Mark Bates returns home for Live on the Levee, Empty Glass shows

Hurricane native Mark Bates is in Charleston for two shows this weekend. The singer/songwriter will be playing shows with his former band, Lonely Town.

Reposted from The Charleston Gazette

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Forbidden love. Disillusion. Isolation. Losing your way, and finding your way back home.

These are a few of the themes permeating Mark Bates’ recently released 11-song Americana album, “Down The Narrow.”

This weekend, the 22-year old Hurricane native returns to West Virginia from Nashville, where he moved in July of 2009, for a pair of shows in Charleston. He’ll get to catch up with family and jam with his friends in his former band, Lonely Town.

In recent months, Bates, who lists Townes Van Zandt as one of his main influences, has played shows in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, St. Louis and last weekend, the city that influences him the most, New Orleans.

“I actually just got back into Nashville this evening from New Orleans and will be heading to Hurricane tomorrow morning,” Bates said Sunday night. “We played a neat venue on Saturday evening near the Garden District. Everything went really well until they refused to pay us at the end of the evening. After some careful persuasion, they took care of us.”

Bates said that New Orleans has indeed put a spell on him.

“I always end up in New Orleans when I’m trying to generate movement in my life. The city has this raw energy that is intermingled with tragedy, sin and some of the finest music in the world. You can walk down Bourbon Street and see hookers standing outside waving the lost in, or you can take a trip to the swamp and see some of the most beautiful topography and wildlife imaginable. Like most of my favorite things, New Orleans is a contradiction. It’s a creative gold mine.”

Traveling across the country to all these shows, Bates has been getting to know his car a little better.

“I’ve put 10,000 miles on my car in the past two months, so the Prius and I have a pretty healthy relationship together,” he said.

In addition to inspiration following Bates all over the country, calamity seems to, as well. He was in Encinitas, Calif., near San Diego, for the Easter Day 7.2 magnitude earthquake and got hit by the recent Nashville floods.

“We had a few feet of water in our basement and lost our hot-water tank, but other than that we were unscathed. A lot folks weren’t as fortunate as we were. It was pretty tragic to drive through some of our bordering neighborhoods; a lot of ruined houses and livelihoods.”

Ruined lives, sin and tragedy are what seem to influence the characters in Bates’ songs the most. Although his lonely days in Sissonville (where he wrote the songs for “Down the Narrow“) are in the past, that painful well of creativity will always be there, he said, like the devil on his shoulder.

“It’s like a wild dog that someone’s fed once or twice. It may disappear for a few months, but it always comes back. Everyone has creative low points, but it’s a constantly shifting platform. I wait my turn, and it always comes back around for me.”

Mark Bates
With Ghost Fleet
WHEN: 11 p.m. Friday
WHERE: The Empty Glass, 410 Elizabeth St.
COST: $6

With Sons of Bill
WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Haddad Riverfront Park
COST: Free

--- photo: Ryan Newman


Weekend Roundup (Charlottesville Invades): Mark Bates, Lake & Ocean w/Librarians

Coupla neat shows lined up this weekend with rockin' acts that we may or may not have covered here. Wanted to take the opportunity to get the word out...

Hurricane native Mark Bates (pic above) returns to Charleston this weekend for shows at the Glass Friday night w/Aaron Fisher's new band Ghost Fleet, and Saturday at Haddad Riverfront Park, opening for the Charlottesville, Virginia-based band of brothers Sons of Bill, out on their "Life In Shambles" Tour.

Maybe you got to check out the super-awesome artikel on Bates in today's Charleston Gazette, maybe you read our review of Bates' CD Down The Narrow and want to pick it up. Wait, if you read one of our CD reviews and consequently wanted to pick up the CD, let us know; there's a first time for everything.

Or maybe you're just going to be out and about and like good music. That works.

Up in Magic Town, pretty neat show lined up for Friday night, as Lake & Ocean join Librarians and the Charlottesville-based indie act Astronomers for an evening of rock at 123 Pleasant Street. Hey, yeah we did review Lake & Ocean's debut EP Pull and Librarians' recent Present Passed, for what it's worth; any publicity is good publicity, right? But the conveniently placed flyer below has all the relevant info.

Either way, now you know.

Bates pic: Ryan Newman


CD Review: "Distraction Packed"

CD: Distraction Packed
ARTIST: Todd Burge (feat. Odd URges)

Todd Burge, one of the premiere songwriters in the state, returns with hilarious, quirky, sometimes sad (but always with intelligent wordplay) folk-flavored and alt-country type songs on his latest release, Distraction Packed, with the Odd URges (Rodney Crihfield, Billy Matheny and Joseph Hale).

Although he’s been around for a while, we were first introduced to the Parkersburg-based folk rocker’s music, getting his CD Hip About Time a few years ago, which we of course dug.

With influences ranging from Dylan and Loudon Wainwright III to Leonard Cohen and The Pixies, and having made a name for himself over the years in various bands (63 Eyes, the Larries) and more recently getting gigs on and praise from Mountain Stage head Larry Groce, (who dubbed him “the dean of West Virginia songwriters”) and canvassing the area looking for talent on his Songwriter Nights, Burge, on Distraction Packed (his latest release since 2008’s My Lost and Found), finds himself settling comfortably into his middle-aged, shark skin suit, being as old as he can be, with rockin’ results.

“This Song Won’t Write Itself” is the kind of straight up acoustic folk you’d recognize from Burge. With the help of a sunny day, he gets started on the writing and kicks the CD off.

“Live It Up” has great lyrics about Facebook and the dumbing down that accompanies the disconnected, IM lifestyle. “I'm trying to hang onto my hip, don’t wanna drop its last drip,” ... “Welcome to the middle ages, seasons full of serious faces, not too young not too old,” and “tired of being an old hippie-crite.”

“I’m a Shark” starts the kind of Wilco-sounding alt-country sound, as the sound seems to veer from Burge's solo acoustic folk sound into the fuller arrangements with drums, piano and the always recognizable Matheny providing backing vocals and harmonies. How many bands is he in nowadays? Like half a dozen or so.

Burge sings from the perspective of this depressed, studly shark at the Mandalay Bay Hotel, talking trash to the hotel guests.

“As Old As I Can Be” is the more folksy Burge sound. Despite the aging, Burge is kind of upbeat about it. Pretty song.

Where he was once a shark, on “Human Being Dog” Burge now presents himself as a stray dog, with no real happy ending. Like “the shark song” this has that same kind of alt-country sound, with a bluesy feel in the choruses and Matheny’s “nah nah nah’s” backing up Burge.

“Whiskey Heaven” is one our favorite songs on the CD, with harmonica opening the swaying, acoustic number, where the Jack Daniels flows like honey, and Burge sings, with some of his most powerful singing on the record:
I thought I was king/Of this whiskey heaven
My royal crown/presided over this town
And I had a queen...Now her memory is killing me, in my whiskey heaven
and on the boisterous (yes, boisterous) chorus:
Whiskey heaven, whiskey heaven
Seems like I’ve died and gone to hell, in my whiskey heaven
This is a song that would no doubt get the cigarette lighters broke out.

“Medication,” with more Matheny nah nah nahs, sounds like it could’ve fit nicely near the end of his 2006 CD Born of Frustration, hey, anytime you hear someone say “Yeah, Billy Matheny plays in my band,” it shall rock, and the self-medicating theme of the song segues nicely into the next one.

“Intervene” is easily the most rockin tune on the CD, with Matheny picking up the electric guitar for killer solo riffage. Apparently they’re throwing an intervention party for Burge or something, over haunting acoustic and stomping kick drum. It starts out kind of dark, as Burge calmly sings “I fought the law and my lawyer won/Now I’m sitting here listening to the clickin of an unloaded gun.”

Burge screams on the chorus: “Intervene, intervene, yell at me til I’m clean/cry, cry for me. Intervene.” Burge admittedly beat the golden rule black and blue, and calls out the relatives who may or may not think too highly of him.

“Get Well” is Burge’s dreamy tongue-in-cheek best wishes Hallmark card with reverb-soaked guitar. Here’s the song with chord progressions that will most immediately remind you of a recent Wilco song.

Burge’s kids, Will and Sophia, lay down backing vocals and helps sing on “The Bugs Are Coming,” a downright cute ode to changing seasons, that finds Burge strumming what sounds like a uke, leading the young Burges through their first recording. Kind of a fitting way to end the CD, with Burge finding himself at this point in his life, comfortable with where he is, finding his muse wherever he looks, and fighting the pesky distractions of life.

Distraction Packed is a step in the more rockin direction for Burge, who obviously has no trouble writing new material. It’s just a matter of what shape it will take. With his Odd URges, Burge just continues to highlight his talents.

mp3: “Intervene” by Todd Burge & the Odd Urges

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Two Yetti sightings in one weekend...

About a week or so ago, Ben Coll of The Yetti (pic above) hollered at us talking about how cool these upcoming shows with The Quick & Easy Boys are gonna be. Consequently, we threw him some hard-hitting questions at him to learn more...

WVRS: What’s been going on with The Yetti in 2010?
BC: So far this year, we've only played a handful of shows. The band members live in Fayetteville, Charleston and Huntington. All of us have day jobs and some of us have kids, so, many times music has to take a back seat. Since we can't play all the time, we tend to pick more meaningful dates to book. This year we opened for Headtronics at the V Club and had a blast. Those guys were great and our drummer, Brad Kinder, got to jam with them for damn close to an hour and I must say, he held his own and really kicked the show up a notch. Made me proud.

Also, Back in April we played the Meuwl Memorial show at the Blue Parrot in Charleston. We've played a few times at Cantrell's Pub in Fayetteville, where the crowd response is the best in the state, in my opinion. And, as you know, we have this coming weekend booked for V Club and Cantrell's.

Since we don't play out as much anymore, I've been getting my musical jollies by assisting others with recording. I went to the Recording Workshop in Chillicothe OH, back in '08 and have been trying to focus more on that craft. Drummer Brad Kinder and I have a fledgling studio/recording biz, Big River Records, and are trying to get that rolling. Currently, we have started to collaborate with B. Rude, supplying him original music and recording his vocals for other tracks he brings in. Also, we plan on recording the next Vern's Pot O' Chili album here at our place and not guaranteed yet, but might do recording for The Fabulous Brothers Steele. So, yeah; involved pretty heavy in churning out some new music.

WVRS: So, you got your own recording gig going, is The Yetti gonna record new stuff anytime soon?
BC: Yeah. Most definitely. I don't think I'd like to work in a traditional studio setting where some dude sits around staring at you while you wait to be creative. So, having all this gear at home is a big plus. We can work at our leisure. We've got plenty songs demoed up, just waiting to get everyone together for a good session. It'll come out when it's ready. No hurry on that.

WVRS: How do you guys like playing the V Club?
BC: Our previous experiences with the V Club have been great. It's a pleasure dealing with Pat Guthrie and the sound man up there, Sam, is excellent. When we first played there, we were still pretty much based out of Huntington, and used to draw sizeable crowds. A lot of our fans from back then have kinda moved on and moved out of town, but we still got some good, supportive peeps up there.

WVRS: You guys played the V with The Quick & Easy Boys last year, how much are you looking forward to playing with them in Fayetteville?
BC: Everyone in our band thought they were killer. The crowd that night was decent, but not as wild as we're used to seeing in Fayetteville. The guys in Q&E were super cool and I told them if they ever come back and want to see how West Virginia really gets down, they need to stop through Fayetteville. So, turns out they remembered and I was contacted by their management and I got it set up with Cantrell's.

The Cantrell family treats us the best, so we play the majority of our gigs in the 'ville there. What's coolest about Cantrell's and the 'ville in general? It's definitely crowd participation. People down here enjoy a good time, always dance. With all the raft guides, kayakers, and climbers that migrate here and all the wily locals, the dirty hippy crowd is in full effect. So, yeah, it's usually a solid party atmosphere.

WVRS: What are your thoughts on The Quick & Easy Boys as a unit and the atmosphere people can expect?
BC: All really nice guys. When we met them, they all had pretty rad mustaches. Musically, they're pretty similar to us, but more polished. It's that whole thing of each band member bringing their own influences to the table and agreeing on the ones you have in common and taking that and making something hot. They touch on everything from the funk to honky tonk, much like us, and I think that kind of blend is just damn good to facilitate a party.

--- The Yetti will join the Quick & Easy Boys at the V Club in Huntington Fri. 6.18 and at Cantrell's in Fayetteville Sat. 6.19


Quick & Easy Boys hit the long hard road with new CD

Portland, Oregon's "honk-a-delic" trio The Quick & Easy Boys (L-R: Sean Badders, Jimmy Russell, Michael Goetz) swing through West Virginia this weekend with a new CD and their old mustaches. We caught up with guitarist Jimmy Russell (aka Elvis O'Reilly) to try to get a quick scoop.

WVRS: You guys got a steady string of shows lined up for this summer tour; got all your ducks lined up, everything packed and ready to go?
JR: Yes we have brought the few things needed to survive on the road, including our road dog Daisy Mae, who has now seen most of the country through our traveling.

WVRS: Are you based in Eugene or Portland these days? Eugene is home to the Oregon Ducks, of course. It’s supposed to be a pretty rockin’ college town, right? What’s the atmosphere like at Eugene area shows?
JR: The Quick & Easy Boys started in Eugene where we all attended the University of Oregon. We started as a four-piece with one other guitar player, Ben Morse. We built up quite a bit of original material as well as covers, including mostly rock, blues, funk and honky tonk, while playing all of the local venues. It was a wild crowd in a high energy college setting.

We did that for a few years until school ended and then we moved to Portland. Around that time, Morse quit. Once we became a three-piece we developed into the more cohesive and unique group that we are today.

WVRS: The new CD, Red Light Rabbit, is out, how stoked are you guys to get out on tour in support of it?
JR: We are incredibly excited to be on the road playing in a lot of great places. It is still raining in Portland so the trip was well needed and perfect timing. We really enjoyed our last trip to Huntington playing with The Yetti, and we look forward to coming back!

WVRS: It’s been out in physical form for about a week, what’s the response been like to it?
JR: We have been selling our CD at shows like hotcakes while on the road. We have received many reviews online, mostly very positive feedback and enthusiasm.

WVRS: Red Light Rabbit is your second CD; for newer fans of you guys, how would you compare it to your debut, Bad Decisions With Good People? And being together for a few years now, how comfortable have you guys got together musically?
JR: On the first album, Bad Decisions With Good People, we had a lot of guest musicians playing auxiliary parts in order to create a diverse, sonically thick sounding CD. We kept hearing that people liked the CD very much but it was different than what we do live. Having built a reputation for high energy live shows we wanted to capture that energy and subsequent performance on our newest release, Red Light Rabbit.

Although there are a few overdubs on Red Light Rabbit, we kept them to a minimum and guitars only. There were a lot of keyboards on Bad Decisions. On this new release we wanted to make a high energy rock n roll album! We have plenty of both CDs for sale at our upcoming shows!

We are together all of the time and are basically brothers at this point! We get along very well.

WVRS: You guys played the V Club last year, how were you received there and are you looking forward to coming back?
JR: Our show at the V Club with The Yetti last year was a lot of fun and went great! We didn't know what to expect, as you never do playing a new place, and felt a very warm welcome from the crowd and The Yetti as well! We can't wait to come back and visit friends old and new.

WVRS: What is "Yeah Bud" all about?
JR: "Yeah Bud" is what our crowd yells when they get good and drunk!

WVRS: Ben Coll from The Yetti, in addition to saying how much he liked your band, said you guys had awesome mustaches. Still holding those or shaved 'em off?
JR: Yes we do still have mustaches and they are coming in hot!

--- The Quick & Easy Boys play The V Club in Huntington 6.18 and Cantrell's Pub in Fayetteville Sat. 6.19 with special guests The Yetti.

photo: by Mosca Photo


Slater-Wilmoth (FOX Japan) vs. Glenn Beck Friday @ Shamrock's

FOX Japan (L-R: Andrew Slater, Sam, Pete and Charlie Wilmoth) play their first Huntington show Friday night at Shamrock's Irish Pub.

Reposted from The Huntington Herald-Dispatch

People who’ve been in bands know all about the chemistry, drama, egos and potential for volatility. But being a literal band of brothers has helped make the Morgantown-based indie rock outfit FOX Japan a productive, long distance operation.

Charlie, Sam, and Pete Wilmoth got an early start on their musical careers in their hometown of Wheeling. Charlie, the oldest brother, recruited Pete on drums and later on, the parents bought them a drum set and a 4-track. Even later on, the fourth Wilmoth brother, Andrew Slater, finalized the lineup.

Now, Charlie lives and teaches in San Diego, and will graduate in a few months from the University of California San Diego, with the hope of moving back East, closer to the band.

The band collaborates over the web, with Charlie sending rough mp3 versions of nascent songs to the members in Morgantown. No drama. No egos, Pete Wilmoth said.

“That’s the great thing about being in a band with your brothers, and I include Andrew in that stock: We’re able to circumvent a lot of the passive-aggressive nonsense that goes on in many bands and just talk straight to one another.”

“We’ve had our share of disagreements, but that’s an unavoidable byproduct of everyone’s level of engagement with this band,” Sam Wilmoth said. “If we weren’t fighting a little bit about what direction we should move in, I’d start to get concerned and wonder if we should even be playing music at all.”

That chemistry between brothers helped transition the band from an indefinite hiatus a few years ago, as the oldest Wilmoth brother focused on his field of study in grad school.

“I had spent several years working on composing classical music and being really consumed by that,” Charlie said. “And whenever I went to a rock show, I thought, ‘Eh, I could do that,’ but I didn’t pursue it, because that’s just not where my head was, even though I was writing songs privately, at home. Eventually I’d been out of college for a couple of years and I realized that if I was ever going to do this rock thing I knew I could do, that I’d have to get going.”

With influences ranging from Talking Heads and Bad Religion to Pavement and hip-hop lyrics, FOX Japan has indeed got things going of late, releasing its third record, “Reenactment,” in late February. The band is doing a steady string of shows in West Virginia and Ohio over the next few weeks.

They play Shamrock’s Irish Pub Friday, June 11.

Since 2005, FOX Japan has evolved from a self-described “nervous, jagged pop format” with obvious lyrical references to politics, consumerism and religion, into a band with a more developed, more mature sonic palette.

The band’s growth as a unit, especially when it came to recording, didn’t just happen overnight, Charlie explained.

“I don’t think we really had the ability to say what we wanted, and didn’t understand what was possible,” he said. “I also thought that I could sound however I wanted and then the mixing engineer would make it sound awesome by magic, and that’s not really the way it works. We’re a lot savvier about those things now.”

He gave kudos to Slater’s band mate in Morgantown’s It’s Birds, Brian Spragg, who recorded the new CD. “Brian Spragg did a great job with it. I think it’s a record we’re still going to be pretty happy about in five years.”

Remember, these are four guys with classical music backgrounds, so, yeah, they have discerning ears when it comes to their own output. Not only musically, but lyrically.

Speaking of obvious political references, there’s the entirely fictional song “Glenn Beck” on the new CD, with an animated video you have to see to believe.

FOX Japan - "Glenn Beck" (NSFW) from Andy Pickens on Vimeo.

“Oh, we were definitely hoping that would go viral,” Pete said of the video. “We sent it to Huffington Post, Dan Savage; no dice. Concerned friends kept telling me that we might get sued. I remember thinking how great that would be for the band. We’d end up on Colbert or something.”

Or some kind of watch list.

“I don’t know if it went viral,” Charlie said, “but it did get well over 5,000 views between the censored and uncensored versions and did appear on several well trafficked sites. A lot of political sites were reluctant to pick it up, but a ton of people did see it.”

“A lot of people who I really care about have told me how much this video horrified them,” Sam said. “While my initial reaction to this news is discomfort, it only takes me a few minutes to view this as a good thing. Glenn Beck IS horrifying.”

Throwing dirt in Beck’s eye was just fine with them. “FOX Japan has always been about defiance, at least to me,” Charlie said.

Pete summed up his excitement for the current productive period for FOX Japan.

“There was no FOX Japan to speak of for a long time,” he said. “I remember not even playing drums except for maybe a few weeks a year. But it all came together, and I’m sure as hell grateful for that.”

If you go:
What: FOX Japan, Librarians, Universes
Where: Shamrock’s Irish Pub, 2050 3rd Avenue, Huntington (304) 523-5825
When: Friday, June 11, 10 p.m.
Cost: $5
Online: www.myspace.com/foxjapanband, www.myspace.com/librarians, www.myspace.com/youandiverses

FOX Japan w/The Demon Beat, The Kyle Sowashes @ 123 Pleasant St.

photo: Nikki Rotunda

Related: The WVRockscene mega-viral post for FOX Japan's "Glenn Beck" video, Reenactment From Hell: The WVRockscene FOX Japan Q&A, and, yes, Reenactment was somewhere in the Top 10 CDs of 2009, at least one anonymous commenter was surprised by that, but they didn't really explain why


CD Review: "Present Passed"

CD: Present Passed
ARTIST: Librarians

Depending on who you believe, Present Passed, the new 10-song CD from Morgantown "baroque pop" four-piece Librarians, is either the best new CD of 2010 (Grafitti) or a colossal waste of time (the Daily Athenaeum). The truth, as it so often does, lies somewhere in the middle.

The follow-up to 2006's Alright Easy Candy Stranger and the band's sophomore release is, in the good reviews, compared to Animal Collective. Well, we're not familiar with that group, so if Librarians (Trey Curtis, Ryan Hizer, Billy Parsons, Kyle Vass) are going to be accused of ripping them off, whatever. One artist that was listed in the RIYL section of one review was Leonard Cohen, and we get that, due to the hushed, almost spoken word vocal delivery, not necessarily the music.

Speaking of the music and sounds, Present Passed is pretty trippy. They're going for a kind of psychedelic almost new wave vibe, and yeah they nail that. But for people like the DA review guy, expecting to hear Lady Gaga, no that's not this.

If you've read the other reviews, and heard the songs, you'll agree that the tropical, acoustic-driven "Candy Season" is probably the coolest song on the CD; really nice, breezy breakdown in the middle with plucky bass and echo-soaked, layered vocals.

"Wait & See" has more of a kind of dance type vibe, something the band apparently has strayed from since the last release. "Cranberry Palace" has trippy arpeggiated harp type synth rolls like you may or may not have heard on cool Chemical Brothers songs. Again, it might seem like the hardest thing to get past in the overall sound here is the vocal delivery; the music, by itself, is pretty neat and well arranged.

"Hard To Unwind" not only describes us here, it's probably the most energy-packed, almost new-wave type ditty on the CD, with driving bass, ethereal atmospherics and painfully honest lyrics about a relationship status.

"Island Jam" sounds about just like the title implies. Bouncy bass, shaking maracas or whatever, more breezy carefree vibes on this instrumental 2-minute long number that segues nicely into "Polar Opposite." "Kid Stuff" is rockin'.

The title track closes the CD, folding back in on itself as it revisits the dreamy "Polar Opposite" in slightly revamped and almost haunted fashion before fading into oblivion. It's actually the same song. Present Passed? Nice touch.

We can honestly say that Present Passed sounds like no CD we've got in the couple or so years of covering area bands. These guys are making these songs for themselves; they know what they want and they do it. And on the whole, despite maybe turning some writers off with what we think is the vocal delivery, it's actually a pretty good, coherent CD.

People will either like it or not, but we've had it for a couple of months now and it's actually kind of grown on us after repeated listens.

It's nowhere near as bad as that Lady Gaga fan writing for the DA said, and we'll have to see where it ends up on the WVRockscene Top 10 CDs of 2010. But it's definitely a cool CD to put in, plug in some headphones and give a listen to.

mp3: "Hard To Unwind" by Librarians

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Related: a good review of Present Passed at the aptly titled Obscure Sound; Grafitti review of Present Passed and Q&A with Librarians' Ryan Hizer

Listen: David Klug and Aaron Preston Crothers' absolutely killer remix of "Kid Stuff" off Present Passed


Black Knots Redefining What Their Lineup Will Be

Here at WVRockscene, we've been keeping tabs on Huntington's Black Knots. The band was scheduled to play a few shows in Charleston in May, but had to cancel. We heard back from guitarist Greg Gatlin about potential lineup changes, and just got this back from singer/bassist Jerry Lee Queen about the situation, and the status of the as-yet-unreleased follow-up to Guitarmageddon, None More Fresh...

No, we had to cancel! Trying out new drummers, if you know anybody tell them to contact us!

As for None More Fresh, it’s kind of on the shelf right now until we get back out on the stage! People have a tendency to not release material from bands that aren’t playing! So, ha we are just trying to right the ship right now bro!

Keep in touch, if you need anything let us know, and send drummers our way!

--- Jerry Lee

Related: Aug. 2009 Gazette article on the Knots

Related: Our review of Guitarmageddon


Twenty years on, Clutch still going strong

Clutch (L-R: Tim Sult, Neil Fallon, Jean-Paul Gaster, Dan Maines) returns to The V Club Friday night

Reposted from the Huntington Herald-Dispatch

Over the course of the last twenty years, a sea of bands have come and gone, from the good to the great. Some have burned out, some faded away.

Only a select few can say that they’ve been able to make a day job out of it, are at the top of their rock game, and still happy to be making music.

Clutch is one of those bands that have not only persevered, but, after starting in 1990, the Germantown, Maryland-based band has made and kept diehard fans with their own version of blues-infused stoner rock, releasing as many records (nine) as they’ve had labels, all the while keeping its original lineup intact.

To help celebrate their fans, the band (Neil Fallon: vocals; Tim Sult: guitar; Dan Maines: bass; Jean-Paul Gaster: drums) recently released “Live At The 9:30,” a two-disc DVD containing Clutch playing their self-titled 1995 record at their iconic hometown venue in Washington, D.C. Included also is the documentary “Fortune Tellers Make A Killing Nowadays,” with Clutch footage from back in the day.

Guitarist Tim Sult explained over the phone how special the 9:30 Club is to the band.

“Back when we started, we really just wanted to play local shows around the D.C. and Baltimore area. So, for us to get to play places like d.c. space, which is on the DVD, and to get to play places like the 9:30 Club were really the only reason we started the band in the first place.”

“It really was specifically chosen. You know, that’s our hometown club.” Clutch was scheduled to play the 9:30 Club’s 30th birthday party Monday, with Henry Rollins hosting.

Sult recalled the early days of Clutch, and how cool it is to see the old tour footage.

“Lots of driving. We did lots and lots and lots of driving back then. The early tours were, you know, a learning experience. We did a lot of growing up on the early tours, that’s for sure. Early on in touring, the main problem is you have to go out on tour for years and years and not make any money, you know?”

“But there’s never been a documentary style video of the band. So, that’s something that we wanted to capture, not for ourselves, but it’s what people want to see.”

Seeing fans and members of bands like System of a Down and Fu Manchu praise Clutch in the DVD was pretty awesome, Sult said.

“It’s the greatest thing ever. Just hearing other bands perspectives, and the fans perspectives on the band. You can do interviews all day long, and you can read interviews with members of Clutch, but I think it’s just more fun to hear their perspectives.”

Another promising development for Clutch has been the formation of their own label, Weathermaker Music, which now releases music from Clutch and its instrumental side project and second face, The Bakerton Group.

As mentioned earlier, the band hasn’t had good luck finding a label.

“We’re really happy,” Sult said. “It seems to be working out for the better, that’s for sure. Of course, we don’t run it ourselves, we’ve hired someone to do it,” he said, referring to former Atlantic and Columbia executive Jon Nardachone.

Sult said the business end of dealing with labels wasn’t the only problem, there was the whole making music thing.

“We’ve always been lucky enough to have total creative control on labels we’ve been on in the past. Labels have wanted, like, radio songs, which is a song in a proper arrangement, from us. But, we do that naturally. So, I don’t know what major labels were thinking when they signed us back in the day.”

As Clutch prepares to go on tour with The Bakerton Group and another band Sult plays in, the Silver Spring, Maryland-based reggae-tinged stoner rock outfit Lionize in tow, Sult said he’s ready to play three straight sets, no worries.

“Honestly, the more I play, it’s actually easier. Like, Lionize is a good warm-up for The Bakerton Group set, and that’s a good warm-up for the Clutch set. So, by the time the Clutch set comes around, we’re feeling really good.”

In addition to the new DVD and tour, Sult said Clutch fans can look forward to re-released versions of the three records released on DRT, and the follow-up to last year’s “Strange Cousins From The West,” sometime in mid-2011.

“We’re working on new material right now. I mean, I’m actually at our drummer’s house, and we’re working on new stuff.”

Clutch fans should definitely be looking forward to catching The Bakerton Group and Clutch at the upcoming Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival June 10-13 in Manchester, Tennessee, Sult said.

“That’s going to be awesome. We’re doing the Bakerton Group set, then we’re doing the Clutch set, as well as a half-hour Clutch acoustic set. That’ll be something new for ‘em.”

And Sult said Clutch was looking forward to kicking off the tour Friday at the V Club in Huntington.

“Oh, the West Virginia shows have always been great. I don’t think we’ve ever had a bad show in West Virginia since we started playing there. It’s always good to come back. The people definitely party pretty hard down there. If we have a show on Friday or Saturday night, it’s always chaos.

Summing everything up, Sult said Clutch, after all these years, is in as good a position as it’s ever been, and they’re nowhere near being finished.

“I think the future for us looks better than it ever has. I’m definitely proud, and surprised. I didn’t think Clutch would last this long, but I’m sure glad it did. We’re in it too deep, we can’t give up yet.”

Related: H-D article on the Boston-based stoner rock outfit Never Got Caught


The Renfields pre-release songs from new CD

Those who know Max and the super professional editorial staff here at WVRockscene know how much we love the horror movie-themed pogo-punk rock stylings of The Renfields. Based in Transylvania (via Clarksburg) and brought to life through some nefarious project straight out of The Re-Animator, the band is pre-releasing songs from their upcoming CD Stalk and Slash Splatterama Pt. 2: Exploitation Extravaganza, on their MySpace.

We're looking forward to hearing the new CD so a few weeks ago we caught up with frontghoul Vincent Renfield (artist rendering above) to see what was up, and the relative possibility of Huntington shows...

Bleedings! Glad you haven’t forgotten about us! We would love to return to Huntington... our last show there was a blast... Great horror town!

[Stalk and Slash Splatterama Pt. 2: Exploitation Extravaganza] is almost done... It’s been a long road to this point with the recording but we’ve finally got all of the primary tracks done... Thursday will be our last day of recording.

The cover art has changed slightly so I’ll send a copy of that tonight via email.

We are all going crazy wanting to play shows but we have been turning them down until the album is finished. I’ll send you a copy as soon as it's in the can!

Slay Ghoul!

(ed. note) Hear "Prom Night" from The Renfields CD The Night THEY Came Home on the pullout player below left