31 August 2010

READ: Lady Gaga has roots in West Virginia

According to an article in the Charleston Gazette, the mother of pop superstar Lady Gaga grew up in West Virginia's northern panhandle. Cynthia Bissett graduated from WVU in 1976 and moved to New York City where she married Joseph Germanotta. The couple has two daughters, the article reports, and the eldest is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta: aka Lady Gaga.
"Little is known about how much time Lady Gaga may have spent in West Virginia. For the last couple of years, reports and rumors about Gaga's hillbilly roots have been circulating. Lady Gaga may have a whole slew of cousins running around the Mountain State, but none of them have come forward."

30 August 2010

WATCH: The Apprentice covers "The Bed Intruder" song

When someone auto-tuned and remixed Antoine Dodson's on-camera anti-rapist rant into "The Bed Intuder" song, it went viral - 15 millions hits and counting. Soon the covers of the followed, including one from Ashland, Kentucky's Eric Delong, who plays in indie-folk-acoustic band The Apprentice. Cover songs are rare for Eric and The Apprentice, so this is a special treat and one of the more quality renditions of the infamous online hit. Enjoy.

25 August 2010

LISTEN: The Moatsville String Ticklers

Moatsville, West Virginia is a speck of a town in Barbour County from where The Moatsville String Ticklers emerged in the 1920s. In 1929, the group recorded four songs at a make-shift Columbia Records studio in Johnson City, Tennessee. One week later on "Black Tuesday" the Stock Market crashed, the Great Depression began and put an end to Moatsville's claim to fame. All that was left was a 78 rpm record put out by Columbia Records in 1930 that included the tracks "West Virginia Hills" and "Moatsville Blues." Have a listen to a piece of West Virginia music history.

24 August 2010

READ: Appalshop hopes to debunk stereotypes of Appalachia

The Louisville Courier-Journal today published a story on Appalshop, the non-profit multi-disciplinary arts and education center in Whitesburg, Kentucky, that produces original films, video, theater, music and spoken-word recordings, radio, photography, multimedia, and books. The article entitled "Appalshop hopes to debunk stereotypes of Appalachia," is a good piece on the incredible work that the center does. I recommend anyone interested Appalachia-based social justice documentary work check out Appalshop's projects - in particular Elizabeth Barret's 2000 documetnary Stranger With a Camera (trailer below). The film explores the complex relationship between filmmakers and journalists covering social issues in Appalachia and the people in their films and images, framed by the 1967 murder of a Canadian filmmaker by a Kentucky landlord who was angry over media images during the War on Poverty.

Check out the Courier-Journal article and take some time to learn more about the wonderful projects of Appalshop.

Watch the trailer for Stranger With a Camera:

23 August 2010

DOWNLOAD: Heliotropes - III

Heliotropes may be based in Brooklyn, but two of the all-female trio's founding members - Claire Beaudreault and Amber Myers - are natives of West Virginia. Myers has since parted from the band, which later recruited Anna Sale, another Mountain State expat, who provided violin on the the group's recently released first EP entitled III.

With a sound described as "doomy pop" - containing elements of shoegaze, goth and classic psych metal - Heliotropes blend influences from Spacemen 3, Spiritualized, Black Sabbath and My Blood Valentine. On this lo-fi EP, the guitar riffs are murky, the drums are bludgeoning, and the shrills of the violin are haunting. But it is California native Jessica Numsuwankijkul's detached, wistful vocals - which bring to mind Richard Ashcroft meets Mazzy Star - that turn spacey dissonance into beautiful hypnotic rock.

Contemporary independent music has recently shed light on a number of all-female, lo-fi groups including Vivian Girls and Dum Dum Girls (both of which fail to live up to a standard set years earlier by Black Tambourine), as well as female-fronted and -inclusive surf groups like Best Coast and Male Bonding. This is not a bad thing for anybody. In fact, it is good timing for Heliotropes, which is going steps beyond the creative attempts of some of the aforementioned bands. Heliotropes is not just a good all-female band. They are not just a good lo-fi band. Simply, they are a good band. III is an EP that shows a lot of potential for a group of talented musicians and songwriters, who are sure to carve out their own space in an exciting, emerging (and hopefully lasting) trend in independent music.

Artist: Heliotropes
Album: III
Year: 2010
For fans of: Spiritualized, Black Sabbath, My Bloody Valentine

19 August 2010

READ: Ann Pancake - Strange as this Weather Has Been

Last November, this blog featured short story author Breece D'J Pancake. Pancake was a South Charleston native and Marshall alumnus whose life and potential was cut way too short by suicide in 1979 when he was only 26. Posthumously nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, Pancake was revered by writers such as Andre Dubus III and Chuck Palahniuk. His writing style was compared to the likes of Ernest Hemingway.

Of no relation, another writer by the same memorable surname has risen to literary success from the Mountain State. Having grown up in Romney and Summersville, West Virginia, Ann Pancake's fiction tells first-person tales of life in rural Appalachia. In 2001, Pancake published a collection of short stories entitled Given Ground, but it was 2007's novel Strange as this Weather Has Been that shows her skill to create sincere characters, and to define places.

According to Pancake's website, "Strange As This Weather Has Been features a West Virginian town in the midst of the latest coal boom, and plagued by the mountaintop removal strip mining that is ruining what is left of their mountain life. As the mine turns the mountains to dust and wastewater, workers struggle with layoffs and children find adventure in the blasted moonscape craters. And down below, the hollow’s inhabitants live with the constant threat of a black flood that could wash out their world without notice."

With ease, Pancake writes about the struggles of poverty and the divided interests between rural and urban Americans. The language and voices of her characters are authentic and their personalities and lives are unique but familiar. Like another Pancake almost three decades prior, Ann Pancake writes words that not only strike a chord with those from the hills, but prove just as effective and interesting with those unfamiliar with life in Appalachia.

*Please, check your local independent bookstore before buying online.

18 August 2010

WATCH: Fugazi live in Huntington, 2002 [FULL SHOW]

© Glen E. Friedman

On April 5, 2002, Fugazi played at the Stoned Monkey in Huntington, West Virginia. In February, this blog posted two videos from that show. (Read the back story about the show that includes the Sheriff, Fire Marshal, and a last-minute change of venue to a place half the size of the original.) When I found these videos on YouTube, I was incredibly excited to relive one of the best shows I have ever seen - nevertheless in West Virginia. I then left multiple comments begging the owner of the videos to post more. The requests were filled and now the entire two-hour performance is available online in 11 parts. Thank you, "rightupfrontstuff"! Enjoy.

16 August 2010

DOWNLOAD: Holden Caulfield - ...And Never Will

The final chapter in the eight year run of one of West Virginia's most beloved hardcore bands. A fitting end to a band that always carried a banner promoting a positive message of friendship and having a good time. Nowadays Holden Caulfield founder and frontman Dana White - beyond his role as a husband and new father - has recruited former band mate Bobby Midkiff and a pair of other local players to form a new band Black Seas. Though Black Seas does not depart far from the sound and style of Holden Caulfield, the end of Holden Caulfield still left a massive hole in the the West Virginia all-ages hardcore scene. One that may never be filled with such energy and sincerity. (That last sentence could have been the perfect place for a play on the title of this album, but I took the higher road.)

Artist: Holden Caulfield
Album: ...And Never Will
Year: 2008
For fans of: Most Precious Blood, Stretch Arm Strong, Sick of it All

11 August 2010

DOWNLOAD: Holden Caulfield - Demo 2005

These fives songs are unmastered, alternative versions versions of ones featured on 2005's Can't Stop Now, as these were recorded with Brian Myers.

Artist: Holden Caulfield
Album: Can't Stop Now
Year: 2005
For fans of: Most Precious Blood, Stretch Arm Strong, Burn It Down.

10 August 2010

DOWNLOAD: Holden Caulfield - Can't Stop Now

Here's the second album and first full-length by Holden Caulfield to come out on Surprise Attack records. It is 11 tracks that build upon the momentum created with the 2003's EP The Art of Burning Bridges.

Artist: Holden Caulfield
Album: Can't Stop Now
Year: 2005
For fans of: Most Precious Blood, Stretch Arm Strong, Burn It Down.

03 August 2010

DOWNLOAD: Holden Caulfield - The Art Of Burning Bridges

On 2003's The Art of Burning Bridges, Holden Caulfield begins developing the aggressive, visceral hardcore sound that became so familiar over the next five years of the band's existence. Departing entirely from the punk rock feel of the previous demo, this EP is full of riff-heavy guitars that chug along between breakdowns. Dana White's vocals that teeter between his unmistakable Brother's Keeper-inspired shrieks and the Rollins-inspired bellowing more familiar from his days with Down To None (whose song "Hate Through Hate" Holden Caulfield covers on this EP). These elements combined with sporadic melodic moments and plenty crowd-inclusive lyrics made for song-alongs has been a successful recipe for many hardcore bands since the late '90s. Just as it worked in Stretch Arm Strong on the song "For Now", it worked for Holden Caulfield, who achieved what many West Virginia bands couldn't in developing a loyal regional fan base over half a decade - playing to crowds more common at touring band's shows. That is due in part to the loyalty of Dana White and Holden Caulfield had for their fans and their music. So it is ironic that this EP is called The Art of Burning Bridges, because burning bridges seemed to be something Holden Caulfield was not good at.

Artist: Holden Caulfield
Album: The Art of Burning Bridges
Year: 2003
For fans of: Stretch Arm Strong, Sick Of It All, Most Precious Blood

02 August 2010

DOWNLOAD: Holden Caulfield - Beginning of Forever and Ever

By the time of their last show in August 2008 - after eight years and dozens of line-up changes - Holden Caulfield proved to be West Virginia's most tenured and adored bands. Formed in Charleston in 2000 by Dana White and members of Logan County punk trio Out of Nowhere, White remained at the center of Holden Caulfield in its every incarnation. Over nearly a decade as members came and went, White recruited new guitar players, bassists and drummers from the all-ages hardcore/punk scene for which he has long served as the proverbial grandfather.

Through all the years and changes, Holden Caulfield always stayed true to the mission of creating hardcore with a positive backbone. And it all started with 2002's Beginning of Forever and Ever (appropriately named in the foreshadowing of the band's longevity). Though a rough demo that doesn't quite fit in with the sound and style of the Holden Caulfield's future recordings, Beginning of Forever and Ever definitely serves as a pre-cursor for the band's career.

While later Holden Caulfield more resembled the metal side of hardcore like Most Precious Blood or Burn It Down; on this demo the music is more melodic and punk and shows influence from Silent Majority and Stretch Arm Strong. the sing-scream vocals give nod to Mike Patton (as does the cover of Faith No More's "Last Cup of Sorrow"). At the heart of all Holden Caulfield material, though, has been a sense of humor with a serious message about friendship and family and positivity. That is never more apparent than with song-along anthem "Rock and Roll Woman," or on the demo's final track "Complacency Is Really Just A Bunch Of Screaming Dudes," on which the members of the bands... well... scream.

Dana White has tenacity, and it paid off. While many musicians would become frustrated with leading a band with a revolving door of members, White's ambition to have a successful paid off with a discography of five albums and demos (a pair of which released on Surprise Attack Records), a number of regional and national tours, and dozens of shows to excited kids, many of which getting into hardcore music because of Holden Caulfield alone. The rest of HC's discography to come this week.

Artist: Holden Caulfield
Album: Beginning of Forever and Ever
Year: 2002
For fans of: Stretch Arm Strong, Silent Majority, Most Precious Blood