Friendships keep energy high for Chum reunion show (H-D repost)


The Huntington-based band Chum, made up of (from left to right) Jude Blevins, John Lancaster, Chris Tackett and Mac Walker is reuniting for a show on Saturday, Oct. 1 at the V Club, 741 6th Ave., Huntington

Reposted from The Huntington Herald-Dispatch

The story of Chum reads like a literal version of musical chairs. Nearly twenty years after junior high friends Mac Walker and Chris Tackett called up John Lancaster to see about jamming, more than a decade after their sophomore record never got released, after numerous lineup changes and a reunion in 2005, the Huntington-based sludge rock band is back.

Chum plays the V Club October 1st with Horseburner and Tower of the Elephant.

A band’s story can read like any relationship between two people over the years: they form, break up and/or fall apart over time. But what makes Chum’s story unique so many years after original drummer Chuck Nicholas jumped ship and founding members Walker and Tackett left is that Walker, Tackett and Lancaster, friends since junior high, are still that: friends.

“We’re all deaf and hoarse right now, so bear with us,” Lancaster said with a laugh over the phone after a just-finished band rehearsal in Walker’s basement.

The guys in Chum (Lancaster: vocals/guitar; Walker: guitar; Tackett: bass; Jude Blevins: drums) have been gathering at Walker’s every so often preparing for a pair of shows in Huntington and next week in Lexington, where Tackett calls home these days. After years of on-again off-again status, it’s good to get together and have a good time, Lancaster said.

“We just make a marathon weekend out of it. Everybody comes in Friday night, and we do a few hours, then go all afternoon Saturday and Sunday. It’s been a blast.”

“We just make a big party out of it,” Walker added.

Tackett said that the enduring friendship and musical collaborations that have existed in the intervening years have helped Chum retain its energy.

“I can tell you right now it sounds really f---ing heavy. I don’t know if you can put that in there. It’s been cool because with John and Mac playing together in John’s solo project, and with Jude, Mac and myself playing in Hyatari together, it almost seems like it was inevitable that we’d get together and do this.”

Bringing Blevins on as drummer was a no-brainer and, for Blevins, who’d seen Chum open for Helmet at Ritter Park years ago, a great call to get.

“I was honored, of course,” Blevins said. “I’m sure they could’ve had anybody, any drummer they would’ve called would have jumped at it. I think it’s pretty cool.

Walker said the original chemistry is still there.

“It gets to be kind of like second nature, because you can almost predict what the other guy is thinking when you’re playing and writing. A few of these songs we are playing, we never released, so it’s great to bring those songs back to life.”

John Lancaster on Headhunter:
“For these upcoming shows we actually recorded an old song we wrote around 1997 called “Headhunter.” It was originally intended for that second record that never happened. When we played it live, people really liked it, so we thought it would be cool to record it and put it online for a free download.”

Tackett said what was once old, as far as Chum goes, is new again.

“One of the reasons I like to revisit Chum is because the material holds up even though some of this stuff is fifteen years old. A lot of the stuff we were writing back at that time, I consider it to be pushing the envelope as far as our song structures and tunings. It’s a little more common nowadays, but back then you didn’t hear it too often. The songs have held up well and have that energy and are really heavy, so I like to revisit it because they don’t feel old to me, they feel just as current as when we were writing them back in the day.”

It almost seemed like a drag, or maybe it was fitting, to ask the “heavy” questions of the guys: why did things go wrong, and when, back in the mid-to-late 1990’s?

Maybe it was the lack of label support after releasing “Dead To The World” on the Santa Monica, California-based Century Media Records? Walker addressed that angle.

“I think what happened was, the label wasn’t really into the band anymore, they weren’t liking the new material. We were rehearsing and writing new material and it just seemed like a lot of work wasn’t going anywhere. That seemed like the beginning of the end.”

For Tackett, internal chemistry issues arose after original drummer Chuck Nicholas left to join West Virginia contemporaries Karma To Burn before DTTW was even released.

“For me, when Chuck left the band, the songwriting, the whole process kind of changed,” Tackett said, speaking diplomatically. “Mac and myself feed off each other, and Chuck and John fed off each other, and we all worked well as a foursome. All the songs that were on [DTTW] and the two [1994 cassette] EPs were hashed out in a room together.

“We had that chemistry, and the songwriting was effortless.

“After Chuck left, we had to write with other people and it wasn’t the same, and the music started to change, not for better or worse, just different. So for me, the Chum era kind of ended when Chuck left the band.”

Tackett on Nicholas leaving (continued):
“Chuck doesn’t get enough credit as a songwriter. Correct me if I’m wrong John, but didn’t Chuck contribute lyrics and concepts? (John answers in background) He definitely helped with arrangements. With Chuck, he was really an experimental guy, and he’d just go off the deep end and just do stuff to be funny and it would end up a song. It was a weird way to write but it worked for us as a band.”

So many years later, Lancaster, Tackett and Walker, with mutual friend Blevins, are looking to not only keep their friendship intact, but Chum too. The internet age offers an avenue of communication that can facilitate long-distance collaboration, as Lancaster displayed recording and releasing his solo debut, “Phantom Moon,” last year.

Also, just as important, Chum’s fans are able to generate a mutually reinforcing energy, whether its picking songs for a set list, asking about merch, or remembering favorite shows from the past on the Chum Facebook page.

“It’s pretty much the main inspiration for us doing it at this point,” Lancaster said of the fans. “We get messages from people talking about the band, it’s just great to know that people are excited about it.”

Tackett on new Chum releases:
“We haven’t discussed making a new album together at this point, but at this point who needs a record label? With a project like Chum, if we wanted to release a record for free, at this point it’s about sharing the music with people who love it. It’s a labor of love for us to play and record this music.”

Walker said, just like at practice, at the V Club show Saturday, it’s going to be a party.

“It’s great. We’ve got people coming in from all over the place, so it’s more than a reunion, we’re getting to see old friends too.”

Old friends indeed, Tackett said, summing up Chum’s future.

“We’re all basically like brothers at this point, having grown up together. I don’t see any reason for us to stop making music anytime soon.”

If you go:
Chum, Horseburner, Tower of the Elephant
Where: The V Club, 741 6th Avenue, Huntington (304) 781-0680
When: Saturday, October 1st, 10 p.m.
Cost: $8
Info: http://www.vclublive.com/


CD Review: "Song of the Invasive Species"

CD: Song of the Invasive Species
ARTIST: The Dreadful Horoscope

What a long, strange, delightful, trip it’s been -- the 40-minute or so long journey that is The Dreadful Horoscope’s CD Song of the Invasive Species.

A review of the 10-song release is timely enough, even though ’twas released back in June. One reason is the very literal invasion, the swarming assault of these stink bugs on the WVRockscene home office. It’s not as bad as last year, where you stopped flinching when they’d land on you, as they approached beard-of-bees like capability. But that’s one reason it’s good we waited so long to post our most favorable review of Jacob Matz’ latest acoustic-based journey.

The second? At the end of the review, dear friends, of a CD that we’ve had for a while here and had thoroughly enjoyed even right after it was uploaded onto bandcamp a few months back.

But talk about keeping Morgantown weird. Experimental. Atmospheric. In parts, pleasingly noisy. An almost directionless but strangely fulfilling trip taken upon with Matz and friends.

Yes, we’re big fans of the BBR-based Dreadful Horoscope. We loved last year’s self-titled release for the same reasons we love this one; more of the same lazy, ethereal acoustic folk output, but with an even bigger, maybe more experimental sound than was found on last year’s release.

Imagine something like Jim Morrison enlisting Pink Floyd’s horn section for a trip out into the Australian outback for some shamanic, definitely spiritual showdown, then coming back to the banks of the Monongahela River to record about it, reading from a few diary entries, and maybe you’re close to The Dreadful Horoscope’s sound.

Matz’ lyrics are a trip enough. Eschatological conflict, or some spiritual persecution, maybe apocalypse, permeates the poetically-put-out-there lyrics; no real choruses or verse-chorus-verse structure for these campfire sing-a-longs with Matz’ nasally, near Frank Black type singing.

But make no mistake, the real treat with The Dreadful Horoscope is the music. Song of the Invasive Species has an even more experimental, richly layered, earthy air accompanying Matz’ own multi-instrumental contributions than last year’s release.

Matz is joined by John Morgan (yes, like it says on the Dreadful Horoscope Facebook page, John Morgan “of Juna fame,”) but if you haven’t checked out even Juna’s most recent release, you might not appreciate Morgan’s own authentically tribal (in parts) sound, and how it would fit right in with what Matz is doing as The Dreadful Horoscope.

Matz and Morgan are joined by Miles Craft for percussion and Jacob Smith, whose dreamy saxophone contributions add so much to the songs.

One great thing about what these guys are doing together, though, is that they’ll do stuff that really aren’t even “songs,” just experimental go-nowhere type noodling (“Introduction of a Species,” “The Witch (like the belly of a fish covered with hair),” and “The Gifts of the West,” with cymbal crashes and trashy snare smashing interspersed with tribal shouting and real-enough sounding screams, are good examples of this). Be it on a Didgeridoo or a Theremin, with the sax, uke, clarinet, piano/organ with “field recordings” and having been “recorded next to the Monongahela River,” Song of the Invasive Species really captures an outdoor, almost new age (not in a bad way at all) type atmosphere. It at least would be great to listen to camping out, getting all neo-Luddite and stuff.

This contrasts to the warm acoustic (almost sunny) sound accompanying a glacially foreboding sense of spiritual crisis -- or something, maybe, but yes, an even dreadful picture painted by Matz lyrically on a few songs. You almost get the sense that the invasive species is not bugs after all.

Matz sings on “The Smell of Cut Up Grass:”
“I’m tired of the smell of cut up grass, it only makes me sneeze. You’re tired of the smell of burned up bodies floating in the breeze. In my name. Hey, I’m not to blame?”
On “Morning Dread:”
“With your back toward a blanketed past, covered up and warm, and marching toward this monumental future. Carved. Perpetual. Our lives are carved and perpetual.”
And, finishing our lyrical examples, on the country and western-esque “Stamps:”
“Stamps on my brain, but they are fading as time goes on.
So you called me a socialist, but I don’t pray to that god.
There was this long awkward silence before we began to make love.
You forced me to watch, I urged you to listen.
But, I was the queer and you were the christian who left stamps on my brain.”
The seven-minute long “Awful Ink” might be the best example, may best encapsulate, the experimental acoustic bent The Dreadful Horoscope is on. “Fail” has rightly achieved near-cliché played out status recently, but it really is something bands do sometimes as they may attempt to segue or branch off into a more folky, experimental-type acoustic realm that these guys inhabit.

You can definitely say The Dreadful Horoscope is “unplugged,” maybe unhinged, but they pull a hard-to-capture experimental acoustic sound off effortlessly with an even richer ambience than you’d expect at first. Even with all the instruments there’s a coherence to the sound throughout it seems, helping to make it a great record.

Song of the Invasive Species might just be, no, is, a great CD to lose your mind to. Accompanying the CD Matz sent a while back was the negative of a photo of the desert Southwest, some cactus-lined stretch of highway, only adding to the sense of a literal journey. When the CD’s over you really do feel like you’ve been somewhere and back -- kudos to Matz and friends for producing something you can say that about.

--- The Dreadful Horoscope plays the Monongalia Arts Center Friday 9.30 with Bonfire, David F. Bello and Octopi(e) from Manassas, Va.

The Dreadful Horoscope: “The Smell of Cut Up Grass”

The Dreadful Horoscope - The Smell of Cut Up Grass from Shane Butler on Vimeo.


Q&A w/Matt Page of Dream the Electric Sleep


We were stoked to see that the Lexington, Kentucky-based prog rock band Dream the Electric Sleep had recently uploaded a three-part series on their debut record Lost and Gone Forever to YouTube. Singer-guitarist Matt Page (above) talks in-depth about the music and coal mining love story behind each of the fourteen songs on the concept record.

So, as excited as we were to revisit the songs with Page, and as much as we love the record, we thought it appropriate to catch up with Page over email to see what’s up with the band these days, and where they’re going after Lost and Gone Forever...

WVRockscene: The reviews are in for Lost and Gone Forever, and the phrase “critically acclaimed” comes to mind, with praise from outlets like The Big Takeover, how great is it for the debut album to have been so warmly received?

Matt Page: I never really thought it would have been so highly praised... it was a shock... I think when we were writing the album, listening to demos, and throughout the recording process, we kept saying to each other “I think this might be something special,” but most of the time I think we would fall back on “maybe we’re just too close to it.” The first couple of great reviews we thought, “well at least there are a few people that really get it,” but then they just kept coming. That’s when I think we knew the album had legs.

I honestly think the album has something in there that we had not planned, something that can’t be accounted for, beyond our abilities. It’s like the album is actually smarter than all of us in the band, and is actually still teaching us. I am not sure if any of that makes sense, but it certainly feels like part of the success of the album came from some place we all don’t really understand... the culmination of all these random things coalescing into one piece of work... it was so much fun to be a part of!

WVRockscene: You’ve had a few shows over the summer, how have those gone? Won over many new DTES fans live and in person? What kind of shortcuts do you have to make just playing live, trying to give people the scope of the record in its totality just playing a few songs? I mean you don’t exactly have time to play the entire record beginning to end, right?

Page: Honestly, the live shows have been the hardest part. This work needs to be thought of like theatre, and you can’t do theatre in a bar with a 40 minute set. We have learned a lot about what we want the live shows to do, and at this point, we know the theatrical nature of it, and thus the narrative will never really come through. We have to hope that the few songs we play intrigue a few listeners enough to want to dig into the content. I think in some ways, we have to expand our notion of a band. To conceive of what we are trying to do as fitting in the confines of a band is a limiting way for us to go about doing this, and we are constantly questioning what the scope of this project is. We have made a few fans from live shows, but the vast majority of our success is coming from our online presence, and mostly from Europe.

WVRockscene: You’ve recently been reworking a few songs into acoustic songs, what songs have you been working on, is it a direction you think the band will take up more moving forward and what is up with a DTES EP with an “unreleased” track coming out any time soon?

Page: I told [bassist] Chris [Tackett] and [drummer] Joey [Waters] that I wanted to take these songs into non-rock venues to try and find more people who might be interested in the content of the album. I thought some acoustic versions would be appropriate. When we wrote these songs, I always approached them as songs that could be simplified, so this was my chance to actually test my theory. I decided to take “The Joneses,” “Hold Steady Hands,” and “Roots and Fear,” and rework them for this purpose, and then decided it would be fun to record them and offer them as a companion EP.

As for the unreleased track, it was the only song we decided not to include on the album. It was actually the last song on the album, and was meant to be a sort of moral-tale ending. At this point on the album, it ends with Clementine holding Jack’s body after he is pulled from the mine. The unreleased track would be sung in a narrator’s voice so to speak. The song didn’t get included for a couple reasons, first was that it was agreed that it was more powerful and poignant to end with Clementine and Jack, second, it would have forced the album to be a double album, which we decided we didn’t want, and third, it is the most stylistically different in that it is actually our version of a bluegrass tune.

It will be perfect on an acoustic EP, and is cool to know everyone will hear the alternate ending to the album now. This should be released in the next 4-6 weeks.

WVRockscene: You haven’t even been a band very long; what’s changed as far as chemistry or approach to songwriting? More comfortable as a unit?

Page: Trevor [Wilmott], our guitar player recently left the band. He lives three hours away, and is working on his undergraduate degree. It was just too hard for him to fully engage the project. We miss his input dearly, and he really wanted to stay with us, but it was just too much for him, and he was never able to be here for writing and rehearsals. After he mixed and mastered the album, which he did brilliantly, he had to step down. So now we are a three-piece.

As far as writing goes, I can already tell our chemistry is stronger and tighter. Chris and Joey and I are all very different stylistically, but at the same time, we are very open to allowing disparate sounds to come together and challenge our sense of self and vision. I might come in with something that sounds like Elton John, Joey will throw in some thunderous Bonham beat, and Chris might throw in the a percussive rhythm. In my head, that’s not what I had in mind, but that’s why I play with these guys... because I want the surprise and the challenge, and in the end it always sounds fresh to my ears... it’s like I know I would be bored if just wrote it the way I heard it, and what’s even better is that Chris and Joey feel the same way... We are all chomping at the bit to get back to writing, and in fact already have some new material that sounds really interesting…

WVRockscene: So Chris and Joey approached you with the idea about doing this three-part mini-doc on the songs and the concept behind the album, right? Who filmed it, where, and what was your initial response to the idea?

Page: I was totally into the idea when they approached me. I just want people to have whatever it takes to get lost in the narrative, and if these videos help some people do that, I am very happy. Content is king. That’s my motto right now. The music has to be good, but the content is king for us. Music that carries narrative like this is more difficult than film, so having supplements like these videos makes it easier I think to find your footing.

It was filmed in an old farmhouse my wife and I are renovating. It was built in 1790, and in part, was the imaginary place where the album took place. I know no one would know that, but it’s just another way to tie my life into the narrative of the album. I shot it with my wife’s help, who is also an artist, and then gave the footage to Chris to edit.

WVRockscene: In each part you talk in depth about arranging the songs, the split concepts of Clementine and Jack’s personal perspective on life with coal mining, displaying a very real depth and maturity in the songwriting, telling what is still a timeless story of these people’s lives, placing it in an Appalachian culture. Throughout you seem at ease talking about all this, all the themes inside a very real, cyclical concept record. When and/or if you’ve been told how special this record is by people who may or may not have friends or family members who work in the mines, how does that affect you and how important is it to know that you’ve touched people with the story of Clementine and Jack on Lost and Gone Forever?

Page: I have been told by some family members who were coal miners that this album really captured something for them, and we have had people from all over write us and tell us how moved they were, and some said they even cried... I was pretty floored by that. To really move someone that much is unreal. Again, it’s been so gratifying hearing from so many people about the way the album has affected them. I guess the album was real for me, and it becomes real for others. That’s what I wanted though, to share in these emotions with other people. I want there to be a give and take with our listeners. I am writing this music in hopes that it adds to your emotional life, and in return, that process adds to my emotional life, to be heard and understood by strangers from all over the world... it’s life affirming.

WVRockscene: There are no shortage of bands that make a great record and may not reach that same level with subsequent recordings. Aside from any changes or directions the DTES sound may take (acoustic, etc.) do you continue to see your inspiration coming from or being rooted in Appalachia? So much of what makes Lost and Gone Forever a great record is the dual narrative, coal mining love story embedded inside it. Do you feel pressure to make another concept record or just what themes might fans expect the next DTES record to explore, if you even know yet? You had so much personally involved with this, with the passing of your grandparents, we can almost expect something different, right?

Page: Different for sure. I am not going to try and top this, or repeat it. I will leave Appalachia for a while conceptually, and focus in on other content sources. Lost and Gone is a project that I am very proud of. After writing music and making art for over 20 years, it’s the first project that I can say surpassed my creative expectations. I had a professor tell me once, a good piece of art is always smarter than its creator… it has a life of its own. As I said earlier, this work is definitely smarter than me, and has its own life to live without me now. As for what’s next, or what to look forward to... I can tell you this, from this band/project, you can always expect an in-depth record. I am really interested in seeing how music might work for a vehicle for history, myth, narrative, and social investigations.

Our music will always be about exploring content in depth. I want to know about the world that I live in, and one way to investigate and engage the world is through art. Art helps us reflect and better understand where we are coming from, and where we are going... it’s a conversation meant to be engaged, and I plan on using music to engage it. I think that’s part of what makes Lost and Gone interesting, it engages the world and its histories and myths in a interesting way, so regardless of what the content for the next album is, you can be assured it will be immersed in questions about the world around us, and hopefully offer new ways of thinking about it through music.

WVRockscene: Regardless of whether or not DTES even ever makes another record, Lost and Gone Forever really can stand alone as a very real achievement. How proud are you of what you, Trevor, Chris and Joey accomplished with just one record?

Page: I can say that it has been a great honor working with Chris, Joey, and Trevor. They are talented and creative beyond words. That has been gratifying enough, but to have had our creative collisions produce something like Lost and Gone means that for the rest of my life I have a work that I can be proud of. I think it’s pretty clear that to produce an album like this is not going to sky rocket one to fame and fortune, and with that being said, its should be clear that we are not letting those distractions get in the way of our vision.

We put out a record we all believed in for no other reason than to satisfy our creative and emotional desires. Of course one always hopes those ambitions are met by some friendly ears who also understand those desires. I know there is a small contingent of people in the world that want to share in music that engages content in a thought provoking way, and we plan on continuing that effort well into the future.

Related -- CD Review: Lost and Gone Forever; Drama, tragedy, love, life and death: Dream the Electric Sleep brings new concept record to V Club Saturday (Huntington Herald-Dispatch article)

photo: Ashley Watson


Q&A w/Zach Francis for MAYSP benefit show 9.25

Glen Fork native Zach Francis (above w/flag) continues the tradition of cool Magic Town benefit shows this Sunday night with the second annual MAYSP benefit show at 123 Pleasant Street. Francis also continues the grand tradition of catching up with WVRockscene to talk about what MAYSP is, does, and why it's important. Oh and also the bands -- Bonfire (now with a new lineup) plays the show for the second straight year after debuting the band there last year. They'll be joined by Pat Pat, FOX Japan, and a new(er) band, Sleepwalker. And there's Francis' pro-ginger rhetoric, which may shock you.

We caught up with Francis to see what's up with this year's show...

WVRockscene: What’s been up with you since we talked last? You’re in Belladonna Deadbeats these days, right?

Zach Francis: I've been into quite a bit with MAYSP since last September, finding my groove and approach as far as advocating and counseling these kids as well as a lot of brainstorming for fundraising ideas (obviously) for us to maintain free services to juveniles of the Morgantown vicinity.

Personally, I spent a decent amount of this past winter revisiting some bass guitar fundamentals. I taught myself a long time ago, but I unfortunately taught myself everything the wrong way. I could make up sweet bass riffs but my technique and understanding of cohesive music was way off-kilter in an unattractive way. So, I took some bass lessons from local jazz bassist Kevin Fryson, who is amazing. Needless to say, we had to start from square 1 as if I'd never played before. Although I don't currently take lessons from him, I acknowledge that he's the reason I at least know what I'm doing on the instrument confidently now. Now I can play around with a lot of "frilly stuff" that I only guessed at during high school.

I'm also happily engaged to a fellow ginger. We plan on repopulating the earth with a flux of redheads. She's very supportive and also keeps me straightened out pretty well. So moving to Star City and wedding plans have taken up a lot of my "extra time," whatever that is.

OH YEAH! Speaking of playing bass, I play for Belladonna Deadbeats. We're coming out with a sassy little EP sometime this fall, I'm hoping. All the stuff is pretty much recorded to our liking at Bebop Studios here in Motown, but we're just taking our time with mixing and such. We've played a handful of smaller shows, and have just had a blast. I'm pretty much the least talented person in the band seeing that our core consists of two fine young women (Ashley and Rachael) that alternate playing drums and guitar while also taking on vocal duties throughout our sets. Our lead guitarist, Brian is just a brutal technical guy. He incorporates a lot of bluesy slide in our songs as well. I just really enjoy being able to add to the dynamic with some steady, simple bass lines. Every once in a while I get a little carried away with something funky or tribal on a song or two, but I mainly just do my part and chill.

By the way, we're one of the bands in the final round of a Battle of the Bands. It's being held on October 1st at the Student Lot outside the WVU football Stadium if you'd like to come check out some awesome bands.

WVRockscene: How did the first MAYSP benefit show at 123 go last year? And for those that missed our chat what is MAYSP, what do you do for MAYSP and how is it and groups like it important?

Francis: Let's just say that the success of the show brought in more than we expected both financially and in exposure/networking. It was enough to prove to our agency that we should pursue fresh fundraising ideas significantly more than we had in the past. I was beyond stoked about the turnout and response that we received last year. Great cooperation and volunteerism too. The communal spirit of the whole ordeal was rather inspiring.

Sure. The Morgantown Area Youth Services Project is a non-profit organization that focuses on providing free services for juveniles through various programs ranging from substance abuse counseling to truancy and academic performance issues. The aim of the agency is to reduce violence and drug abuse in this area of Monongalia County in general. I am one of two Transitions Specialists who works specifically with middle and high-school students by visiting them for one on one counseling sessions to monitor whatever they're struggling with on a consistent basis. We get referrals from court officials, probation, family members and the like.

Something I've realized about social service-related causes is that they are worthwhile struggles. This kind of work is not just a paycheck, it is a concern; it is a purpose. In a perfect world, people would not need counselors and social workers, but it is clear that society is not en route to utopia anytime soon. Therefore, small nonprofits will be around to scrape whatever funds they can to provide services and connect those in need to necessary resources that they might not be able to reach within their own limited means due to circumstances and outlying predicaments. I've had several experiences that have confirmed that people, especially youth, sometimes just need at least one person to consistently support them not only during their golden moments, but also during their "rough patches." When you have a network of support encouraging and advising, the results are those of resilience and autonomy. Plainly, better things happen when people have your back.


WVRockscene: You still work for Danny Trejo? Not that Danny Trejo, though right?

Francis: HAHA! Yes. My boss, Danny Trejo actually used to live in East L.A. many years ago and used to stay in touch with the actor Danny Trejo. I don't know how they were able to meet each other in person and prevent the universe from collapsing! I'm not kidding. He knows, or at least knew, THAT Danny Trejo. It blows my mind every time he confirms it with me during staff meetings.

WVRockscene: Back to the bands, last year you kind of introduced Bonfire to Morgantown at the MAYSP benefit, and this year you got FOX Japan and Pat Pat (plus Sleepwalker) to play too. There’s seemed to be a long-running tradition of Morgantown-area bands coming together for good causes at 123 Pleasant Street. I remember Aaron Hawley doing big shows for the Boys and Girls Club I think it was. How thankful and/or stoked are you that you’re able to corral these bands for a good cause, and is there anything special you’ve picked up on up there that backs up the theory that these bands are down for good causes?

Francis: As I've mentioned before, the communal spirit of the music scene for these types of events baffles me. I just love it. These bands are local favorites who could understandably demand a lot, but they are just very open and emphatic to play. I'm so psyched about the lineup this year! These are all bands that I want see play live anyway, so it's great that they are just down for it without needing some sort of "convincing sales pitch." I honestly think that most of the musicians here are people who are aware of the social climate and are more than happy to be a part of something that contributes to the betterment of the community. Also, many of the artists of this area have occupations and background in helping folks one way or another. For example, I had several social work classes with FOX Japan's drummer, Pete. In my opinion, that dude had a profound understanding of social policy. I hope all of that makes sense.

WVRockscene: What else is going on for the show as far as donating or raffles or auction-type stuff? I’d seen you got those precursors to laser discs, you expect to be able to move those things? Any records or anything like alternate revenue stream fundraising that is going on outside of cover charge; you can donate online right?

Francis: In addition to our fundraising tables having some used vinyl records and CDs like last year, we'll have a decent amount of handcrafted jewelry and goods by Emily Iafrate, who has an Etsy store of her own and some other awesome friends of ours.

Vintage Video started joking about donating these "Videodiscs," so I actually took them. They are so odd that I think they might sell. They are like a strange hybrid of vinyl and giant-sized CDs that required the respective player for you to view movies on. They came out before laser discs, so there's not really even much nostalgic demand for them. However, some of the artwork is intriguing on the large outer casings, so, um...we'll see what happens with them. I already have Chris of Bonfire calling dibs on one! hahaha!

WVRockscene: And there will be art from Morgantown Aspiring Young Artists; seen any of it yet? It seems like musicians and artists of the more visual type are like-minded enough to come together for a good cause; what’s the response been like for artists who might be showing their work off?

Francis: I've mainly seen work tagged on their Facebook page and all that I've seen has a great energy to it. I'm pumped to see what will actually be displayed though!

I think people in the social service field and artists (audio and visual) experience a lot of similar things. For starters, their work withstands profuse lack of appreciation and/or support in comparison to the time and effort they put into it. They are both underpaid as well..ahem..

This gives them the chance for more exposure and more networking while also just having a good time, so their response was the same as the bands.

WVRockscene: You plan on doing this next year?

Francis: If all goes according to plan, I will be moving on and focusing more on my marriage and future career endeavors elsewhere in Southern West Virginia by this time next year, but I'm sure that MAYSP is going to pursue organizing events like this one in the future whether I'm still with them or not. Who knows? I might even come back just to help out temporarily with next year's benefit show!

--- Bonfire, Pat Pat, FOX Japan and Sleepwalker play the MAYSP benefit show Sunday, September 25th starting at 7 p.m. at 123 Pleasant Street. A $5 donation gets you in the door.

photo: Taylor Kuykendall


CD Review: "The Rozwell Kid LP"

TITLE: The Rozwell Kid LP
ARTIST: Rozwell Kid

It’s 1994-ever on Jordan Hudkins’ new 10-song eponymous debut as Rozwell Kid. Well, there’s actually eleven songs, if you count the “hidden song” at the end. Sounds like the 90’s to me.

Where once there was Jude Universer, now, there is Rozwell Kid. How or why this happened is some sort of cosmic mystery. Or maybe not, with visions of getting in (albeit wholly figurative) rockets heading to the moon, time machines, UFOs and driving a “Saturn,” appropriately enough, given Hudkins’ new persona, to New Mexico.

Either way, this CD didn’t exactly come out of the blue at this here blog. And let’s not look too much into any interstellar theme: Hudkins’ lyrics are as much about rock and roll staples like chicks (“Rocket,” “My Saturn,” “‘93 Connie and Ronnie,”) and wasting your life being in a band (“Born 2 Drum”) -- all worthwhile at the end of the day -- as they are any grand concept. It’s more of a slacker manifesto than some grungy space opera.

Best known as The Demon Beat’s drummer and an artist in his own right, Hudkins follows up and revamps a few songs (the opener, “Rocket” and “New Mexico”) from his Jude Universer release Lingering Blue on this, one of the more highly anticipated releases of the year here at WVRockscene.

Back when Hudkins was not even 10 years old and Michael Jordan was still busy winning NBA titles and not having Hitler moustaches, Weezer, like they were for many others, were a personal favorite of this blogger. Weezer’s “Blue album” was fuzzy and near-grungy but super-catchy with humorous lyrics (hear “Ace Ventura Pt. 3”).

Hudkins sings upon seeing his future self:
“First thing I saw when I stepped out of the time machine
Was a tiny version of myself, and I was pissed off at me
‘What the hell have you been eating?
Your job is a waste of time
Is it too much to ask
That you get off your ass?’

This future doesn’t look cool to me

Listen to me you little shit it’s easy to quit and hard to commit
And I’m sorry that I’m not what you thought we’d be
Not starring in Ace Ventura Part 3
So you can go to hell, me
Yes you can burn in hell”
After fan-favorite Pinkerton, bassist Matt Sharp left in much acrimony to form the Moog-soaked synth-grunge-type act The Rentals, and Weezer was never the same.

Why does this matter to this review?

Taking in what Hudkins did on the Jude Universer release (a surprise favorite in the WVRockscene “best of” CDs from 2009, for what that is worth, which is not that much) and now following that up with a new persona but similar-but-amped up sound as Rozwell Kid, he seems to straddle that nebulous time period inbetween the “Blue Album” and Pinkerton -- not a bad time, but really just catchy, fun, high energy pop stuff. And still, in parts, like Lingering Blue, like a rarely heard Weezer-Rentals hybrid.

This is the realm that, for me, Hudkins inhabits as Rozwell Kid. That I could be so stoked to hear Hudkins and friends (Dylan Balliett, George Zatezalo, Andrew LaCara and Andy Pickens) as Rozwell Kid, and not at all be disappointed or let down, only further takes me back to compiling the first few releases of the aforementioned DGC bands, when grunge and raw distortion and feedback met synth.

Maybe that flannel Hudkins sported in that great picture of the Demon Beat backstage in Baltimore was nothing more than a thinly veiled nod to this time period.

The songs are even arranged and structured like some of that catchy 90’s stuff; pop type loud-quiet-loud verse-chorus-verse with bouncy, fuzzy bass lines walking you through and holding the songs together in between crashing cymbals, sonically experimental in parts yet with a real, live feel, and oh he was probably just hanging out -- killer solos provided by Hudkins’ Demon Beat band mate Adam Meisterhans.

While his Demon Beat bandmates Meisterhans and Tucker Riggleman have found various levels of side project-type success, most notably and recently in Prison Book Club, but also as Black Fag (where Meisterhans evoked the “Blue album” quite awesomely) and Riggleman as a solo artist, for me, even though there really aren’t any Jude Universer/Rozwell Kid shows to speak of, Hudkins’ music stands out among all output among West Virginia bands for its ability to quite literally transport me back in time.

Black Fag + Jude Universer = Rozwell Kid would be enough to sum up the sound and feel on the songs, maybe. Thumbs up to Brian Spragg and David Klug for the sonic handling.

I can see it now: Hudkins as Rozwell Kid hits it big on West Virginia’s Got Talent, signs a major label deal with NFL agent Drew Rosenhaus representing, only to lose it all via trumped up RIAA lawsuit brought by Rivers Cuomo and Matt Sharp.