30 November 2009

READ: Lee Mayard - Crum

Lee Mayard's novel Crum is a great read, despite the fact that it was banned from Tamarack, the "Best of West Virginia" shopping mall of state-made (overpriced) arts.

Crum is a coming-of-age story is about a teenage boy growing up in the town of Crum in Wayne County, West Virginia. Maynard's biographical character finds himself in all kinds of mischief involving pranks, fights and sex. The book got banned not because its protagonist's sexist, mischievous and cynical behaviors. Nor because it is chock-full of offensive language and scenes. Crum was banned because its about West Virginia and therefore plays up the hillbilly stereotype that plagues the state.

Bullshit. It's not a stereotype and Lee Maynard knows that. This story is about the reality of rural life in West Virginia - but even more so the life of any ornery adolescent boy. Maynard on being banned: "[Banning books] has never worked. All it does is serve to bring attention to something that you didn't want attention brought to. I love those people who try to ban books. We need some stupid people like that around to keep us in check."

Though not the best written novel set in the hills of West Virginia, Crum is casual, often absurd, and sometimes scatological. But it always entertaining and even informative on what life in the coalfields is/was like - and how in a place so easy to get stuck, how individuals long and struggle to breakaway.

LOOK: Buswater Art Exhibition, Charleston, Dec. 4-6

Though, I no longer live in West Virginia, I encourage anyone who lives near Charleston to go to this. It's always great art by young, interesting local artists in a unique show space. If you go, take money, support the artists and get something for your walls.

BUSWATER Art Exhibition

1520 Kanawha Boulevard East
Charleston, West Virginia

December 4: 6 pm - 10 pm
December 5: 3 pm - 10 pm
December 6: 12 pm - 6 pm

Artists: Erica Ash, Staci Leech, Mark Earnhart, Amanda Jane Miller, Jason Kiley, Adrian Blackstock, Jeff Pierson, Scott McMillian, Jamie Miller, Garrett Shane Bryant, Jonathan Matthews, Erin White, Betty Gay, Rob Cleland, Joey Elswick, Todd Griffith, Justin Cornell, Angel Harless, Robbie Moore, Vasilia Scouras, Kerry Bingaman.

DOWNLOAD: The Peckerheads - Songs For a White Trash Wedding

When most non-Appalachians read this blog, an image of Evan Fedorko's recreational lifestyle is probably what they envision of all of us. Evan is a geographer by weekday, but a bearded, earth-tone-clad fly fisherman and hunter by weekend. Somewhere in the last ten years, Evan also led The Peckerheads as the band's singer/guitarist.

The point of this never-overly serious band from Morgantown was to have a good time. Self-described as "Johnny Cash covering NOFX," The Peckerheads were booze-fueled pop punk (before that term came with a negative connotation) with fast songs, catchy choruses, and lyrics about... well... boozin' mostly. These Songs For a White Trash Wedding are less that, instead are sincerely tongue-in-cheek anthems of having fun with friends.

Artist: The Peckerheads.
Album: Songs For a White Trash Wedding.
Year: 2001.
For Fans Of: Jawbreaker, NOFX, Leatherface.

28 November 2009

DOWNLOAD: The Beautiful Down - Ashes and Vanity / Of Angels and Of Men

This album includes two records by The Beautiful Down including 2004's Ashes and Vanity and the 2002 demo ...Of Angels and Of Men (tracks 1-6 and 7-10, respectively). Considering these songs were written and rehearsed in a house that's walls were plastered with magazine tear-outs of bikini-clad women and stolen road signs, The Beautiful Down was a band with mature songs and a lot of potential for commercial accessibility.

As stated in the post below, The Beautiful Down wears its influences on its sleeves. At the Drive In's Relationship of Command had achieved its pinnacle of success just as the songs on Of Angels were being written. As the popularity of bands like ATDI faded, so did their influence on TBD. On Ashes and Vanity, a sound that is not only more original but also more personal and sincere shines through - slightly (but unintentionally) hinting at bands like The Dismemberment Plan and Failure from time-to-time.

Soon after the recording of Ashes and Vanity, The Beautiful Down called it quits - so not many people have even heard this record. So please, check it out.

Artist: The Beautiful Down
Album: Ashes and Vanity / ...Of Angels and Of Men
Year: 2002-2004
For Fans Of: At The Drive In, Hum, The Dismemberment Plan

WATCH: The Beautiful Down, 2004, Huntington

The Beautiful Down is still one of my favorite bands from the state of West Virginia. Based in Huntington, 3/4 of the band were from Boone County, home of the infamous (and unfortunate) Jesco White. (Josh Hager, drums, and Joey DeHart, guitar, had matching "Boone Co." tattoos on their ass.)

TBD's shows - like their house parties - were loud, fun, booze-fueled and always better than the previous. With seemingly apparent influences from At the Drive In and Hum, their music was like nothing else being produced in the region. Had this band's members been more ambitious about their music than their college studies (education is important), The Beautiful Down could have made a living performing and recording.

Here is an entire show TBD played at a bar in Huntington in Spring 2004. Admittedly, this band of beer-drinkin' hillbillies wasn't the best-dressed or the most handsome, but they wrote great songs and played with a lot of energy and always had a good time.

I will be posting both of their records very soon.

"Ruin of You."

"Are We Safe Yet."

"Deconstructing Your Monument."

"A Place I Fear."


"A Light in the Hollow."

"I Could Never Be."

"Constructing Your Monument."

27 November 2009

LISTEN: Wheeling, West Virginia Hardcore Mp3 Archive

A lad by the name of Corey who used to play in the bands Bala and Union Deposit road has created an archive of hardcore/punk from Wheeling, West Virginia, from the early '90s. This archive was sent to me by my Wheeling-native friend David who played in bands like The Minus Tide, Cobra and Five Minute Conspiracy. Because of my age and and my location, it is a scene I was never a part of and there are bands with which I am not familiar. There are a number of streaming/downloadable songs, and some really good stuff there. I highly recommend taking some take to listen to it or downloading the songs.

I spent most of my youth playing in various punk/hardcore bands. In the early 90s Wheeling, West Virginia was not exactly a mecca for this fringe culture, but there were about 200 or so kids that would come out to shows. We would book and promote shows anywhere we could rent space. The following archive is my document of that time. Please contact me if you have anything else that could be added to this page; photos, flyers, mp3s, etc."

READ: Breece D'J Pancake - The Stories of Breece D'J Pancak

With my second post, I will sway away from music and recommend this book by the West Virginia writer Breece D'J Pancake - The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake. Pancake was born in South Charleston, West Virginia, and attended Marshall University before going to the University of Virginia until committing suicide in 1979.

"Breece D'J Pancake cut short a remarkably promising career when he took his own life in 1979 at the age of 26. In 1983 Little, Brown and Company's posthumous publication of this book-a collection of stories that depict, with astonishing power and grace, the world of Pancake's native rural West Virginia-electrified the literary world with a force that still resounds across two decades. The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake has remained continuously in print, and Back Bay Books takes pride in now making the collection available in this new trade paperback edition."

Kurt Vonnegut once wrote, ""I give you my word of honor that he is merely the best writer, the most sincere writer I've ever read. What I suspect is that it hurt too much, was no fun at all to be that good. You and I will never know."

Author: Breece D'J Pancake.
Title: The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake.
Year: 1983.
For Fans Of: Ernest Hemingway, Andre Dubus III, Chuck Palahiuk.

26 November 2009

WATCH: Malicious Intent live at Common Grounds in Charleston, 1999

I have created this blog because I have/had a lot of friends who make good music. On this blog, I will post albums, demos, videos, photos, etc. of those bands and others.
For starters, here are some videos of Malicious Intent in 1999 at the Common Grounds - an incredible all-ages club in Charleston, West Virginia. MI, as they were affectionately know by their regional fan base, were friends of mine from my home town in Bridgeport, West Virginia. They were great guys who created interesting and entertaining punk-infused death metal for many years before it was ever an intentional genre of hardcore.
During their career, MI went through a number of personnel changes but retained its two core members J.D. Smallridge on vocals and Dave Crawford on guitar. The band put out three albums - the tapes Creation Denied and The Sound of Diesel, as well as the full-length CD Death Pop. I will be posting these in the future. For the time being, check out the videos, and keep up with the blog.
"Pitchfork Eye."
"Blood 19."
And some even earlier footage from the early '90s in Salem, West Virginia.
Videos courtesy of David Crawford.