John Lancaster remembers 1318 4th Avenue

As an addendum to Justin Johnson’s 1318 4th Avenue - An Aural History series, we wanted to bring John Lancaster on to get his take on the venue that Johnson has been writing about over the past few months. Not only did Justin rank Lancaster’s band Chum in his top five shows, he noted how much Lancaster would have wanted to see Godflesh in December 1996, Justin’s third-ranked show in his Top 10.

Below are some of Lancaster’s thoughts and memories of 1318 4th Avenue…

WVRockscene: What are some of your favorite memories at Gumby’s or Drop Shop? First show, either attending or playing?
Lancaster: Between the two places there are way too many memories to list, so I’ll go with the first gig that I played at Gumby’s. It was quite an experience. The band I was in was called Soul Circus at the time (went on to be renamed Guru Lovechild another show or two later). It was our first show and it was the first time I had ever sang in front of anyone, so needless to say I was quite the bundle of nerves that day.

During set up/soundcheck I met the legendary John Kerwood and needless to say his antics provided a necessary distraction from those nerves. At one point his girlfriend at the time had taken his keys from him for some reason and he was chasing her around the bar like a madman yelling “Keeeys! My keeeeys! Give...me...my...keeeeys!” Haha; a pretty tame Kerwood moment relatively speaking, but an interesting introduction to the man nonetheless. Anybody that knew John knew that the guy was quite a character but he did so much for live music in this town back then. He is missed for sure.

rockscene: This show that Justin lists 11.20.96; you had just released your debut, Dead to the World, and Justin says you were at the top of your game; where was the band at at this point in time?
Lancaster: Wow, Justin has a hell of a memory. I couldn’t really say where we were based on that date but I believe this is right before the tour we went on that went South -- both geographically and figuratively! Haha. If that’s the case then I think we were really excited to finally be getting out on a tour since it had been nearly six months of auditions, rehearsals and occasional local shows since the record had been released.

rockscene: How much turmoil befell Chum in the sense of the drummer situation and then the broken down van on the tour of the South? As much critical acclaim you may have had, how much of it was tough sledding?
Lancaster: I’d say a majority of our run was tough sledding from the drummer situation on. We lost Chuck right after we recorded Dead to the World and before that point we had really reached a comfortable groove with one another creatively. Everyone played an important role in how our sound came together so once he was gone, I think we tried too hard to keep that same momentum going that we had with Chuck which in hindsight was never going to happen. No disrespect whatsoever to the drummers that followed him, they were all incredible musicians. Chuck’s style had just become an important element to Chum’s sound and I don’t think we were able to look beyond that.

So that caused problems creatively, and then there were always problems in trying to promote ourselves in a pre-internet age with no money. Our label at the time helped to get our name out somewhat in the beginning but pretty much left it in our court in terms of going on the road, finding/arranging tours, etc. It was a constant struggle and in short, it eventually it brought things to a close for us.

rockscene: Back to this venue, Justin says that in the mid-late 90’s he would put Huntington as a college town up against all others. How cool was it during this time period and would you agree with that?
Lancaster: I agree one hundred percent and I have said the same thing. It just seemed like an exciting time not only to play music but to go out and see great music on random nights throughout the week.

rockscene: You’ve seen bars at this location come and go; what’s the difference between now and then when it comes to how venue owners operate and/or book bands, and the state of the Huntington scene now versus then in the general sense?
Lancaster: I think all you need to do, as I did recently, is look at the Drop Shop Facebook page and check out one of the old random monthly schedules that have been posted. The months were filled with shows from all genres whether it be locals or nationals. There really was something for everyone.

rockscene: Justin mentions you being stranded down South not being able to see Godflesh in December ‘96, you being their biggest fan, was that something you were trying to get to?
Lancaster: No, I knew ahead of time I wasn’t going to be in town to see it, but it still pained me a great deal! There were also couple of shows we played on that tour where Godflesh had just played the same venue a night or two before, too, so that wasn’t too helpful. The expression “insult to injury” came to mind quite a bit!

rockscene: So many people have such fond memories of Huntington in this time period, whether they loved the bands or the atmosphere at a specific venue or what. You still being involved with the scene as a solo rocker, how neat is it for you to be able to look back and say ‘I was a part of that,’ or hear people say how much your music meant to them; that they might still have these Chum cassettes laying around and they still rock them out?
Lancaster: I’m very glad to have been a part of it. As I said before it was an exciting time that I will never forget and I’m sure anyone else that took part in it won’t forget it either. There are still some people that ask me about those days and Chum specifically, and for anyone to still remember us in any kind of positive light is beyond flattering.

mp3: “Greetings (From The Inner Self)“ by Chum

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Related: CD Review -- John Lancaster Phantom Moon; For John Lancaster, the Fire Has Just Begun (Huntington Herald-Dispatch)

See also: Chum downloads on Exploding Eardrums

photo: Laura Gregory


Catching up with Tucker Riggleman


The Demon Beat (Jordan Hudkins, Adam Meisterhans, Tucker Riggleman) backstage at the Ottobar in Baltimore 2.20.

In advance of their show Thursday night at Shamrock’s Irish Pub in Huntington, we caught up with Demon Beat bassist Tucker Riggleman for Huntington Pulse, a print magazine out of Huntington whose sales benefit homeless charities. Riggleman gives the scoop on what’s been up with the band and what he’s looking forward to in 2011...

WVRockscene: How did the NYE show at the V Club go?
Riggleman: That show was pretty incredible. We rarely get to play with The Fox Hunt anymore, which is a shame because those guys are some of our best friends, so it was awesome to see them play again. The turnout was really crazy. We were all pretty stoked on it, and we were really excited about releasing our new album to such a receptive crowd.

Rockscene: What’s been the response to 1956? Friends, fans and reviews?
Riggleman: Personally, I’ll admit I was a little skeptical about the response, just because it’s so different from our previous albums in so many ways; the way it was recorded, the pacing, the sounds, the concept, all were done differently than before. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the response. Speaking from a record label standpoint, this has been the first time really that magazines and blogs have contacted me about wanting to review the album, which is a welcome change. Folks have been very flattering so far with their reviews, and I think people understand where we were coming from with the album, and more importantly understanding that this doesn’t mean we’ve “changed” our genre or direction necessarily, but that we are simply evolving as a band and wanted to try something new.

rockscene: 1956 isn’t so much of a departure from some previous Demon Beat material but compared to a lot of the brit or more pop-oriented type rock sound it is more bluesy and ambitious as a record. How would you characterize the band’s progression from Heavy Nasty through 1956 and into 2011?
Riggleman: As far as the progression from HEAVYNASTY, I’d say the most obvious change is that we’re all better musicians, and more importantly that we have learned how to write and play together more effectively as a band.

We also listen to a lot of different stuff these days. We’ve gone through soul phases and punk rock phases and everything in between, and I think the fact that we all three listen to different things and talk about music constantly has helped us experiment with new sounds and ideas to really find our own “sound” if you will.

We’re very proud of 1956 and what we were able to accomplish with that album. The next full-length is already nearing completion, and I think it will be our most representative album to date. We’re very excited for people to hear it.

rockscene: You played SXSW last year; did you not get booked for 2011?
Riggleman: We were never on the “official” SXSW. Most bands are not on the official festival, but the unofficial shows are much greater in number and more times than not they are the best shows. Last year we had two shows booked and ended up playing every day, and this year we already have two more shows booked and plan to play as much as possible. I’m also excited because last year we only did two shows on the way to Texas and this year we’ve got a weeklong tour taking us down there to break up the drive. We’re getting to play a lot of new cities like Charleston (SC), Houston (TX), Shreveport (LA).

rockscene: You have the Big Bullet Records festival out in Shepherdstown in a few months, right? How cool is that going to be and what made you want to do that?
Riggleman: Yeah man, that little festival is going to be so much fun. It’s going to center around our new free compilation, TERMINAL BALLISTICS Vol. 2, and is basically an excuse for me to get all of my friends bands to come down and play to a bunch of people and have a great time. We always talk about family with BBR, and this will basically be our version of a family reunion. It just might be a bit more drunk than normal reunions.

But yeah, it takes place April 21-23 in Shepherdstown, WV. The first and last nights will take place at The Blue Moon Saloon, and the second night will feature the bulk of the festival’s artists performing at this old church in town that hosts shows. It’s a really killer space and there have been some amazing shows there. We are really excited to be headlining the second night, which will also be the release show for our new split cassette with our friends The Shackeltons which will be out on Antler Tapes, an awesome little cassette label out of Pennsylvania.

rockscene: What is the scoop for 2011 for you guys? Obviously you and Adam do Prison Book Club, and there’s a Jude Universer release right? New Demon Beat CD? Excited about any touring or appearances? Playing with Mike Watt, obviously; what was the band’s response to hearing that?
Riggleman: By this summer we will have put out two full-lengths and a split cassette in six months. The cassette comes out in April during the BBR Fest, and our new full-length will be out tentatively in July. We did the basic tracking for that album during our November tour, and the initial mixes are almost finished. Adam will be finishing the mixes in NYC with Chris Abell who worked on Shit, We’re 23, and then we'll be getting it mastered again by Justin Francis in Nashville. Mark my words, this WILL come out on vinyl, even if I have to go a month without eating to pay for it. The new album isn’t a concept piece like 1956 or anything, rather it’s more of a traditional album if you will. We’re very excited about the songs and the sounds that we were able to get. Jordan’s drums sound pretty epic on it.

As for the Mike Watt show, we are ridiculously honored to have the opportunity to play with someone so influential. It’s like having the pretty girl ask you to go to the dance.

rockscene: Looking forward to playing Shamrock’s with Arcane Rifles Thursday night?
Riggleman: I just want to point out how much we love J Marinelli. I played a solo show with him down here in Charles Town, WV a couple years ago and have the privilege of hanging out with him for the night and picking his brain about music. The guy is like a living punk rock encyclopedia, and he’s one of the nicest, most genuine dudes ever. We are really excited to do a run of shows with his new band, because of course they sound badass too. If you haven’t yet, people need to go buy J’s new record on vinyl. It’s amazing, and he’s one of the most important musicians to come out of West Virginia in my opinion.

rockscene: You’ve played Huntington a bunch; whether it’s the V Club or Shamrock’s how have you been received?
Riggleman: We absolutely love Huntington and everyone there. It continually blows my mind to see the turnouts at our shows and the enthusiasm that people bring. In November we played a Tuesday show there which I expected nobody to really be at since it was a weekday and all, and the turnout was still pretty awesome. It’s so great to have places like Huntington, especially it being in our home state and all. Nothing but love.

rockscene: What are the goals and/or expectations of the band? Success is such a relative term and is of course fickle in the music industry; how do you feel about the band after being together for roughly five years?
Riggleman: I feel really great about what we’ve accomplished, and I think as far as “expectations” go, that we just want to keep writing and playing together and touring and meeting people and making friends. That’s really what it’s about. We don’t owe anything to anyone really, we’ve done the work and put in our time and that’s always a good feeling. To know that you've really earned what you’ve got out of it. We just want to stay true to ourselves and keep writing and recording and touring. So long as we keep doing that and having fun and aren't completely broke, I’d say we'll keep going.

The Demon Beat plays Shamrock's Thursday night with Lexington's Arcane Rifles and Universes.

photo: Chris Moore

Related (2010) -- CD Review: 1956; Side project sends Demon Beat, Fox Hunt members to Prison (Charleston Gazette); One Big Bullet after another: Q&A w/Tucker Riggleman; Rising stars: Retro rock trio makes stop at Huntington’s V Club (Huntington Herald-Dispatch)


Jimbo Valentine unveils Soul of the Phoenix @ the V Club tonite

Jimbo Valentine stands in front of his Hank III mural outside the V Club. Valentine, known for his flyers and photos and art, takes his ambient/doom electronic music project Soul of the Phoenix out live for the first time tonite as part of This Ain't No Disco at the V Club

Reposted from The Huntington Herald-Dispatch

Nobody has been more instrumental in promoting Huntington-area rock shows over the past four years than James Alden Valentine III.

The 32-year old Fairmont native and Huntington resident has, through his Amalgam Unlimited screenprinting and design outfit, been making flyers and designing art for Huntington shows over the past few years, specifically for the V Club.

Whether it’s a big mural of Unknown Hinson on the side of the V Club, art for Hank III or Karma To Burn, band photos he’s snapped at the V, CD art he designs, or flyers, Valentine’s edgy work has been an important part of the Huntington scene.

Now, Valentine will unveil his long-running electronic musical side project, Soul of the Phoenix, live for the first time at the V Club Thursday night. Welcomed and brought out by his friend Brett Fuller (aka DJ Franklin F---in’ Furnace) for the “This Ain’t No Disco” series at the V, whether you call him a musician or not, you, like his many friends, can call Valentine by his normal name: Jimbo.

“Both playing guitar and singing are terms that be can used loosely,” Valentine said over the phone, laughing hard at his own expense, describing the logistics of his first live show.

“Oh man, yeah I’m pretty nervous,” Valentine said of getting up on stage for the first time. “I’ve been stressing out pretty hard. I’ve never planned on playing this live, so now I’m trying to figure it out. I haven’t had as much time as I would’ve liked, but I’m excited about it at the same time.”

Valentine has been busy sorting and arranging the material he’ll play live, taking what he does at home with guitar, synth, drum machine and some samples, and playing it off his laptop, mixing in some live guitar and vocals.

“I’m going to incorporate some new stuff, which is called “Meditations.” It’s a little more ambient. Almost like a little movie soundtrack, with some movie samples sprinkled in.”


Valentine has already released six Soul of the Phoenix CDs online, and has enough unreleased material for a few more releases, he said, whether it’s “Meditations” or his other solo side project, This Drum Machine Kills Fascists.

Valentine, pointing out he’s “not a musician,” said he actually comes from a long line of musicians.

“I grew up in a family that played music,” Valentine said. “My grandfather is a great old school country steel guitar player, my cousin is a country singer, my mom played piano when I was growing up. I always wanted to make music, but just never got into doing it when I was younger.”

While the music may be different (this isn’t your grandparent’s mix of ambient and doom) Valentine faces the same challenge more traditional performers have always faced: keeping people’s attention on stage.

“I’m going to work in a couple of more upbeat tracks at the end, if everyone’s still awake,” Valentine said laughing.

“I just don’t want to bore everyone to death. But that’s where the second guessing comes in; ‘Oh this is going to drag everyone down, they’re going to be nodding off, or whatever.’”

Valentine said he wouldn’t be bringing his solo act out live if not for the support of Fuller.

“Oh it’s really cool,” Valentine said of “This Ain’t No Disco.” “Every week or so there’s been different bands, different styles, and he’ll cater his set to whoever’s playing. But it makes it comfortable for me. He cornered me and asked me ‘Hey man, would you want to do this stuff live?’ I’ve been wanting to but haven’t attempted to put it together. So if it would’ve been anything else I wouldn’t have been as comfortable with it. I’m excited to do it, I’m excited to do it at the V Club, those people are like family to me, so I’m excited.”

Regardless of whether or not casual show goers like his music, or if it’s a “disaster” of a show, Valentine knows he’s made a lot of great friends at the V Club in particular and around Huntington in general.

“I’ve actually made a lot of great friends down here. There are certainly some bad things about Huntington and people that complain about it all the time, but there are great people here who are so supportive of me, especially since I started doing the murals and the art, people come up to me and are like ‘Hey, I seen you at the V Club!’ That’s the diamond in the rough down here for me, is the people and my friends.”

Soul of the Phoenix, Franklin F---in’ Furnace
Where: The V Club, 741 6th Avenue, Huntington (304) 781-0680
When: Thursday, February 17, 10 p.m.
Cost: $3
Online: www.vclublive.com

--- To see Valentine’s artwork and hear his music, visit www.amalgamunlimited.tumblr.com/

Related: Jimbo Valentine Focus on the Flyers feature

Soul of the Phoenix @ the V Club 2.17

"I Hear Hell Is Nice This Time of Year/Obsess Compulse"

Video: Chuk Fowlord

One Man's Island

It is often said that everyone has a story to tell.

Some are better than others, and the others, well, they were probably better left untold.

I learned this lesson firsthand as a community reporter for The Herald-Dispatch in Huntington, West Virginia, some 15 years ago.

I was a 19-year-old obituary clerk when I was approached by an editor with the offer of becoming a reporter covering community news for Western Lawrence County, Ohio.

It was early 1996, and I agreed to the offer, but also felt that the newspaper was sorely lacking in its coverage of what I deemed to be a then-viable local music scene.

Knowing that I had nothing to lose, I expressed this opinion to the editor who, much to my surprise, agreed and gave me the opportunity to serve as The Herald-Dispatch's first music columnist.

It was a big break, especially for someone that young and inexperienced, and not one that I took lightly.

I clearly understood the responsibility that came with this designation and put my heart and soul into that music column for the one year that I had the privilege to write it.

I did not, however, view my other journalistic duties at the newspaper in the same light.

Soon after I began investigating and writing stories about the particular region of which I was assigned, I felt an immediate disconnect.

It was a disconnect from the subject matter, a disconnect from the legwork involved and, most importantly, a disconnect from what I was actually writing.

It was a means to an end, though, because this insipid assignment afforded me the chance to write about something that I, on the other hand, felt very passionately about - music and, particularly, that which was originating from my hometown.

So, it was a bittersweet moment when I was let go by The Herald-Dispatch in February 1997, due to "newsroom budget cuts."

I'll never know if that was the truth and, frankly, don't care, but what I did know was that I would no longer be covering a music scene that very much deserved the exposure.

The decision was just, because I was jaded, going through the motions; writing stories about communities that I, personally, would not have spent five seconds reading, much less the five minutes it would have actually taken to read them.

What I can tell you is that I never lost my passion for the music column.

Now, you may be asking yourself, "what's the point to all of this?"

The point is while I was telling stories that I sensed readers needed to know, I was also telling ones that didn't need to be unearthed, that didn't matter.

That was a defining moment in my life.

In that instant I decided that I would never again squander my time, or the attention spans of those whom were gracious enough to read my ramblings, composing stories that should not have been, in my opinion, disseminated in the first place.

I would never fancy myself a professional writer, but it is an outlet for me (as it likely is for many of you) and, thankfully, it is something I can always fall back on when inspiration strikes me.

What most inspires me? You guessed it, music.

It's the subject I'm most passionate about.

That passion, however, is of no use unless you have a story to tell, one that is worth reading.

I believe there is a story worth telling - the story of Huntington's 1318 4th Avenue, specifically the years 1989-1998, and for longest time I thought I was the only person whom felt this way.

That changed recently with the announcement that two individuals, Chuk Fowlord and Dave Mistich, commenced to film a documentary about the Huntington music scene.

Fowlord and Mistich's documentary is set to chronicle the years 1989-2010, and encapsulate the music that was created and rose to prominence in Huntington during that time.

I, on the other hand, have finally decided to make good on a promise unfulfilled: to, at long last, write the book I've always said I would one day produce.

A book about the days (and nights) when Gumby's and Drop Shop were the preeminent live music venues in an otherwise small, sleepy town of 50,000 residents.

My ambition, much like that of Fowlord and Mistich, is grand, and will take no shortage of time, research and dedication to see it realized.

That I understand, quite clearly.

A project of this magnitude can only be accomplished with the participation and input of those whom lived and created it.

What I have been able to discern in recent months as I began the research process is that the information essential to the retelling of this story will not be easy to come by.

An undertaking of this nature, it never will be, but I won't be deterred.

I will see this through.

It's the least I can do to repay those individuals whom did more for Huntington, culturally, than they could have possibly dreamed.

I'm committed to this endeavor, but are you?


Sasha Colette Can't "Leave It Alone"


“Heaven’s doors are closed to those with bloody hands,” sings Sasha Colette in “Ballad of Nicole Penix Vanzant” about an unsolved 2009 murder in Eastern Kentucky. Colette brings her band, The Magnolias, to The Empty Glass Friday.

Reposted from The Charleston Gazette

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sasha Colette’s story reads like it’s right out of Hollywood: small town Eastern Kentucky girl raised on church music and some hard times is brought through them with her free spirit and faith in herself to make music and fans after leaving home.

Colette has gone from piano lessons at age 6 to guitar at age 12 to a 16-year old waitress looking to record some demos. Now 22, she has, along with her band The Magnolias and multi-instrumentalist Bud Carroll, just released her third CD, “Leave It Alone.”

She’ll bring her version of Americana and folk to The Empty Glass Friday.

Fresh off the release of the new eight-song CD, Colette talked over the phone about her self-described “poetic life.” For the past six months or so, Colette, born and raised in Olive Hill, Ky., has lived just up Route 60 in Morehead, Ky.

“I have a home now,” she said of her living situation. This is noteworthy because for a few months last summer, Colette found herself living as a “professional camper” before making the move.

“There are people here who play music,” Colette said. “The original core of the Magnolias are all based out of Morehead. We’re spending a lot of time together now as a band. I enjoy being where my friends are, where my people are.”

Morehead is home to Morehead State University, a school that factors heavily into musical path Colette and the Magnolias have found themselves on. It was a music program there that helped Colette find her soulful voice as a formative 16-year-old.

“I took lessons for about a year from a lady on campus, and she worked with this black gospel ensemble. It was mostly African Americans -- well, there were two white girls -- and I was the youngest. They just had that soul,” she said emphatically, trailing off in awe. “They gave me some soul, for sure. They taught me how to sling it out there.”

Colette’s soulful voice is on display on the new CD, which also features Carroll’s contributions on guitar and in the studio.

“I don’t want to call him a rock star, but he’s a rock star,” Colette said laughing.

“With Bud, I’d play through a song and he encouraged me to do it my way and not try to step in and take over. Most musicians would take the reigns and stamp it with whatever they’ve got, but he was encouraging enough for me to say ‘I did that myself.’”

Last year, Colette did a collaboration of another sort. She teamed with reporter and writer Fred Brown Jr. on “Ballad of Nicole Penix Vanzant,” a swaying country song about the still unsolved 2009 murder of the 27-year-old Frenchburg, Ky., woman. (Frenchburg is about 25 miles from Morehead.)

“I’ve worked with him before on some songs,” Colette said of Brown. “He gave me the Nicole Penix Vanzant song and told me to see what I could do with it. I put some music to it, and we figured we could do it for this Fuse the Muse project here in town, where a local art center had a program to bring two mediums together, whatever they may be.”

The song was put to a video and has since been viewed by thousands of people on YouTube as well as featured in local and national press outlets. Colette says the song is as much a search for justice as an exercise in creativity.

“The video has been super well received,” she said, slowing down, speaking carefully. “But it’s strange being involved in something like this because what you’re saying for TV interviews or wherever, talking about this, it’s not just for fun, you know? It’s enjoyable [playing the song] but it has a serious, responsible part to it as well.

“I got to meet Nicole’s mom, at the show, when we premiered the video. And that really sealed the deal right there. I was so happy that I was involved in a project that I would want to happen if I were to have had the fate that Nicole came to.

“If that happened to me, and my mom was left like Nicole’s mom was left? She had no closure. All she knows is, it’s really unfair. It’s unfair and it’s just heart wrenching. Nobody deserves to be left like that.”

Whether the ballad brings about justice or not, it’s just another case of Colette doing what she loves to do.

“I’m just taking pen to page as best I can because it’s what I enjoy.”

Sasha Colette and the Magnolias
WHEN: 10 p.m. Friday
WHERE: The Empty Glass, 410 Elizabeth St.
COST: $5
INFO: www.reverbnation.com/sashacolette or 304-345-3914


An Open Letter (To A Landlord)

It’s no secret that I have an affinity for the building that sits at 1318 4th Avenue in Huntington, West Virginia.
I would dare say that anyone who may have spent any fair amount of time in it during the years 1989-98 would, perhaps, feel the same way.
For the generation of Marshall University students born between the years 1969 and 1979, it truly was like a home away from home.
On any given night, one could walk through its doors and stumble upon a unique collective of intellectuals, artists and musicians, not to mention an array of live music that was second to none anywhere else in town.
Like all good things, an ending had to eventually come, and it did, but for 10 great years I would’ve put Huntington up against any other college town in this country in terms of entertainment and culture.
I felt that strongly about it, and still do.
This is why it pains me today to see its history not only forgotten (or ever known for that matter) by a new generation of Marshall students, but dismissed by those whom have inhabited the building at the corner of 4th Avenue and 13th Street in the years since.
By my estimation, this steady decline began not long after Drop Shop ceased operations in early summer 1998.
(For those of you keeping score at home, in the more than 10 years that has passed since Drop Shop’s closing 1318 4th Avenue has been known by no less than seven different names.)
The former proprietors of The Stoned Monkey were the first to capitalize on its misfortunes and reopened the building’s doors in the fall of 1998 as Gyrationz.
Although they will likely never admit it, The Stoned Monkey’s owners at the time had been envious of Drop Shop’s success from the outset and practically modeled itself after it.
Proof positive of The Stone Monkey’s envy can be traced to the stories about their penchant for not only booking the same bands after the fact but, apparently, paying them more as an incentive to never perform at Drop Shop again.
(I’ve always been a firm believer that competition breeds success, but that was a philosophy to which they obviously didn’t subscribe.)
The Gyrationz brass can lay claim, though, to a dubious distinction all their own.
In a move that was, at best, questionable, and, at worst, utterly reprehensible, they actually thought it was a good idea to erect a bar squarely in the middle of the showroom floor, easily reducing the venue’s potential capacity and, with it, any chance of booking high-level talent.
But, I will give credit where credit’s due, Gyrationz did land Kid Rock (when he was a relative unknown), a Rollins Band-less Henry Rollins and GWAR, but that wasn’t nearly enough to prevent them eventually renaming 1318 4th Avenue to the Empire Club.
At this juncture, live shows were quickly becoming a thing of the past because, with the exception of a triple-bill featuring Corrosion of Conformity, Clutch and Karma to Burn (in January 2001), dance nights and DJ shows were becoming all the rage.
Not only that, but they were profitable, if only for a little while.
What most nightclub and bar owners fail to realize, however, is that college-aged kids are an unfaithful bunch, and what was popular one week isn’t necessarily the next.
One certainty that has proven its mettle time after time, at least in Huntington, is that if you want to put your establishment on the fast track to closure adopt an all-dance nightclub format.
It’s happened way too often and, if you can provide a view to the contrary, I’d like to hear about it, because it was the fate of the Empire Club and so many before and after it.
Once again, the doors of 1318 4th Avenue would be closed, but not for very long.
Although its incessant changing of the guard has become a running joke in some circles, it must be said that the building has an allure all its own because it has never remained closed for any extended period of time throughout the course of the last 20 years.
Now, I don’t know what I’m more ashamed of, some of the names that have been associated with 1318 4th Avenue in the last 10 years, or the more high-profile incidents that have occurred there.
The Zoo quickly comes to mind, and it was next in succession.
While most of us would probably like to forget it, that calamity is best remembered for the shooting that occurred there in September 2002, when a woman was wounded in the ladies’ restroom by a bullet that came through the wall of the adjacent men’s restroom.
Needless to say, that was the nail in the coffin for that particular endeavor so I’ll take the less is more approach and move on to 1318 4th Avenue’s next occupants.
No, not Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta and Joe Pesci.
It was, yes, the name of the building for a relatively short period of time and, if memory serves me correctly, was the brainchild of the same group that last ran Mycrofts before its untimely death.
While Goodfellas did book the occasional local act (The Black Knots, The Red Carpet Bombers and The Red Velvet all appeared on at least one occasion), from all accounts, bad business deals eventually led to its unraveling and, surprise, closing.
1318 4th Avenue would next be known as C & O Martini & Piano Bar and, while it may have been a good concept, the attempt at remaking the building’s identity as such was the equivalent of CBGB trying to transform itself into Bob’s Country Bunker. (For the uninitiated, that was the infamous country bar in the film ‘The Blues Brothers.’)
To quote Bill Hicks, “bad idea, brother,” and another failed venture left the building vacant once more.
Then, in stepped Mackie Robertson, then-owner of Marley’s Doghouse on Third Avenue across from Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
He took over in late summer 2007, and remains the building’s present owner, but under his guidance it’s had its share of identity crises.
Robertson first opened it as Chubby's, while continuing to simultaneously operate Marley’s, but that task proved to be too daunting, and he soon closed up shop to rethink his strategy.
In early 2008, he reopened the doors to 1318 4th Avenue as Club Echo, and received coverage in the Huntington Herald-Dispatch as a result.
In that story, written by Dave Lavender, Robertson was quoted as saying (of his then-new approach) “it's going to be sort of back to the Gumby's and Drop Shop type of real good music, where all the local kids are coming out to support it. Gumby's was a really neat club. I mean people still talk about the club, and it's been closed for 15 years.”
So, my only question is what happened?
Well, from what I’ve gathered, that premise was never something that he was entirely sold on.
Aside from a “Gumby’s Reunion” that the venue hosted (which featured Karma to Burn and The New Duncan Imperials) and a headlining stint by Nebula, which no one attended (no doubt due to the lack of promotion, which is another thorn in my side that will undoubtedly merit its own eventual entry on this site), Robertson and Club Echo never delivered on that promise.
Because the ugly truth is this – booking bands is not a profitable enterprise.
Never was, and never will be.
It’s so much easier to change your name (yet again) and identity to that of, you guessed it, a dance club.
First and foremost, I’m not against capitalism, or anyone making money for that matter, but false intentions as a means of making money is something I have a difficult time swallowing.
The plain truth is that the people who book bands do it for one simple reason: because they love it and, sometimes, thankfully, that trumps material reward.
The best place in Huntington for hosting those live bands was, is and always will be 1318 4th Avenue.
The problem is that people have absolutely no sense of history, and rather than honor the past, they choose to repeat recent history, which, as this building’s last dozen years has proven, always culminates with closed doors.
No one may ever classify John Kerwood as a savvy businessman, but consider this – in the last 20 years, Gumby’s has had the longest tenure at 1318 4th Avenue than any business since, including Drop Shop.
Say what you will about Kerwood, but he, apparently, knew something that countless others did not.
It’s a damn shame that they’ve never bothered to learn.


1318 4th Ave. - An Aural History, Vol. 5

Okay, so I said in my last post (from October 12, 2010) that you could expect the second part of the series to appear in the coming days.
Well, it’s a damn good thing I wasn’t more specific in that assessment because here we are, four months later, and I’ve finally gotten around to posting it.
For that, I apologize, but it’s been a busy couple of months, and time is something I haven’t had a lot of lately, but I fully intended on not only completing this series, but to continue contributing to this site in some capacity.
As you may recall, in my previous post, I began counting down my Top 10 Favorite Drop Shop shows so, for posterity’s sake, I’ll recap the first five, in descending order:
#10 SHOOTYZ GROOVE W/ TREE (Wednesday, September 24, 1997)
  #9 THE SMOOTHS W/ CRETIN HOP (Saturday, November 30, 1996)
  #8 SPEED MCQUEEN W/ SUPAFUZZ (Friday, February 7, 1997)
  #7 JERRY CANTRELL W/ ZEKE & CHUM (Wednesday, June 17, 1998)
  #6 KARMA TO BURN W/ LIKEHELL (Friday, February 28, 1997)
(You can find the reasons as to why I chose these particular shows in the entry that follows.)
Now that we have that necessary business out of the way, let’s return to our regularly scheduled program.
(Friday, May 15, 1998)
As it would turn out, this would be one of the last shows I attended at Drop Shop.
In fact, by late spring 1998, Drop Shop had stopped booking shows at the same frequency with which they had in the previous months and years. (Although I didn’t know it at the time, financial strain had already begun an irreversible chain of events, which would culminate in the venue’s closing a month later.)
This show, however, marked Clutch’s third appearance at Drop Shop, and their first since a two-night stint in October 1997.
Typically, they put on a rousing set, but it was the support act they brought along with them that had most of the crowd in awe that evening.
Although virtually unknown at the time, Shine was a three-piece from Maryland with a single, solitary seven-inch (“Lost Sun Dance”) to their credit but, after adopting the moniker Spirit Caravan not long thereafter, would become known the world over.
Led by the incomparable Scott “Wino” Weinrich, who was practically a doom metal legend by this point after having fronted both Saint Vitus and The Obsessed, Shine trudged through a half-hour set that left most of the crowd present simply dumbfounded.
It wasn’t the band’s songs that necessarily caught the audience off guard (trust me, they were absolutely punishing), but more so the sheer sight of the often- mythicized figure whom many credit with spearheading the then-burgeoning “stoner rock” movement appearing on a local venue’s stage.
(Wednesday, November 20, 1996)
I could name any number of Chum shows, but this would prove to be the last hometown show for the band before they embarked on an ill-fated tour through the South in late November/early December, which would culminate in the departure of yet another drummer (Elliot Hoffman).
The band had only released its debut album, ‘Dead to the World,’ mere months before, and had since played a handful of shows with Hoffman behind the drums, but appeared as though they were finally gaining stability when they appeared this night.
Their performance was certainly a testament to that.
Chum played a blistering set that featured the bulk of the aforementioned album, as well as select cuts from their previous self-released cassette EP’s (‘Postblisstheory’ and ‘Godgiven’) but it would, unfortunately, prove to be the last Huntington would see of the band for nearly six months.
They would eventually make their return to Drop Shop in April 1997, with new drummer Carlos Torres in tow.
Interestingly enough, this show also marked Disengage’s first Huntington performance since supporting Chum on Drop Shop’s opening night in October 1995. (The band had been holed-up in the studio for the majority of 1996 recording their debut album, ‘Teeth, Heart and Tail,’ which would appear the following year.)
Disengage would eventually graduate to headliner status and, much like Chum, Karma to Burn and Supafuzz before them, become a top draw throughout the remainder of Drop Shop’s existence.
(Thursday, December 12, 1996)
This was, perhaps, one of the biggest “gets” for Erik Raines and Drop Shop up to that point, and there was a definite buzz about this show from the moment it was announced.
The nucleus of Godflesh was Justin Broadrick and G.C. Green, and they had already established the band as a highly revered act within the industrial (and heavy metal) community with the release of their debut album, 1989’s ‘Streetcleaner.’
(Prior to the band’s formation, Broadrick had done his undergraduate work as a guitarist with Napalm Death and, later, Head of David.)
Although they were by no means a commercial success at any point in their career that clearly wasn’t evident the night they took the stage at Drop Shop.
When Godflesh (whose live lineup also featured former Prong drummer Ted Parsons) first appeared that night, a show in support of their recently released, fourth full-length album, ‘Songs of Love and Hate,’ they were adorned in welder uniforms, which proved to be suiting attire for the auditory onslaught they unleashed.
They immediately launched into the album’s opening track, “Wake,” and proceeded to perform an hour-plus set of relentless and pulverizing aggro-rock.
(Ironically enough, the biggest Godflesh fan I knew couldn’t attend the show. Chum’s John Lancaster, on tour at the same time with his band [please see above], was actually stranded with his band mates somewhere in the Deep South, the result of a van mishap.)
(Sunday, March 16, 1997)
Admittedly, I was not a fan of Type O Negative prior to the release of the album (‘October’s Rust’) for which they were touring in support of when they appeared at Drop Shop.
I gave that album a chance on the advice of a friend and loved it (and still listen to it today), but had I not it’s likely I wouldn’t have even attended this show. (Okay, so maybe not, but I would have enjoyed it a lot less.)
Now, I’m probably going to have to check with Erik on this, but I’m sure that this was one of the most, if not the most, costly shows Drop Shop ever hosted.
That was evident from the moment Type O Negative arrived at the venue with a semi-trailer truck housing their gear and “props.”
I actually helped with the load-in that day and it was quickly decided that the band’s stage set would not be able to fit on the Drop Shop stage.
Thankfully, their instruments could.
Type O Negative’s set was heavy with songs from their most recent release, but also included perennial favorites “Black No. 1” and ‘Christian Woman.”
Stuck Mojo was already making their third Drop Shop appearance, and served as good contrast to Type O Negative’s gloom and doom set with their own high-energy performance.
Drain STH was a pleasant surprise as well, not only on the ears but the eyes, and would come back a few months later for their own headlining gig at Drop Shop.
(Sunday, July 13, 1997)
While Corrosion of Conformity’s fan base might be divided over which incarnation (the thrash metal version or the sludge/stoner rock version) of the band is better, there’s no doubt in my mind that the group that produced the albums ‘Blind,’ ‘Deliverance’ and ‘Wiseblood’ was a far superior unit.
The version on display that night was the Pepper Keenan-led version, my version.
Following a particularly brutal set by Bay Area metal titans Machine Head (as well as Snot, whose lead singer, Lynn Strait, would meet an early death just a year-and-a-half later), C.O.C. hit the stage, and it was like a bomb went off.
They played a varied set that featured, amongst a host of others, “Vote with a Bullet,” “Albatross” and “Drowning in a Daydream.”
It wasn’t until the nearing of the close to the band’s set, though, that they pulled out what I feel to be the single greatest performance I ever saw at Drop Shop.
Regretfully, by then, a good portion of the crowd (my friends included) had already filtered out when C.O.C. launched into ‘Wiseblood’s’ closing track, the all-instrumental “Bottom Feeder (El Que Come Abajo).”
I simply stood there captivated, and although I had consumed vast amounts of booze by then, I was completely blown away by what I was seeing and, more importantly, hearing – four guys, locked in and just playing with everything they had, while practically resurrecting the ghost of the mighty Black Sabbath.
It was the best eight minutes of music I ever witnessed at 1318 4th Ave.

So, there you have it, my Top 10 Drop Shop shows.
Of course, it was difficult narrowing the list down to only 10 shows, so the following deserve honorable mention (in chronological order):
(Thursday, December 7, 1995)
(Monday, July 08, 1996)
(Tuesday, March 18, 1997)
(Tuesday, August 26, 1997)
(Wednesday, September 10, 1997)
Obviously, I chose these for personal reasons, and stated as much in the outset, but I’d really like to hear from you.
What shows meant the most to you personally?
Did I overlook any that you think merit inclusion?
Please, feel free and let me know.


Disco Stu will NOT be at the V Club tonite!

As part of The V Club's This Ain't No Disco DJ series, host Brett Fuller (aka Franklin Fuckin' Furnace) welcomes Attack Flamingo drummer Sam Hodge (aka Sir-Boy) -- himself admittedly NOT a DJ, more an IDM/glitch pop influenced electronic artist -- to the V tonight for his first live performance in over two years.

We caught up with Hodge to see what was up...

WVRockscene: Have you not played out in a few years? Are you anxious at all to get back out there?
Sam Hodge: It's been almost two years. My last show was April 10, 2009... Good Friday haha. The concentration has been on finishing quality tracks and becoming a musician at the next level. I'm very anxious to present some of my latest work.. nervous, but excited.

rockscene: I've read that you have finished up new songs? How has your approach to making music changed over the past two years, if at all, and how much new material do you have?
Hodge: I spent about 5-6 months "off the grid" so to speak. I spent that time creating a whole new soundtrack for the classic silent film - Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror. That was a tremendous learning experience and I do plan to release the DVD soon. After this was done, I was just ready to start making cool electro again.

The hard copy for A Fantastic Booty Machine will be ready in a few weeks. The online sales of the album were slow so it took a while to get interest in the hardcopy. The approach is very similar in song construction but I'm making a promise to myself to do a lot more vocals. The newest stuff is very futuristic in the 80's sense :)

rockscene: For the H-D article we did you mentioned the different vibe between a crowd that might go to a rock show and a crowd that might go to a DJ set; how cool is it to have Brett Fuller's series at the V to spotlight DJs?
Hodge: I'm excited to be playing for a crowd more tailored to this specific kind of music. I'm nervous because I'm not a "DJ" and I'm not sure what they'll be expecting. Being that I'm an electronic artist, they will be getting original, not-so-typical sounding music. Hopefully they dig it.

On a side note, it's very funny that I met Brett Fuller at a screening of the soundtrack I did for Nosferatu. The Bad Employees hosted that at their apartment so... the connection was a happy coincidence.

Related: Sir-Boy article in the Huntington Herald-Dispatch

flyer: Jimbo Valentine/Amalgam Unlimited