31 March 2010

LOOK: The Art of Dane Klingaman

A native of San Francisco/Minneapolis, Dane Klingman, 24, came to Charleston to play college baseball. Since graduating from the University of Charleston where he majored in painting, Dane has been one of the driving forces in jump-starting a fresh contemporary art scene in the capital city. He also owns and resides at the Hansford Art House, a DIY gallery that shows work of the region's best and also up-and-coming artists. As one of the state's most promising creative talents, Dane's own work has been featured at the Clay Center, Callen McJunkin Gallery, and West Virginia Cultural Center.

A die hard baseball fan (he can often be found at West Virginia Power games), and also a listener of indie rock and hip-hop, the work often includes sports imagery or a graffiti/street-inspired graphic nature. Of himself and his work, Dane once said: "I am an abstract painter with modernist influences just as much as the obvious postmodern ones. I make art from found objects, and react to things I make art with such as old paint, enamel, and found color. Today I am exploring the serious and overlooked layers of everyday things like sleeping, dying, and talking to people."

Dane's work is available for purchase in and around Charleston. To learn more about Dane and his work, please visit his Web site at: http://daklingaman.tumblr.com. Or read about him on Art:304.

29 March 2010

DOWNLOAD: Dirt Bear - Bear It All

At some point in the mid-90s, following the break-up of The Provos, bassist Billy Reynolds and drummer Brian Pauley were joined by Andy Masker (formerly of Buddhashrooms) to form Dirt Bear. Ironically starting out as a joke band, but growing into one of the most popular bands in the Charleston region, it is the sense of humor that exists in the band's songwriting and lyrics that lends to the appeal of the music. As described by blog quote contributor, Dirt Bear sounds like "The Jesus Lizard plays Pee Wee's Playhouse."

Each song on 1996's Bear It All, is a poetically unbalanced stop-and-go ride that combines the melodic sensibilities of The Flaming Lips with calculated outbursts of noise reminiscent of Butthole Surfers into punk-pop chaos. Recorded at The Cave by the era's finest producer Scott Robinson, Bear It All is like a kid with ADD whose Ritalin wears off every 15 seconds - bouncing off the walls with rambunctious guitar riffs, a lot of cymbals and snare, and half-sensed but clever lyrics from a Johnny Rotten-esque voice. "I can't sing a lick, I'm one sorry punk," chants Billy (or Andy?) in the chorus of "Sykodelic."

Not long after the release of Bear It All, Billy went to dental school, and Dirt Bear called it quits with only Brian moving on to any serious projects (Shindig, Malicious Intent - and professional wrestling). Now well over a decade old, this record has proven to be timeless and effective - even if only measure by its influence on the state's music scene. "There's my fucking teens all in one record," says Aaron Crothers of The Emergency. Beginning to end, it is still one of the best records to come from a West Virginia band. This comes highly recommended.

Artist: Dirt Bear.

Album: Beart It All.

Year: 1996.

For fans of: The Jesus Lizard, Butthole Surfers, The Flaming Lips.

DOWNLOAD: Dirt Bear - Bear It All

Photo courtesy of Brian Jarrett.

25 March 2010

DOWNLOAD: Truck Grind Your Face - Truck Grind Your Face

A crude drawing of a dancing punk with spiked hair, boots, studded belt and a 40 coupled with handmade ransom letters that spell out the band's name Truck Grind Your Face gives a pretty good idea what this Morgantown band was like. Truck Grind (for short) mixed elements of bands such as Dropdead, The Necros and Caustic Christ into a style that was part crust punk, part skate-core, and part thrash.

At the front of Truck Grind's unmistakable sound is Mark's voice, which is straight from the throat - snarling and abrasive - yet the perfect tool for delivering lyrics that teeter between pissed off ("Wake Up America," "Fuck Off") and cynically humorous ("Turn Your Head and Cough"). The music is barrage of no-frills power-chord distortion and chaotic drums that invites a circle pit from start to finish.

This cassette tape released around 2001 - during the pinnacle of an impressive hardcore-punk scene in Morgantown - is eight short track tracks of non-stop energetic and relentless crusty thrash from a group with the best band name ever.

Artist: Truck Grind Your Face.
Album: Truck Grind Your Face.
Year: 2001.
For fans of: Dropdead, Caustic Christ, The Necros.

24 March 2010

WATCH: The Minus Tide live in Charleston, S.C.

Formed around 2001, The Minus Tide made an instant splash in West Virginia and the region, which had been overwhelmed with watered-down metalcore acts. Comprised of members of defunct Wheeling bands Killed At Camp and Horns To the Matador, The Minus Tide blended metal, screamo, rock and science fiction thrust into the face of the band's listeners by dualing guitars, synth effects and tormented vocals. In five years, The Minus Tide recorded progressively interesting and challenging records, and developed a strong following on the East Coast, before going on hiatus for the members' personal pursuits.

Here is a 23-minute video (year unkown) of The Minus Tide playing a show in Charleston, South Carolina. Though the quality is sub-par, it gives you an idea of the power and precision of one of West Virginia's most talent and creatively unique bands.

23 March 2010

DOWNLOAD: Guru Lovechild - Untitled Demo

SRR has received recently a handful of contributions from one of its readers. The contributions include a number of rare, out-of-print or unreleased material from bands from around the state from the early '90s to '00s. I will be posting those records over the next couple weeks. Unfortunately I don't know much about some of the bands so I won't have anything to say, so I have to rely on short write-ups by the contributor. The help with adding new material to the blog is always welcome and much appreciated. So thank you and keep them coming. Enjoy. If you would like to contribute, just contact me at srrblog@gmail.com.

"Guru Lovechild emerged from Huntington in the early ‘90s and existed a mere two years. The band recorded this unreleased demo before members John Lancaster, Brian Myers and, later, Chuck Nicholas, found greater fame with their next band Chum."

Artist: Guru Lovechild.

Album: Unreleased Demo.

Year: 1992.

For fans of: Galactic Cowboys, King’s X, Tool.

DOWNLOAD: Guru Lovechild - Untitled Demo.

22 March 2010

READ: Plural Us Singular interviews Jeremiah Munsey

Aaron Flanagan is a Charleston native booked shows around the state, as well as fronted the Morgantown hardcore band The Warriors. Aaron, a faculty member at Columbia College in Chicago where he received an M.F.A. in poetry, now runs the blog Plural Us Singular. The fairly new blog is a series of interviews with writers and other creative types talking about literature, art, screen, sports and more.

Plural Us Singular most recently interviewed Jeremiah Munsey, the Morgantown native and singer of Law Biting Citizens who is now an M.F.A. playwriting student at UNLV. In the interview, Jeremiah and Aaron discuss all things mentioned above from Daniel Day Lewis, poverty, folk-allure and French football. It is a lengthy, but interesting and entertaining read. To get an idea what former West Virginia punk-hardcore scene players are up to now, check it out.

16 March 2010

WATCH: Cryptorchid Chipmunk live at KNK

Though they've been around for years, I have never seen Cryptorchid Chipmunk, but do know they're an outrageously outfitted and ska-punk-hardcore band from Morgantown. Live shows are made up of children's plenty of neon and children's costumes; a lot of jumping and crawling on the ground; and loud music and homoeroticism. This video from 2006 at KNK (I have no idea where that is, unless it is the venue in Ocala, Florida) will give you an idea, but you can also check out the band on MySpace.

09 March 2010

05 March 2010

WATCH: Clutch live at Drop Shop in Huntington, 1997

There are bands that will forever be popular in West Virginia. Clutch is one of those bands. They have played in the state so many times you would think they were actually natives. But despite having lived in Harper's Ferry while they recorded 1998's The Elephant Riders, Clutch is well-known for hailing from neighboring Maryland.

Over the last decade and a half, they have played dozens of sold out shows across the Mountain State. In 1997 on a tour prior to the release of The Elephant Riders, Clutch played two sold-out dates at the Drop Shop in Huntington. One show was all-ages, and Malicious Intent was featured as the opening band (followed by a much less memorable act that featured the show promoter's son). I made the trip down with MI guitarist Dave Crawford. I'll never forget sitting in traffic on I-64, and turning around to see an 18-wheeler barreling in on Dave's rear bumper, and wondering if he was going to stop. He didn't, and ran right into us, but didn't do any damage to the car - just slowly pushed us 10 feet down the road.

Nevertheless, the video below features "7 Jam" from 1995's self-titled album. Though its from the second day's appearance that I didn't attend, the show many of us from north central West Virginia traveled to see was a blast. I saw Clutch a number of times after that in Huntington (mostly to photograph them for the newspaper), but no performance quite lived up to that one.

04 March 2010

DOWNLOAD: Klopeks' Furnace - New Martinsville

In the wake of the the disbandment Wheeling's foremost hardcore group Ahimsa, guitarist Wes Ebeling rounded up his musically-inclined friends from nearby New Martinsville (Wes's hometown) to conceive a new project. Equal parts straight-edge youth crew (Youth of Today, Gorilla Biscuits), '90s hardcore revival (By the Grace of God, Stretch Arm Strong) and post-hardcore revival emo (Silent Majority, At the Drive In), Klopeks' Furnace breathed fresh air into West Virginia hardcore they formed around 2000.

At the time, hardcore music and straight edge were in a fragile transitional period. The culture and music was beginning to garner mainstream attention, and many people involved with the scene were taking themselves too seriously, becoming cynical, or just abandoning the scene all together. Not Wes Ebeling. Not Klopeks' Furnace. Taking its namesake from one of the members' favorite flicks The 'Burbs, and combining it with a love of all things Arnold Schwarzenegger, Klopeks' proved they were playing music to have fun. Despite the name (less ironic than it is a tribute to a great movie) and Kindergarten Cop and Terminator 2 samples on the album (again, no irony intended), Klopeks' Furnace's songs are seriously - both musically and lyrically. (Except maybe for their incredible one-time cover of Journey's "Separate Ways.")

This album (supposedly entitled New Martinsville) was recorded around 2000, but received a very limited release amongst the band's friends. It is eight tracks of full-steam-ahead punk hardcore that is driven by two guitars that max chugging power chords with a melodic elements, throaty vocals and plenty of back-up chorus chanting. Despite the band's short-lived existence and the fact that this album has rarely been heard, Klopeks' Furnace is still one of the best hardcore bands West Virginia has produced.

Artist: Klopeks' Furnace.
Album: New Martinsville.
Year: 2000.
For fans of: Stretch Arm Strong, Youth of Today, Silent Majority.

03 March 2010

READ: Jeannette Walls - The Glass Castle

Many are probably familiar with The Glass Castle, the courageous memoir by freelance journalist Jeannette Walls. With grace and a sense of humor, Walls tells of growing up as part of a dysfunctional family of vagabonds - her brother and two sister and their father, an gambling alcoholic inventor, and their mother, eccentric artist. The rootless family travels the country in search of a break (and to build an ambitious house of glass), moving from Arizona to California to Nevada before eventually settling in the southern coal town of Welch, West Virginia. The book is an unbelievable tale that is wild and laugh-out-loud funny at its highest points, horrifying and tear-worthy at its lowest. Though the Walls children are consistently a victim at the hands of their parents outlandish personalities and others who come and go from their lives, the writer always keeps her chin up and pushes forward.

Though, only about one-third of the book takes place in Welch, the pages contain some of the most shocking and encouraging moments of the story. The Walls family and their story may be extraordinary, but The Glass Castle gives an honest and unparalleled insight into the many struggles of a life of poverty in the Southern West Virginia coalfields. Jeannette Walls has written a book that is impossible for anyone to forget - especially a West Virginian.

02 March 2010

DOWNLOAD: Complete Strangers - Complete Strangers

I will start with a bold statement: the Complete Strangers were the most original, most exciting and best band I have ever seen come from the West Virginia area. This record is one of the reasons why I created this blog in the first place. It's that good.

In 2001 the garage rock revival was in full force with bands like The Strokes and White Stripes. This was a blessing and a curse for the Strangers. A blessing in that it gave the band some deserved attention, which helped them book more shows and develop a regional fan base. But it was a curse in that, despite the band's 3-year-deep career, they were seen as jumping on the bandwagon, which was simply not the case.

Obsessed with the likes of Iggy Pop, Marc Bolan and Prince, it was the then 19-year-old Pike Holt who fronted the Complete Strangers and wrote all their songs. On stage, Holt channeled his inspirations resulting in a loud, emotional and sweaty (and some times bloody) frenzy of R&B-infused punk rock 'n' roll gospel. The Strangers' live shows were never half-hearted.

On record, 2002's self-titled album takes all that energy, rebellion and passion and blends it with more inspiration from the likes The Rolling Stones, Velvet Underground and Elvis Costello. The album opens with the anthemic "River of Lethe," which hints at James Brown singing the chorus of The Clash covering "Gloria." The funky and lyrically clever track "I Think I'm Getting Used to You" rings of the Talking Heads, while the 9-minute-long "Ain't It Strange" takes the listener from "Satisfaction" into Patti Smith's "Horses" in a matter of moments.

This band was spectacular. This record still is spectacular. I have nothing more to say.

Artist: Complete Strangers.
Album: Complete Strangers.
Year: 2002.
For fans of: The Stooges, T. Rex, Elvis Costello.

LOOK: Jeff Gentner photos featured in USA Today article about Ravenswood

My good friend Jeff Gentner, a freelance photographer in Charleston, recently shot the USA Today cover story "New ghost towns: Industrial communities teeter on the edge." The article is very interesting and as always, Jeff's photographs are fantastic. I encourage everyone to check it out.

01 March 2010

DOWNLOAD: The Emergency - EMC

Here is the final release by Morgantown's power pop rock trio The Emergency. More of the same - but even better. It seems a shame that it stopped here, but with band members again living on the same coast, The Emergency have popped up playing some shows as of late. Maybe a new record is on the horizon? Let's hope. Nevertheless, The Emergency have provided West Virginia with its fantastic brand of excruciatingly catchy and fun rock and roll (and an excuse to drink) for years, and we owe it to them to keep listening to these records for years to come.

Artist: The Emergency.
Album: EMC.
Year: 2008.
For fans of: See previous posts.