1318 4th Ave. - An Aural History

Justin Johnson remembers Huntington's music scene circa 1990-1999

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?

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.

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

For my next two contributions to this blog, I will be counting down my 10 favorite shows featured at Drop Shop during its years of existence, 1995-1998.

(I’m also breaking with the previous entries’ format by including this playlist at the top of this blog so that you can sample some of the acts I mention below while you read, if you so desire.)

While hundreds of shows were held at the venue during its 2 ½ years of operation, I’ve attempted to highlight the 10 that hold the most significance for me personally.

I also felt this to be a model way to emphasize the achievements of those involved with Drop Shop, but I would also ask you to share which shows you deem as your favorites, not only from Drop Shop, but Gumby’s as well, in the comments section below.

In order to do this in the most economical way possible, I will be separating this entry into two parts, the first of which will include shows #10 through #6.

So, without further ado…


(Wednesday, September 24, 1997)

This show was not one of particular interest and I wasn’t even present for three-fourths of it, but an important moment in the history of 1318 4th Avenue would occur on this night.

In fact, on this same night, Priority One Productions (Allen Dean’s business venture for talent booking) was hosting George Clinton & the P-Funk All-Stars at Huntington’s Civic Center and Quiet Riot performed simultaneously at the Wild Dawg Saloon.

My friends and I actually spent the bulk of that evening reliving the glory days of hair metal by taking in Quiet Riot, while I walked the short distance across the street to periodically check in on the Clinton show.

It was a given that everyone would reconvene at Drop Shop later that night after George Clinton’s performance had concluded, and my friends and I arrived midway through Shootyz Groove’s set.

It was only mere moments later that Dean and a host of others showed up, with none other than George Clinton himself in tow.

Those of who were lucky enough to have been there, which, if memory serves me correctly, was probably no more than 25 people, witnessed Dr. Funkenstein leisurely walk through the venue, make his way to the stage and join Shootyz Groove for an impromptu number.

Trust me when I say that the expression on the faces of each of the band’s members would have been worth the price of admission alone, that is, if I had paid one.


(Saturday, November 30, 1996)

Strangely enough, I recall very little of The Smooths, who headlined this show.

The draw for me was that this was to be the last show for Huntington’s Cretin Hop, as two-thirds (vocalist/guitarist Brian Lusher and drummer Mark Harlan) of the band would soon relocate to Nashville, Tennessee.

By this point, I had been a fan of the band formerly known as Electric Lullaby for quite some time, actually since the release of their first album, ‘Kindred to the Snake,’ some four years earlier.

In many ways it was that album which had initially sparked my interest in local music and, by the time this show occurred, I had developed a musical kinship with the band’s bassist, Russ Fox. (The fact that both of us were Bob Mould fans only made it inevitable.)

My fondest memory of Cretin Hop’s performance that evening, which drew equally from that debut album as well as their latest release, ‘High on Gas,’ transpired near the end of the band’s set.

A friend of mine, whom was well aware of my affinity for the band, suggested to Lusher that they dedicate the first track (“One Man’s Island”) from their debut album to me and, like clockwork, they did.

I don’t know who was more animated during that singular performance – Fox, who appeared highly amused that a solitary song could generate such excitement from one person, or me.


(Friday, February 7, 1997)

This show marked the return of Dave Angstrom to 1318 4th Avenue after a brief hiatus.

Angstrom had been absent from the venue since the collapse of his previous band, Control Freak, and this was to be the Huntington debut of his new outfit, Supafuzz.

Although second on the bill, Supafuzz, in what would be customary of every one of their performances that I attended, exhibited an energy and enthusiasm that bands performing in venues 20 times the size of Drop Shop would do well to match.

The band’s set list pulled from their as-yet-to-be-released debut album, ‘Pretty Blank Page,’ and featured soon-to-be crowd favorites such as “Superstar,” “Push” and “Mr. Policeman,” amongst many others.

Although Supafuzz would go on to perform multiple times at the venue, this performance would be unrivaled in intensity as they clearly had something to prove, and that something made a lasting impact but, more importantly, earned them a wealth of staunch supporters in the years to come.

The pleasant surprise about this show, however, was my introduction to the New York three-piece known as Speed McQueen.

The band would be releasing their full-length, self-titled album the following Tuesday, February 11, and celebrated its release with this appearance at Drop Shop.

Speed McQueen combined an equal love of power-pop and punk to form an ideal musical brew that effortlessly complemented the riotous onslaught by Supafuzz.

It was an auspicious debut of two bands that would soon become venue favorites.


(Wednesday, June 17, 1998)

Many people will recognize this show as the final one at Drop Shop, and that alone earns it merit on this list.

The mere fact that the former Alice in Chains guitarist had the distinction of being the last to perform at the venue left many in attendance (and some even to this day) scratching their heads.

With a band that also featured Alice in Chains drummer Sean Kinney, former Queensrÿche guitarist Chris DeGarmo and Fishbone bassist John Norwood Fisher, it begged the question, “how could this possibly be a venue’s final show when it had to be financially successful in the first place to book it?”

Unfortunately, to many, that’s a question that still remains unanswered.

Cantrell was touring in support of his recently released solo debut, ‘Boggy Depot,’ of which his set heavily favored, but he did manage to mix in such Alice in Chains standards as “No Excuses” and “Got Me Wrong.”

Regrettably, I spent the entire duration of this show in the sound booth doing lights for all three bands, one of which, Zeke, was none too appreciative of my skills, or lack thereof.

The after-party more than made up for the evening’s uncomfortable moments and even included Drop Shop bouncers John Dempsey and Robert Farley power-bombing an inebriated yours truly through two strategically placed pieces of plywood.

Ah, to be young, dumb and careless again, and besides, the venue was “officially” closed by that point, never to open again.


(Friday, February 28, 1997)

I was the music columnist for the Huntington Herald-Dispatch for almost the entire period in which Drop Shop was opened.

One of the obvious perks of the job was receiving promotional copies of CD’s each day I checked my mailbox at the office, and none was as exciting as when I obtained an advance copy of Morgantown’s Karma to Burn’s debut album in the fall of 1996.

I would have to wait, however, until this show, the band’s album release party, before I could hear the bulk of it performed live.

One interesting aspect of this show was that the band’s performance featured vocalist J. Jarosz for a few songs (as had the album), much to the chagrin of Huntington loyalists, who had grown accustomed to Karma to Burn’s trademark instrumental interplay.

Fortunately, the band, which by then included former Chum drummer Chuck Nicholas, opted for an instrumental-heavy set and would eventually sack Jarosz before leaving to tour Europe just three months later.

Although the band had, essentially, been strong-armed into hiring Jarosz by their record label, Roadrunner, this decision would lead to the label parting ways with the Karma to Burn later in the year.

It’s also worth noting that opening act LIKEHELL was fronted by Nick Eldorado, who would later guest on Queens of the Stone Age’s ‘Rated R’ album, and appear on Volumes 7 and 8 of The Desert Sessions.

You can expect the second part of this blog to appear in the coming days.


1318 4th Ave. - An Aural History, Vol. 3

Welcome to the third volume of the “1318 4th Ave.” series.

While I certainly hope you’ve enjoyed the previous two editions on this site, this volume is a particularly noteworthy one, as it represents the period when Gumby’s ceased to exist and Drop Shop took up residence at 1318 4th Avenue in Huntington.

By late 1994, Gumby’s had suffered a succession of setbacks, the most prominent of which involved the physical integrity of the building itself, which would, ultimately, lead to its closure in early 1995.

As a result, the building would sit vacant for the first half of that year, until local businessman Allen Dean (of Mycroft’s) and his partners would purchase it and begin renovations that summer.

While Dean’s involvement with this undertaking may have generated some skepticism amongst the Gumby’s faithful, those concerns were soon laid to rest when it was decided that many of that venue’s staff would be retained for his new venture.

Perhaps the most important of those former Gumby’s employees to stay on with Drop Shop was Erik Raines, whom Dean would designate as booker, and would be responsible for continuing the tradition of live music that had been a staple of the previous venue.

Raines wasted no time in his new position and helped to establish Drop Shop’s intentions early on by recruiting Chum and Kent, Ohio’s Disengage to perform on the venue’s opening night in October 1995.

In his first six months alone, Raines would also be responsible for bringing bands such as Machine Head, Eyehategod and Morbid Angel (all of whom are featured on this volume) to Huntington for performances at Drop Shop.

Gumby’s holdovers such as Groovezilla and The Electric Hellfire Club would also continue to be featured at 1318 4th Ave., and new relationships would be forged with acts like Stuck Mojo, who would develop an affinity for Drop Shop and make multiple appearances at the venue over the course of the next 2 ½ years.

Although Dean and Raines initially approached hosting live music with caution during the venue’s first couple of months, by March 1996, Drop Shop was featuring bands four times per week.

(It is also worth mentioning that on a snowy February 1996 night, in a move that would foreshadow Drop Shop’s weekly Monday retro nights, Raines even brought in 80’s synth-pop act A Flock Of Seagulls for a performance at the venue.)

The decision to feature live music so frequently, and the public’s overwhelmingly positive response to it, would eventually enable Dean and Raines’ ambitious desire to feature nationally-recognized acts at larger area venues such as the Huntington Civic Center and Ritter Park Amphitheatre.

Before that would become a reality, however, Raines would first have to develop Drop Shop as a reputable live music venue, a goal he would soon begin to accomplish with some of the bands featured on this playlist.

--- email Justin at:


1318 4th Ave. - An Aural History, Vol. 2

Because of the overwhelming guilt I’ve felt for my lack of recent contributions, I decided to prematurely unleash the second volume in the “1318 4th Ave.” series for the readers of this blog site.

I would like to clarify, however, that these playlists merely feature a sample of the bands and artists that performed at either Gumby’s and/or Drop Shop during the years 1990 to 1998, and is not meant to be all-inclusive.

What I have decided to do is present these playlists chronologically, to some degree, in the order in which the artists appeared at either venue.

With that said, quite obviously, the previous volume featured those whom performed at Gumby’s during the years 1991-1993.

This next volume picks up where that one left off, literally, as the first band featured, Control Freak, actually served as support to the previous volume’s last act, Die Monster Die, in November 1993.

Also, moving forward, I will attempt to offer my take on some of the artists featured on each particular playlist, while including the dates when they performed.

Lexington’s Control Freak, whom I had the privilege of seeing live just once (and still have the t-shirt hanging in my closet to prove it), was a short-lived band led by former Black Cat Bone guitarist/vocalist Dave Angstrom and also featured Guru Lovechild drummer Chuck Nicholas, as well as bassist/vocalist Will Pieratt and guitarist Elwood, both of Abusement Park (who will be featured on volume three).

Stranglmartin was a contemporary of both Black Cat Bone and Control Freak, and fronted by David Butler, who also owned and operated The Wrocklage, a Lexington venue that served as inspiration for Gumby’s. The band also appeared at the same show I witnessed with Control Freak, but also performed at Gumby’s in February 1994.

The band that can lay claim to having appeared most frequently at Gumby’s and Drop Shop would, undoubtedly, be Huntington’s Chum, with 18 documented performances. I have written extensively about Chum and, at the band’s behest, penned their biography some time ago. That bio can be found at the following link: http://www.facebook.com/?sk=2361831622#!/group.php?gid=372007439759&v=info

Huntington’s Fuzzbucket was also a short-lived union of guitarist/vocalist Kevin Allison (later of The Heptanes and Red Carpet Bombers), bassist/vocalist Joel Hatfield, drummer Alex Kendall (also a member of The Heptanes) and guitarist/vocalist Tyler Massey. The band appeared at Gumby’s in April 1994, but had some of their most memorable performances at Calamity Café.

West Virginia’s adopted sons Clutch made their inaugural jaunt to Huntington when they performed at Gumby’s in July 1994. Although the band would perform nearly a dozen more shows in town in the years that followed, the reckless self-abandon on display at that initial performance has often been cited as their best.

Many people like to lay claim to the fact that they were at the original Woodstock when, in fact, they were not. If one such Huntington show has earned a similar distinction it would have to be the August 1994 Gumby’s performance by Kyuss. For the record, no, I was not there. Truthfully, I wasn’t even a fan of the band at the time. Like so many others, it took a few years to convince this hard-headed listener of their importance. A wise man once said “regrets, I’ve had a few.”

Morgantown’s Karma To Burn was still trying to find its identity when they first appeared at Gumby’s in February 1994, but they had already established their now-instantly recognizable instrumental prowess when they opened for Kyuss. The band would later credit Gumby’s and Huntington as an integral component to their eventual, worldwide success.

The remaining artists on this volume and their history with Gumby’s:

  • Brainiac performed with Huntington’s Electric Lullaby in February 1994.
  • Craw appeared with Torque and The Econothugs in April 1994.
  • Ed Hall headlined a show which also featured Chum in April 1994.
  • Black Market Flowers and Dandelion performed in May 1994.
  • Eek-A-Mouse also appeared in May 1994.
  • Crowbar, with support from Verga and Chum, performed in May 1994.
  • Sam Black Church opened the Clutch show in July 1994.
  • Souls At Zero headlined the venue in July 1994.
  • Christian Death and The Electric Hellfire Club appeared together in August 1994.
  • Buzzov*en topped a bill which included The Melts and Chum in August 1994.

--- email Justin at:


1318 4th Ave. - An Aural History, Vol. 1

I apologize for the time it has taken to contribute my second installment in this series, but I can assure you it was due to circumstances beyond my control.

It is the opinion of this writer that not everyone is as willing to speak about or is as nostalgic as yours truly when discussing days gone by.

As I had mentioned in my previous offering to this site, my intention with these entires is to remind those of you whom are old enough to remember and, perhaps, educate those who were not, about Huntington's early days when it was attempting to define itself as a musically viable city.

The contributions of people like John Kerwood, Brian Barlow, Erik Raines and Russ Fox cannot be overstated in the city's musical development and evolution.

All four were instrumental in Huntington's rise from the once-overlooked touring stop to an eventual necessity for regional recognition. (Kerwood and Barlow operating Gumby's, and Raines and Fox programming WMUL 88.1.)

What better way to honor their contributions than to let their musical accomplishments speak for themselves?

This is the first volume in a series that I've entitled "1318 4th Ave. - An Aural History."

These playlists will be highlighting the acts that performed at the venues located at that address in Huntington during the early-to-mid 1990's, beginning with those whom first graced the stage at Gumby's.

This first volume begins with the legendary Hasil Adkins, whose first documented performance at the venue occurred Thursday, March 21, 1991, and concludes with perennial favorites Die Monster Die.

Trust me, there's plenty more where this came from, so stay tuned.

--- email Justin at:

Greetings (From The Inner Self)

I was recently approached by the proprietor of this blog site asking if I’d be interested in contributing to a new series here on WVRockscene.

As communicated to me, the focus of this series would be the music scenes based in and around Huntington, Charleston, Morgantown (and surrounding areas) of the 1990’s, before the Internet Age made it possible for every musician to more easily promote themselves and sell their original music to a seemingly endless audience.

I was intrigued by the idea and immediately signed on, which is why you are currently reading this.

Quite honestly, and although some of you may already know this, I’ve entertained a similar idea as the basis for the book that I’ve yet to write.

That book, which is still a goal of mine, would concentrate specifically on Huntington’s music scene, 1989-1998, 10 years bookended by the opening and closing of the city’s two most infamous live music venues, Gumby’s and Drop Shop.

Anyone that spent any significant amount of time at either joint can attest to the numerous memorable moments that took place at 1318 4th Ave., where both places called home.

Whether it was G.G. Allin, The Afghan Whigs and Kyuss at Gumby’s, or Godflesh, Type O Negative and Corrosion of Conformity at Drop Shop, these were shows that people still talk about to this day.

But perhaps what people most remember, at least from the perspective of those whom frequented Gumby’s, is John Kerwood, the man most responsible for helping plant the seed for what would eventually become a vibrant, local music scene.

Kerwood was, in the eyes of many, Gumby’s.

Although I was only 17-years-old at the time, I was first introduced to him in 1994, when I was asked if I’d be willing to help promote a Cannibal Corpse show that he and Gumby’s booker, Brian Barlow, were putting on.

It would be another couple of years, however, before we would cross paths again, as Gumby’s would soon close and Drop Shop would take over residency at its former home in the fall of 1995.

We ran into one another in 1997, at Davidson’s Music and again, most memorably, in 2002, when two friends and I made the trek to Charleston to pay a visit to the newly renovated Sound Factory, for which he was, quite proudly, responsible.

None of us knew it at the time, but it would be the last time we’d see him alive, as he passed away a year-and-a-half later.

In the years that have gone by since John Kerwood died, many new music venues have propped up in and around Huntington, and the Sound Factory is still thriving in Charleston.

What I often wonder when I find myself in one of these establishments, though, is whether or not those whom are present realize how it all came to be.

Unfortunately, and I’m a pessimist by nature, the only answer I can usually find is “no.”

Call it an unfortunate characteristic of society, but a great many of us don’t have a sense of history or, most disturbingly, don’t even care to.

It’s an epiphany such as this that motivated me to sign on as a guest blogger when I was offered the opportunity.

Too often we take for granted what we’ve been given, a naïve perception that says “It’ll still be there in the morning when I wake.”

Well, you have to hang on tightly to the things that are important to you because there are no guarantees in life, and even though the sun may rise tomorrow, the place you once called home may not.

An adverse symptom of the “here today, gone tomorrow” disease is the notion that once something is out of sight it is out of mind.

In my opinion, those words best sum up Huntington’s formative years as a burgeoning music town and, sadly, people like John Kerwood who helped build it.

It’s this premise that has prompted me to only write this, my inaugural contribution to this site, but a lot more in the coming months.

You may call it informative reading, but I’d like to call it a history lesson.

Stay tuned.