for this show is going to be Ryan Hizer (Librarians, Big Ass Manatee), David Bello (David Fucking Bello), George Zatezalo (It's Birds, Single Dads), Pete, and me. All of those guys appear somewhere on the album. And yes, it should sound pretty much exactly like the album but much, much louder.
PW: More or less, yes. George Zatezelo (It's Birds, Russian Tombstones) and Dave Bello both appear briefly on the record, and Ryan Hizer (Librarians, Big Ass Manatee) was instrumental in tracking a lot of it. We're really grateful to have all three of them on board. They're wonderful musicians in addition to being wonderful people.

It's definitely going to sound different than the CD, just by necessity. We can only layer on so many weird loops and synths, and I can only play so many of the percussion parts. Same with the vocals. But there were also times during practice where we were adding instruments - bass, for example, which is mostly absent from the record - to the live performance. It's going to sound great, I think.

Related: Spirit Night Q&A Parts one and two

Photo: Brian Deery


Sunday Afternoon Video Theft: The Renfields "Burning Revenge" acoustic @ Meadowbridge Hot Topic 10.28

If you're upset that you missed The Renfields at the Parrot, check out this conveniently found footage of Vincent, Set-Ramses and The Fiend performing "Burning Revenge" at the Meadowbridge Mall Hot Topic.

It's great for no other reason that this is the first time seeing Vincent playing guitar. There's also a clip for "New York Ripper" so check that out, but hopefully whoever filmed this (Cerial442?) uploads more.

Sucks that we missed them at the Parrot, but it's great to see 'em still keeping it undead.

Related: Renfields H-D article, CD Review: Stalk and Slash Splatterama Pt. 2


CD Review: "Bender"

CD: Bender
ARTIST: Hucklebuck

The cover of Hucklebuck’s debut CD Bender looks like it could’ve came from somewhere around the WVRockscene home front. Not that we have that many burlap sacks, but recently we seemed to be getting invaded by those Asian stink beetles or something.

The Sharpsburg, Maryland-based Americana five-piece, together since 2008, released their debut effort a month or two ago. A few native West Virginians comprise the band, which inhabits the poorly policed, mountainous border region between West Virginia and Maryland, where irregulars pass freely from state to state.

The 10-song CD features a few really good songs, like Jarod Brechbill’s “Better Late Than Never,” which sounds like something Tom Petty might play. The songwriting mainly seems to split up between guitarists Jonathan Helta and Brechbill, with fellow six-stringer Jon James writing “West of I-95” and bassist Danny Cumbo (who introduced the band to us over the net) penning “The More That I Chase You,” the band seems to have an organic songwriting process, having evolved out of a few guys hanging out jamming.

Influenced by acts ranging from Buck Owens and the man in black to CCR, Petty and even Wilco, the band has a roots music sound a lot of people will likely dig.

J.J. James’ song, “West of I-95” is a rollicking, jangly, twangy, Southern-sounding garage rock good time, as the band flees NYC, Boston and Philly for the mountains.

“I wanna see God’s country the way it was meant to be…Get in the interstate and stomp on that gas! Head West of I-95!”

There’s a killer solo and lyrics about pesky out-of-state drivers. “Sick of dodging asshole drivers, watchin’ out left and right/I wanna be somewhere I can be left alone tonight.”

Brechbill’s songs include “Time Capsule,” and hilarious, curse-laden, irreverent country, maybe the most awesomely named song of 2010, “Til the Tit Gets Stuck,” and “Good Stuff.”

“Time Capsule” has a pretty acoustic intro leading intro dreamy strumming about “shooting holes in the moon again,” a really pretty, sappy song, with soulful crooning from Brechbill.

Songs credited to Helta include “Early Bird,” “Old State Line” and the closing track, “I Got Friends.”

“Early Bird” sounds like Wilco, which is a good thing. “Old State Line” is a rockin’ good time, a standout track, as Helta sings:
I’m runnin’ round the old state line, never meant to leave you behind
Hopin’ that you’ll be my mate, hopin’ that it’s not too late
I’m runnin’ round the old state line
Cumbo’s song, “The More That I Chase You,” is swinging old school country and/or western, with bouncy bass and a plucky slide guitar sounding solo. He sounds like Alan Griffith.

The band is able to capture a great bar-based atmosphere on the backing vocals and various hooting and hollering. From the sing-along choruses on the songs to people who sound like they’re just hanging out drinking, rocking out with the band. Kudos to Todd Stotler at Echos Recording in Sharpsburg for a good job in the studio.

The switching up of the singers, the fact that they each seem to have good songs, the appealing sound, the regional pride in the songs, and the bar-based atmosphere Hucklebuck nails make this CD way better than we anticipated. A good time to be had, listening to these dudes. Definitely worth checking out and picking up.

Hucklebuck plays the Blue Moon Café in Shepherdstown tonite, Friday Oct. 29

RIYL: ‘85 Flood

mp3: “Good Stuff” by Hucklebuck

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Renfields Halloween @ the Parrot

Our good friends in the Transylvania-based pogo punk horror movie-themed outfit The Renfields return to Charleston Friday for a show at the Blue Parrot, as you can clearly see in the conveniently placed flyer above.

What you may not see, is that our good friend Dave Cantrell, formerly of The Concept, was murdered and re-animated as The Renfields bassist The Fiend. There's also s'posed to be a zombie walk before the show, somehwhere in Charleston. That should fit right in with The Renfields.

Also playing is Charleston's rockabilly band The Fabulous Bros. Steele, who, last we checked, had a bass player that helped rewire the electric in the WVRockscene home office. The Bros. Steele were also said to be recording out Fayetteville way this month.

See? That's the kind of hardcore info you can only get at WVRockscene.

Related: Reposted H-D article on The Renfields

Whiskey Daredevils headline a Halloween Hootenanny

Fresh off the heels of a European tour, the Whiskey Daredevils are headed to Charleston to headline Halloween Hootenanny at The Empty Glass Saturday.

Reposted from The Charleston Gazette

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Whiskey Daredevils singer Greg Miller said his band’s recent two-week European tour was a piece of cake. It was getting settled back in at home that was hard.

“The tough thing coming home is I wake up in the middle of the night for the first 10 days and wonder where I am,” he said. “I do a mental inventory and think, ‘OK, what hotel is this? Where is the bathroom? Wait, I think this is my house. That means I am in Cleveland. That’s right, I’m back in Cleveland.’”

Miller, whose cowpunk quartet headlines the Empty Glass Halloween Hootenanny Saturday, says the band was quite warmly welcomed across the pond.

“We seem to be really connecting with a group of great fans over there, and they are definitely enthusiastic about what we’re doing,” he said. “After the shows, we would usually go back to the merch table and talk to people that were interested in having stuff signed.”

The band toured Amsterdam, Belgium and Germany.

“To say we are ‘big’ in Europe is a stretch, but I can definitely say we’ve been growing a very loyal fan base,” Miller said. “We know when we play a show, there will be people in the club ready to have a good time.

“There is a good core group of people that hunger for real American rock ‘n roll, and that is what we provide. To see the smiles on their faces when we first kick in is a pretty good feeling.”

The fans aren’t the only ones in Europe who love the Daredevils and American rock. Miller says it’s a different culture there as far as support.

“Europe supports the arts, if you consider us ‘the arts,’ much more than the States. If we play a club in the United States for the first time, it’s not unusual to be greeted by surly employees, have a sound guy snarl at you through sound check and then have some [expletive] room to store your gear while you wander around looking for something to eat.

“When we go to Europe, we roll into the club for sound check and have a small plate of snacks and drinks to greet us. We’ll confer with the soundman to make sure everyone is comfortable with the stage sound. Then we’ll eat a meal cooked by the club or go to a local restaurant where the promoter will sit down and eat with us.

“After the show, we’ll go to the accommodations provided us by the club instead of driving around looking for a Red Roof Inn where we think our van might not get broken into. It’s a level of professionalism that would be great to see here frankly.”

On the tour was the band’s new guitarist, Gary Siperko, who joined last year. He’s also been there for the band’s two 2010 releases: “Introducing The Whiskey Daredevils,” their fifth album, and “The Golden Age of Country Punk,” which finds them getting back to their roots.

“Gary has been coming up with some really good stuff in that vein as he has embraced Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and other old country pickers,” Miller said. “With us, you know that we’ll do something that is not too far removed from American roots, but we’ll try to do it in our own way.

“I felt really interested in what unique things a timeless ‘American’ song had that other music didn’t. I wouldn’t say we wrote any timeless songs per se, but I think we captured a real feel on that record.”

Playing shows, whether in Northern Europe or Northern Ohio, and making music is what the Daredevils are all about for Miller

“I have a need to create songs and do these stupid little projects. It’s what keeps me sane,” he said. “Plus the rush of doing a really great live show is way better than spending your time in a softball league or entering a darts tournament on a weekend.”

Halloween Hootenanny
With Whiskey Daredevils and Beaver Knievel
WHEN: 10 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: The Empty Glass 401 Elizabeth St.
COST: $6 with costume, $8 without
INFO: http://www.whiskeydaredevils.com/ or 304-345-3914

photo: Yves Maquinay


CD Review: "Pre-Emptive Skankery Sessions"

CD: Pre-Emptive Skankery Sessions
ARTIST: J Marinelli

It’s no surprise that J Marinelli, the Morgantown native and Lexington transplant, would release his Pre-Emptive Skankery Sessions exclusively on vinyl; you may recall he released his Stone Age Kicks cover collections on cassette.

It also won’t surprise anyone who’s followed Marinelli that Commodity Fetish Analogue is, in keeping with Marinelli’s DIY ethic, entirely his own label.

Longtime fans of Marinelli will recognize the songs on Skankery; retooled versions of songs you’ve heard on Pity The Party, Keep It Fake, heard him play live, or listened to over and over again on his MySpace page.

Fourteen songs, two sides, 29 minutes, one man, and one pre-emptive doctrine.

Marinelli brings his angry one-man band’s version of rockin’ stomp and swing back on Skankery. Soaked in reverb, echo and distortion, and armed with his kazoo and harmonica, Marinelli’s songs, likened in the past to English pub rock, are above all catchy as heck.

Part champion of the proletariat, part busker, all Appalachian punk rock hero, Marinelli’s lyrics cover his own cultural observations, from the music scene and punk rock fashionistas, to friends, and society as a whole.

Like on Stone Age Kicks Vol. I and II, Marinelli, on his songs, with his own music, from beginning to end and throughout, weaves his own narrative.

Opening with “Rebel Without Applause” and “Hey Pinkerton” gives Pre-Emptive Skankery a live set feel, as Marinelli always seems to play these songs back to back at the live shows.
“Too many nights of the sound of one hand clapping just for you/‘brace each new wave and count the days till the big corporate rescue
Here’s where we’d part company if company had once been made/Unmaligned, but so defined from your shoes up to your shades.”
Boom. Every time “Rebel Without Applause” starts, it means it’s time to get awesome.

The abrasiveness of “Rebel” gives way to the subdued “Pinkerton,” with more acerbic Marinelli lyrics, as he describes playing for the same one hand clapping, possibly some kind of thug life guy:
“Maybe all your patrons see
That you’re as fake as Fox TV
You ain’t outside of any
Norm, construct, or system”
I’ll always remember the first time I heard Marinelli play “She’s My Cheerwine” at the Empty Glass several years back. It’s a great song; the muted riffage, the pounding kick drum and snare, and Marinelli’s repetitive la-la-la’s had the song in my head, and kept it there long after the show was over. Marinelli ends the song in huge rock song drum roll fashion.

Two more obscure (obscure in the sense they are not on any previous CDs) Marinelli songs on the record, “Comrade K” and “The Ballad of Eddie Freedom” fill out side one and spell out where Marinelli is coming from. On “Comrade K,” singing through what sounds like a slicer or limiter or something, Marinelli sings of the Magic Town scene:
“Nobody here is hopeful, comrade
The kids are their own marketplace
Give me anyone (who) can make his or her own fun
by groping toward a brighter place”

“Have we all grown uptight on our scene's cellulite?
No patience -- no time for heroes?
Even duct tape and flyers, even gas-money kindness
Even rightness -- says me -- can be a selling point too
Even rightness -- says me -- can be a commodity too
Even rightness -- says me -- can be a spectacle too”
“Weak Enuff” used to be called “My Mythology” but like so many Marinelli songs, has undergone a slight tinkering, but it is a great version.

The revolutionary “Last Year’s Party” is one of the more somber, powerful songs on the record.
“Oh mindless child of Late Capitalism
Son of Post-modernity

Better dry your hand of Coors Light condensation
Grab a Molotov or three”
Side Two of the record kicks off with “No Kind of Fun,” and Marinelli’s cover of Slate Dump’s “Pop Bottle Pete and Beercan Bud,” really a swingin’ ditty.

Marinelli again exhorts his Magic Town cohorts to keep the scene alive on “Keep Morgantown Weird” and dials back on his “salty version” of “Pity the Party,” a sober look at fake acquaintances and fresh anecdotes.

The scene gets euthanized it seems on “Your Ethos (Is Like a Drug To Me),” with Marinelli pulling the plug.

The jewel of the record is the unplugged version of “Pomade Years” -- no drums, no caveman guitar, just Marinelli with a harmonica and his own voice, sans effects, singing about fakery.
“Your hype
is larger than life
delusional tripe
forcefed by the forces”

“That bring
your weakness to light
so afraid that you might
meet the you that we once knew”
Skankery is a great introductory collection of songs for people who may just be coming across Marinelli. There’s also something for longtime Marinelli fans. This is a record that I’ve been wanting to hear for like two years or something, and the wait was worth it.

Marinelli has made his own scene. In the form of a one-man band, with a kick, a snare, and a high-hat, his kazoo, harmonica and guitar, Marinelli is not just some novelty act; he is what punk rock is all about.

When so many acts seem contrived, relying on their own smoke and mirrors, Marinelli is one of the realest things going.

To borrow some lyrics from “Eddie Freedom,” J Marinelli is a true sound of liberty.

Online: Pre-Emptive Skankery Sessions on Bandcamp. Order the vinyl LP and receive a free download of Pre-Emptive Skankery Sessions.

Related: http://wvrockscene.blogspot.com/2010/02/lake-and-ocean-wj-marinelli-sound.html, When the man comes to town, Marinelli Does Morgantown, CD Review: Stone Age Kicks

PSS art: Eli Pollard