22 December 2011

LISTEN: M Iafrate - Happy Xmas, X Is Here

Happy Holidays. Enjoy this seasonally appropriate record from M Iafrate. See you in 2012.

20 December 2011

WATCH: Dallas Campbell and Geoff Hoskinson - McDonald's Holy Arches

Dallas Campbell (Drown Culture mastermind and former singer of The Minus Tide) and Geoff Hoskinson have been busy lately with Geoff Hoskinson & Dallas Campbell Make Videos. The project consists of the two Wheeling-ites writing, producing and performing in bizzarre, surrealistic and satirical music comedy sketches - think Tim and Eric but more hip and handsome. This recent video was featured on iheartchaos.com, but be sure to check out more of their videos on their Tumblr blog. The one below is my personal favorite.

15 December 2011

DOWNLOAD: American Minor - Demo

Happy Birthday Robert McCutcheon, formerly of American Minor. I've been listening to the alt-country/southern rock band's 2002 demo a lot recently. If you don't have it already and you're a fan of Uncle Tupelo or Ryan Adams, be sure to download one of my favorite demos from a West Virginia band.

14 December 2011

READ: Breece D'J Pancake - Trilobites

The second post I made on this blog was about author Breece D'J Pancake, a South Charleston native and Marshall grad who committed suicide at the age of 26. His talents have been celebrated over the years by the likes of Kurt Vonnegut, Chuck Palahniuk and Andre Dubus III.

If you've never read Pancake's work before, I suggest starting with Trilobites, which you can read in full online thanks to The Atlantic, where it was originally published in 1977. "Trilobites" is the first story in Pancake's only printed collection, The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake. I can't recommend this highly enough.

Click here to read Trilobites.

13 December 2011

WATCH: Alex's Birthday, Family Ties

Check out this gem. When Michael J. Fox's character on Family Ties turned 18, there was only one way for him to celebrate - head to West Virginia to drink. And yes, that is Crispin Glover (aka George McFly). Brilliant.

08 December 2011

DOWNLOAD: Shindig - Hell, She Looked 18

Here is Shindig's follow-up to their debut Trendy Music For Trendy Kids. On the unfortunately but humorously titled Hell, She Looked 18, the songwriting is a bit more aggressive at times, but picks up where Trendy left off. There are a couple great songs on here including "Better Off," "I Wanna Go Home" and the homages to The Andy Griffith Show "I Don't Wanna Fall In Love With Ellie Walker" and "It Wasn't Helen Crump." But at 17-tracks of Blink 182 or Fat Wreck-esque pop punk, there is some room for editing, especially toward the end of the album. With that said, the experienced Charleston four-piece wrote hook-filled songs with cleverly memorable lyrics, and they always put on a fun show. The band's appeal was not limited to teenage girls, but anyone within earshot who couldn't resist wo-oh-oh-ing along.
Artist: Shindig
Album: Hell, She Looked 18
Year: 1997
For fans of: Blink 182, Green Day, NOFX

07 December 2011

WATCH: The Demon Beat love at Trackside, 2011

Here is a video of a recent performance by The Demon Beat, a garage-blues-rock trio from Shepherdstown. I've been hearing a lot about this band over the past couple years. I posted about them back in September after posting the drummer's fantastic solo effort The Rozwell Kid. I have not listened to The Demon Beat much, though, because, to be honest, they just didn't appeal to me. I'm not a fan of The Black Keys and prefer My Morning Jacket's early, more mellow material, and those are two bands to which I would compared The Demon Beat. Then I saw this video, and I'm sold. It's a great song by talented musicians playing with tons of energy. David Klug, music engineer and former drummer from The Minus Tide, said The Demon Beat put on a great show. I hope they make it to Austin again soon, as I'd love to see them. For now I will watch this video for the sixth time.

05 December 2011

DOWNLOAD: U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd - Mountain Fiddler

This album needs no explanation. The late U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd playing bluegrass. This album, recorded in 1978, was re-released after Byrd's death at the age of 92 in June 2010. Fantastic stuff from one of the greatest ever West Virginians.

Artist: U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd
Album: Mountain Fiddler
Year: 1978
For fans of: Robert C. Byrd

26 November 2011

READ: Happy 2nd Birthday Soft Rock Renegade

I started this blog two years ago today with this post about Malicious Intent. Thanks for the support.

22 November 2011

WATCH: Pulling John

The other night I was searching through Netflix Instant for something quick and easy to watch and came across the above film "Pulling John." The documentary is about John Brzenk, a nearly impossible-to-beat arm wrestling champion, and two men who hope to end his invincibility. One puller is Alexy Voevoda, an overwhelming species of strength from Russia - like Drago with a soft heart and a ponytail. The other is Travis Bagent, a loudmouth egomaniac from, of course, West Virginia. I had no idea one of the main characters was a West Virginian, but as soon as I saw that, I was hooked. Bagent is half vainglorious villain and half underdog, and as much as he wants to make you dislike him, it's hard not to root for him. "Pulling John" isn't the best doc I've seen in a while, but it's a film that will make you cheer. Except for the fact that they say Travis from Charleston when he's actually from Charles Town. If you have Netflix, check it out.

21 November 2011

WATCH: The Caterpillar Scheme live in Morgantown, 2008

Here are a couple videos of The Caterpillar Scheme playing at 123 Pleasant Street in Morgantown in 2007. Though the camera is hidden behind the drums, the light is low, and the audio is a bit loud and booming, the video hints at the The Caterpillar Scheme's energetic and intense live performances, which could not be captured on the band's self-titled EP.

15 November 2011

DOWNLOAD: The Caterpillar Scheme - The Caterpillar Scheme

Editor's Note: Not long after I started this blog (two years ago), I asked my friend Eric Courtney to write about his friends The Caterpillar Scheme. Eric said he struggled to write without being too sentimental and talking about how important his friendships with the band's members were. But I've finally gotten these words out of him. He just wanted to make sure Dan Sheets, Danny King and Mindy Parsley were mentioned as the individuals who introduce him to the band.

While none of the members of the band would likely acknowledge it, North central West Virginia’s The Caterpillar Scheme was truly an inspiration to the community of talented musicians and artists who collected at the Morgantown bar 123 Pleasant Street during the middle years of the last decade. In 2003 (I THINK), brothers Joshua (guitar, vocals) and Ross Israel (drums), Jeremy Casto (guitar, keyboard, noise) and Todd Molina (bass), all of whom grew up around Clarksburg, formed The Caterpillar Scheme in the wake of the band Down July. The Caterpillar Scheme toured surrounding states and played gigs in various West Virginia towns, but Pleasant Street was where their brand of cosmic, art-damaged post-hardcore was truly embraced, and at home.
The Caterpillar Scheme's live show was something to behold - a surprisingly tight mix of tension and release, melody and caterwaul that destroyed guitars, amps, PAs, you name it. When they were at their best, their force was enough to levitate audiences ever so slightly, like sheer magic, leaving even the drunkest of crowds in awe. They made Morgantown feel a little bigger and more significant than before. Their music challenged the people who knew it intimately to create better. It bridged social cliques, helped forge lifelong friendships, and was the catalyst for countless nights of hazy elation. I look back on the years of my life spent among the members of this band with deep nostalgia, and I’m certain many others do as well.
The Caterpillar Scheme left us with only a single EP that doesn't quite capture what the band could produce live. They drew from a variety of musical influences, but fans of Unwound, Blonde Redhead, At the Drive-In and early Radiohead won't be disappointed. Down July also recorded a CD a few years before three of the bands four members created The Caterpillar Scheme. If anyone has a copy, I would love to see it posted.

Artist: The Caterpillar Scheme
Album: The Caterpillar Scheme
Year: 2003
For fans of: At the Drive-In, Blonde Redhead, Unwound

14 November 2011

LISTEN: 63 Eyes - Look in For Mothmen

Here is material from an incredible 1980s underground rock band from Parkersburg. 63 Eyes featured now prominent West Virginia musician Todd Burge on vocals and bass along with Mark Poole (guitar) and Wes Poole (drums). Influential on the likes a number of area bands to follow in the years after, 63 Eyes could be compared to Husker Dü, Meat Puppets of Flipper. One fan commented: "I swear I hear 'Exit the Pig' when I [listen to] Foo Fighters 'This Is a Call.' Same chords, same guitar sound, same attitude... but 7 years after [63 Eyes]." Considering this album was recorded in 1987, the terrific songwriting paired with quality production could fool any listener into believing this record is contemporary. Look in For Mothmen is now available for download for $10, and upon streaming it for free, is well worth it.

09 November 2011

DOWNLOAD: Kukim - Live on the Morgantown Sound Show

Yesterday I posted a pair of videos of Kukim, the Morgantown band featuring ex-members of Lincoln. Where drummer Justin Wierbonski denies Lincoln being an emo band, instead calling them a rock band, it was Kukim that moved away from post-hardcore and more into the rock spectrum. While stylistically very similar to Lincoln, the guitars are less heavy with more hooks and less screaming. As stated, the band never released any material other than these eight tracks recorded live on U92's Morgantown Sound Show in 1994. The production is quite organic, as to be expected from a radio show recording, but powerful nonetheless. Kukim picks up quite well where Lincoln, one of the states best ever bands, left us wanting more after such an abbreviated existence.
Artist: Kukim
Album: Live on the Morgantown Sound Show
Year: 1994
For fans of: Lincoln, Drive Like Jehu, Unwound

WATCH: Kukim live in Dayton, 1994

Most readers of this blog are pretty familiar with Lincoln by now. Formed in the early 1990s, Lincoln was considered one of the originators of the post-hardcore/emo/screamo sound - "filled with super heavy dissonant guitars, screaming vocals and spastic drumming to a relatively medium tempo," as drummer Justin Wierbonski explains. "However, I don’t and never did consider Lincoln an emo band. We were just a rock band to my ears, and a pretty darn good one at that." Truth.

So it was unfortunate that after just a few short years and a handful of seven-inches, Lincoln called it quits. But where Lincoln left off, the Morgantown band's members picked right back up with Kukim. Kukim never released any albums except an in-studio performance at Morgantown's U92 radio station, but here are a couple videos of Kukim performing in Dayton in 1994. The top video features video from the show but overlayed audio from the u92 recordings. The video and audio below are from the actual performance.

08 November 2011

DOWNLOAD: Down Goes Frazier - Discography 2003 to 3004

On Monday night, boxing legend Joe Frazier died after a long battle with liver cancer. It is only natural that I repost the band respectfully named after Howard Cossell's call during the working man champion's epic fight against George Foreman in 1973. Though the reference to one of Smokin' Joe's rare losses (only four in his career) is not the best way to commemorate his life, this is just a music blog, so it's appropriate. So from one of the greatest heavyweight boxers of all time to one of my favorite punk bands from West Virginia, if you're a fan of Hot Water Music, Planes Mistaken For Stars or Against Me!, check out Down Goes Frazier.
Artist: Down Goes Frazier
Album: Discography 2003 to 2004
Year: 2003 to 2004
For Fans Of: Hot Water Music, Planes Mistaken For Stars, Silent Majority

05 November 2011

IN MEMORIAM: Samuel "Meuwl" Harshbarger

Two years ago today we lost a great artist and dear friend, Samuel "Meuwl" Harshbarger. In January this blog paid tribute to Meuwl's life and career as one of West Virginia's finest hip-hop emcees and personalities. With help from Meuwl's friends and other artists from the state, we posted Meuwl's music, videos, photos, graffiti and some beautifully sincere words from Meuwl collaborator and close friends Justin "L-No" Leonard.

I am reposting this exact post from a year ago to again celebrate the genius who was Meuwl. On this day I wanted to re-post everything to give people another chance to download his music or just take an opportunity to remember what he contributed to all our lives.

RIP Meuwl.

03 November 2011

DOWNLOAD: Law Biting Citizens - Keep a Candle Burning

Law Biting Citizens enjoyed a healthy 10-year career as one of the premier hardcore bands in north central West Virginia. Having formed in 1995, the Morgantown band's core members were Jeremiah Munsey (vocals), Jordan Munsey (drums) and Jeff Goodwin (guitar) with a number of bass and guitar players along the way. Though considered a hardcore band with influences such as 7 Seconds, Minor Threat and Sick of It All, LBC's music proved to be less simple than that. Keep a Candle Burning, the band's final release in 2004, sums up an experienced career of writing creative, catchy songs that are both aggressive and melodic. The guitar playing in LBC's songs represent a love of old hardcore punk blended with jazz funk influences that brings to mind of Bad Brains or Greg Ginn. There are plenty of hooks, circle pit-friendly parts and thoughtful lyrics sung by Jeremiah's unique shout-sung vocals, which along with his intelligent lyrics are what make this band special for me. Every LBC show was an entertaining performance - absent of any contrived punk rock theatrics, but filled of spontaneous energy from individuals who cared about what they were playing and believed in what they were saying. Because of that sincerity, the scene believed in them, which is why the were able to outlive so many other local punk hardcore bands of the same era.
Artist: Law Biting Citizens
Album: Keep a Candle Burning
Year: 2004
For fans of: 7 Seconds, Sick of It All, Warzone

01 November 2011

WATCH: Eric Courtney on Showbiz Pizza and staying up late

This is Eric Courtney. He is from Clarksburg. When he was 7 years old, he went to a Showbiz Pizza lock-in. Now he lives in Los Angeles, and he stays up more than you.

This video (made by filmmaker James Markidis) deserves to go viral. Make it happen.

31 October 2011

WATCH: The Flaming Lips live in Parkersburg, October 2011

The Flaming Lips are not a band of which I've ever been much a fan. I do, though, recognize how entertaining their shows must be and why they have achieved their success and popularity. Which is why I was so shocked to find out on Saturday that the Oklahoma band was set to play a house show in Parkersburg on Sunday night. Yes, the Flaming Lips played a house show in Parkersburg, West Virginia! Supposedly it was the brainchild of a 17-year-old girl on Twitter from the third-largest city in the state, but I am unaware of any other details behind the event. Nevertheless, here is a video of the band's introduction and a couple minutes of their first song - Dream Syndicate's "It's Halloween." I've also included a couple photos via Parkersburg native and singer/songwritier Michael Iafrate, who was in attendance. Pretty awesome.
UPDATE: Here is a longer video with more music and explanation from Wayne Coyne on how they ended up playing a house show in Parkersburg. It just gets better.

27 October 2011

DOWNLOAD: Walt Flanagan's Dog - Discography 1998-2000

Walt Flanagan's Dog was a ska-punk band. So it is unnecessary to call them rambunctious, quirky or boisterous, but these teenagers from South Charleston were just that. Despite a decent horn section, Walt Flanagan's Dog fit more into the aggressive guitar-driven side of ska-influenced punk with bands like the Bosstones, Less Than Jake and Suicide Machines - with innocently sarcastic songs about girls, two-tones and steak. The band was fronted by the rowdy Justin Leonard, who was equal parts Dropkick Murphys and the Beastie Boys. In fact, Leonard later became known as hip-hop producer L-No for Meuwl and Rabble Rousers.
Though, I only got to see Walt Flanagan's Dog a handful of times upon a reunion of sorts in 2000, they were a band that always seemed to have fun. I will not lie - these recordings aren't the best productions. But while singing voices often crack, horns miss notes, or audio levels fade in an out, WFD were a group of ambitious, creative teenagers attempting to play a style of music not many others in the state did. And well over ten years later, Justin Leonard continues to be one of my favorite people I have ever met thanks to the music scene in West Virginia.
Artist: Walt Flanagan's Dog
Album: Discography 1998-2000
Year: 1998-2000
For fans of: The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Less Than Jake, Suicide Machines

20 October 2011

DOWNLOAD: Samuel - Lives of Insects / Self-Titled 7"

Though Samuel was a short-lived project from ex-members of Junction and Glendale (including J Marinelli) they managed to record a pair of memorable releases for Art Monk Construction including the Lives of Insects EP and a self-titled 7" before doing 1995's split with Texas Is the Reason.
As one blog writes of Lives of Insects: "[Samuel was] streamlined and no-nonsense, guitars that roared, and a vocalist more than capable of issuing bitter denunciations and offhand lyrical putdowns in an instant. The group’s ability to encompass so much without being easily pigeonholed is why these songs still sting."

Artist: Samuel
Albums: Lives of Insects / Self-Titled 7"
Year: 1994 / 1995
For fans of: Shudder To Think, Split Lip, Samiam

19 October 2011

17 October 2011

DOWNLOAD: Samuel/Texas Is the Reason - Split

J Marinelli has been a name to appear frequently on this blog. From his solo efforts to his involvement in Glendale or current Lexington, Kentucky-based rock outfit Arcane Rifles, Marinelli has been playing quality music for a number of years. In the mid-'90s, he also played guitar for Samuel, a female-fronted post-hardcore-ish rock band from D.C./State College. One of the band's few releases was a 1995 split 7" with New York City's Texas Is the Reason, who gained a bit of popularity in the emo scene and courted major label interest before disbanding.
On the split, as is the case with Samuel, the standout feature is the aggressively beautiful vocals from Vanessa Downing, who also played in Junction with Jay Demko. The music is crunchy and emotive with pop sensibilities, which has invited comparisons to Doghouse recording artists Shudder to Think or Split Lip. The track from Texas Is the Reason later appeared in shortened form on their Revelation Records full-length Do You Know Who You Are?, which gained the band its success, but is not as good as their earlier, more Quicksand-influenced material.
Aritst: Samuel
Album: Split w/ Texas Is the Reason
Year: 1995
For fans of: Split Lip, Shudder to Think, Junction

14 October 2011

WATCH: Daniel Johnston - Devil Town

I have been living in Austin, Texas (with a short stint away) since 2005. Last year I began photographing high school football for the newspaper. As this football season started up, a good friend ranted about the television series Friday Night Lights, which was shot almost entirely in and around Austin. I have never been one for watching television series, but since it was on Netflix, I checked out the pilot. Next thing I knew, I had watched five episodes. Now I love the show. So when I finished the first season last night, I was particularly excited by the song at the end of the episode - "Devil Town" by Daniel Johnston, a West Virginia native who became a cult musician and artist while living in Austin. Though the song was less excitedly performed by Bright Eyes, I was still happy to hear it. So here is a video accompanied by Johnston's original version of the song from his album 1990. And if you haven't watched Friday Night Lights... do.

13 October 2011

Arm - Arm LP / Simple Victim 7"

I trust Brian Pauley. When he sends me music, the odds that I will enjoy it are high. Camel Beast and Pu' Rens were both impressive Charleston-area bands with which I was not familiar. So when Brian sent me an e-mail saying, "This... is a band called Arm. They came from Minneapolis, Minnesota. 3 piece band. Amazing. My favorite band that came to Common Grounds," I was very excited. Brian said he booked these guys in the mid-90s on a show with Dirt Bear, Flood and Seven. Local show-goers responded so positively, Arm returned not long after to play to a good crowd despite no local support. Upon their visit, they left Brian with these two records - a 7" and self-released LP.

"Great songs. Great band," Brian said, and he is right. This is right up my alley - mid-'90s post-hardcore in the vein of Drive Like Jehu, Fugazi, Unwound or Lungfish. Arm would have fit well somewhere between the AmRep and Dischord rosters - subtle, noisy, melodic and abrasive with a lot of energetic flair. (The "Simple Victim" 7" was produced by AmRep's Tim Mac and released on Lori Barbero's Spanish Fly Records.) It wasn't until years after the band's demise that they gained much popularity. That may have had something with Arm's drummer Bobby Drake going on to play in The Hold Steady, and bassist Nate Grumdahl was in Selby Tigers. Nevertheless, I am really into both of these records. So if you're into any of the bands I mentioned, AmRep or Dischord, or just post-hardcore in general, check this out. I really wish I could have seen them play at the Common Grounds.
Artist: Arm
Albums: Arm LP / Simple Victim 7"
Years: 1996 / 1995
For fans of: Drive Like Jehu, Fugazi, Unwound

12 October 2011

WATCH: Death & Co. live at the Blossom in Charleston, 1989

This isn't just a video of a fantastic performance by Keith Dunleavy and Jon Nathan's post-Unwanted Christmas Presents band Death & Co. playing at the Blossom in Charleston. It also shows some shaky but great footage of downtown Charleston in 1989 and some scene kids hanging out. The info says it is on Virginia Street, but the Blossom Deli was/is on Quarrier, and in the beginning of the video the kids are hanging out on Hale Street next door to where the excellent Stray Dog Antiques is now. I find it unfortunately ironic that in the video that Keith (in the black turtleneck) comments to the filmmaker who replies, "Just getting you beatniks while you're still alive." Less than a year later Keith died in a car accident. Also, based on the way they dress, I could be convinced that this was filmed recently on the east side of Austin. (Charleston's music scene didn't always have bad style.)
Of course, the highlight of this video is Death & Co.'s performance. I really wish I could track down recordings of this band - if recordings exist. I hope someone sees this and can give me some more information. Below is Death & Co. covering Echo and the Bunnymen's "Do It Clean" and Keith reading poetry at the same show.

11 October 2011

WATCH: Unwanted Christmas Presents live in Morgantown, 1988

I love Unwanted Christmas Presents, and I love this video of the duo playing in Morgantown. The performance is simple and raw but I find it to be powerful and beautiful - half punk, half poetry. Keith Dunleavy died less than two years after this, and it's a shame, as I think he could have become quite iconic in the music scene.

04 October 2011

LISTEN: Unwanted Christmas Presents - LP

As I mentioned Friday in a post about The Mad Daddys, Unwanted Christmas Presents were brought to my attention by my friend Eric who read about them on the Terminal-Boredom forum. UCP was an improvisational garage-noise punk band from Charleston in the mid- to late-80s. The duo was made up of Keith Dunleavy on vocals and Jon Nathan on guitar/percussion/electronics. Dunleavy, who along with Nathan also played in Death & Co., died in a car accident in 1990 at the age of 26. By that point he had already established himself as a sort of Jim Shephard of West Virginia. As an experimental rock cult figure in the region, Dunleavy was seemingly as controversial and confrontational as he was creative and brilliant. It is difficult to compare Unwanted Christmas Presents to any other bands. The music is abrasive and sleazy punk rock but with a poetic and bluesy backbone to it that brings to mind the MC5, Pere Ubu or Cheater Slicks. While UCP may not be easily approachable by those who don't listen to artists from the In the Red, Siltbreeze or Flying Nun rosters, there is a beauty to the songs. It is a tragedy that Keith Dunleavy died so young - the cause of which I do not know. Jon Nathan did an interview with Negative Guest List magazine (of Australia) in 2010 that my friend is trying to track down. Maybe that will shed some light on this somewhat mysterious Charleston band, who only hinted at their potential to exist among some truly great experimental noise acts from that era. So take a listen to these two tracks from the band's LP, which was recorded in the late '80s but not unearthed until 1993 by Electrocution Records. This is a truly fantastic piece of West Virginia punk rock history.

30 September 2011

LISTEN: The Mad Daddys - Nancy

It is safe to say that Keith Dunleavy is an unknown name to most, even within the West Virignia music scene. In fact, I didn't know of him or his music ventures until a couple years ago when my friend Eric read about Keith's band Unwanted Christmas Presents on the Terminal Boredom forum, where members came to blows discussing the controversial band's greatness. I bought the Unwanted Christmas Present record, originally released in the late '80s, from the band's guitar player/drummer Jon Nathan. It was wonderful to discover that there was a band from Charleston that made such gritty and visceral punk rock, and was decades ahead of its time.
I have come across some fantastic videos and recordings of some of Dunleavy's projects, and I am very excited to share them. This live audio recording is of Dunleavy's band The Mad Daddys playing at his residence in Charleston on New Year's Even 1985-6. It is more approachable than Unwanted Christmas Presents, less punk than another of his bands Death & Co., and sort of reminds me of Velvet Underground or Pere Ubu. This video also features some old images of Charleston, which is fun to see.

29 September 2011

LISTEN: Sundown - Mansion Burning

On Monday I posted the demo from Charleston accordion-driven punk-pop band P'u Rens, which featured Dustin White on bass. Nowadays, Dustin is living in Columbus, Ohio, playing in a new band Sundown. The "psych-folk" group recently released this six-song cassette, which you can stream below via Bandcamp. Sundown is comparable to other bands of the sub-genre including Grizzly Bear or Deerhoof, with a mix of folk rock and electronic noise. It is enjoyable stuff that has the potential of gaining popularity with Pitchfork readers. The band recently played a gig at The Empty Glass in Charleston, and did an interview withe Charleston Gazette, in which Dustin talks about his Appalachian roots.

26 September 2011

DOWNLOAD: P'u Rens - Hocus Polka

Blog contributor Brian Pauley (of Shindig and Dirt Bear) recently sent me this demo by P'u Rens, which he called one of the funnest and most underrated bands from the Charleston area. P'u Rens were an experimental punk-pop band that featured an accordion played by Joseph Moore. The band also included Paul Francke whose project Alsace Lorraine got decent press a few years back, as well as Dustin White (Dead Ant Farm). Recorded at the Cave at some point in the mid-'90s, "Hocus Polka" brings to mind the intellectual amateurishness of punk acts like The Dead Milkmen, and the playful pop sensibility of They Might Be Giants and Ween. The music is often boisterous and ironic, but always intelligent and well-executed. And despite the use of the accordion, xylophone and other non-traditional punk instruments, "Hocus Polka" is very listenable for all 22 short tracks (only two of which are over 3 minutes).

Artist: P'u Rens
Album: Hocus Polka
Year: Mid-'90s
For fans of: The Dead Milkmen, Ween, They Might Be Giants

23 September 2011

WATCH: Down To None live in Charleston, 1999

Here is Down To None playing the American Legion in Charleston in 1999. At this point, the band had ditched its second singer and was rejoined by original bassist Jared Stephens. Also, the music had started moving more into the direction of melodic hardcore. Unfortunately, the video is a bit Blair Witch Project-esque and is just snippets of a few different songs. Though, I think I recognize myself (with a thick neck) along with friends Ryan McCullough (later of Down Goes Frazier) and Justin Leonard (Day One Media) among a mob signing along with Dana toward the end. After the closing of the Common Grounds, the American Legion became a great DIY venue for all-ages shows. I believe this was one of the first Dana put together there.

21 September 2011

DOWNLOAD: Down To None - 180°

Before Dana White captained Holden Caulfield for nearly a decade, even before he joined Malicious Intent as a second vocalist for a short time, he fronted Down To None. Made up of members from the Charleston and Huntington areas, Down To None formed in 1997. Within the next year, the band had already made a couple personnel changes including adding a second vocalist. In 1998, Down To None recorded this 12-song tape that showcases the band's diverse style. While it is simplest to place DTN into the hardcore genre, listening to this album now, I am more reminded of bands such as Helmet, Clutch or Rollins Band. I love Dana's vocals in Down To None - they are gutsy unlike his more throaty style in Holden Caulfield, and his memorable lyrics are angry and straight forward. Unfortunately, second vocalist Kevin weakens the band's ferocity with a less sincere presence on tracks such as "Mask" and "Closer Than Blood" (on which his voice actually cracks like Peter Brady). It is guitarist Duane's detuned crunchy riffs that remind me most of Helmet, and help make this somewhat dated album still enjoyable as I listen to it today. Dana was a great influence on my interest in hardcore music and my involvement in the West Virginia music scene for many years. Listening to this album reminds me of that and makes me proud to have known him for so many years, so I am proud to share it.

Artist: Down To None
Album: 180°
Year: 1998
For fans of: Helmet, Clutch, Rollins Band

20 September 2011

WATCH: A night at the Common Grounds coffeehouse in Charleston, 1997

I came across these videos a while back while doing a search on YouTube. The videos, shot in 1997, are almost 30 minutes worth of footage from a Band Slam at the Common Grounds coffeehouse in Charleston. The all-ages venue on Summers Street was a fantastic space to see shows before it closed in the late '90s for a multitude of reasons. After multiple two-hour road trips from Bridgeport to Charleston, it was at the Common Grounds that I formed a lot of friendships with fellow showgoers from the Kanawha Valley and discovered a lot of new music. It was there that I saw local bands like Malicious Intent, Westbygod, Shindig and many more, as well touring acts such as Fugazi and Codeseven. Though I wasn't at the show from the videos, I did recognize a lot of people I know from footage of the crowd and performances from Dead Ant Farm and other local groups (most of them pretty bad). Seeing the mid-'90s fashion sense of Charlestonians is an embarrassing reminder of my youth, but the videos succeed in making me sentimental for a scene that was a lot of fun. I wish I could think owner Bob Webb for giving us such a place. I'll never forget that fucking carpet.

15 September 2011

READ: Digital Millennium Copyright Act takes down Karma to Burn post

This morning, I received the following e-mail from Blogger concerning the post of Karma To Burn's Wild Wonderful Purgatory:
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14 September 2011

DOWNLOAD: Shindig - Trendy Music For Trendy Kids

Around 1995, Richie Ray was in Dead Ant Farm, Brian Pauley in Dirt Bear, Ray Davis in Seven and Ronnie Stricklen in The Happy Foundation. Then most of those bands broke up, and the four gentlemen joined together with Brian Spangler of Seven to form The Pumpernickels. After Spangler left the band due to military commitments, the band changed its name to Shindig, wrote new songs, kept some Pumpernickels songs and recorded a demo with Scott Robinson. This is that first recording that introduced Shindig's energetically wry brand of pop punk that came out in the midst of a good time for the genre when labels like Fat Wreck, Epitaph and Lookout were at their peak. With a lot of "woah oh oh" sing-a-longs, Shindig could be thrown in with bands like The Queers or Mr. T Experience but less Ramones influence. Instead, Shindig's style is more poppy, less punk. The music is aggressive but played with a positive attitude. The lyrics - which are about girls, friends or just having fun - are sarcastic but not bitter, which is often the case in pop punk. It's more along the lines of a more mature Blink 182 or less annoying New Found Glory.

Not long after putting out this tape, Shindig played a show at the Drop Shop in Huntington to "win" the opportunity to play X-Fest. The winner was determined by votes at the door, and because no one knew Shindig, they lost by a landslide. In spite of that, the radio promoter was so impressed by the band's performance, Shindig was selected to play the festival, after which the band's regional popularity took off. Deservedly. Though their biggest audience was teenage girls, which became a bit of a running joke with the band, Shindig wrote good, catchy and memorable poppy punk.

Artist: Shindig
Album: Trendy Music for Trendy Kids
Year: 1995
For fans of: Blink 182, New Found Glory, The Queers

13 September 2011

WATCH: Appalachian Terror Unit live in London, 2011

Huntington's Appalachian Terror Unit is a hard working band and has spent much of 2011 traveling the world playing their eco-conscious brand of crust-punk metal. With a powerful message of ending mountain top removal as just one of the band's platforms, they have spread awareness to new audiences. Here is a video of Appalachian Terror Unit playing ScumFest in London back in May. ATU headlined Friday night of the DIY benefit festival, which also featured Extreme Noise Terror, Fuk and Shades of Grey (<-- so good). This is a great band from West Virginia that I just never see people from the state mentioning.

09 September 2011

WATCH: The Demon Beat - You Got It, live at SXSW, 2010

Yesterday I posted the The Rozwell Kid, the power-pop rock solo effort from Jordan Hudkins. Here is a video of The Demon Beat, for which Jordan drums. The garage-soul-rock band (I don't listen to the Black Keys, but I imagine it is comparable) is from Shepherdstown, but here they are playing in Austin at South by Southwest in 2010. Sounds good, and they seem to be very talented (teeth-played guitar solo) and professional musicians, but I must say I am really digging Jordan's solo project.

08 September 2011

LISTEN: The Rozwell Kid - LP

The Rozwell Kid is the solo project of Jordan Hudkins, who drums for The Demon Beat. I'm actually not that familiar with The Demon Beat, who is a garage rock band out of Shepherdstown (my favorite town in West Virginia). I tried to go see them in Austin once, but on the day of the show they were no longer on the bill. The Rozwell Kid moves away from the style of The Demon Beat and instead play "noisy power-pop" that "recalls the earlier, glory days of acts like Weezer and the more amplified side of Ben Kweller and Spoon." Living in Austin, I've come to despise Spoon, but I certainly love early Weezer, and I see where Jordan is coming from. Rozwell certainly rings of mid-'90s big guitar pop rock. I have to say, the songs on this LP are quite enjoyable. You can stream the album here or download it for free via bandcamp.

07 September 2011

DOWNLOAD: Ahimsa - The End of a Lifetime of Fear

Around 1998, I was contacted by a Wheeling band that was interested in playing shows in the Clarksburg area. I received a pair of tapes and some info on Ahimsa, and was surprised to find out that there was a straight edge and vegan-conscious hardcore band from West Virginia that I didn't already know. Not long after I got the tapes, I met Josh Mason. Josh as visiting a friend in my hometown Bridgeport who had just moved there from New Martinsville, where Josh lived. Being straight-edge and into hardcore and emo alike, Josh and I quickly became friends. The gap between the north central West Virginia and the northern panhandle was soon bridged.
I was introduced to the likes of Killed at Camp, Mikey Iafrate and Once Again. I headed north many times to see Ahimsa, who also became friends of mine. It was exciting to discover a new scene in my own state, so I began booking shows with both bands from my area and the panhandle. It has a merger that has never turned back, and I'm proud to still consider many of those guys from the north my friends.
That said, The End of a Lifetime of Fear was Ahimsa's first CD and its last release before the band broke up. With influences from youth crew (Youth of Today, Gorilla Biscuits), knrishna-core (Shelter) and mid-90s straight edge (Earth Crisis, Culture), Ahimsa played a style of hardcore that was confrontational and angst-ridden but lively and at times melodic with passionate, culturally-conscious lyrical content dealing with issues such as rape, violence and veganism. After the band's break-up, guitarist Wes Ebling went on to form Klopeks Furnace, which was one of my favorite West Virginia hardcore bands.

Artist: Ahimsa
Album: The End of a Lifetime of Fear
Year: 1999
For fans of: Youth of Today, Shelter, Earth Crisis

02 September 2011

WATCH: Neutral Agreement - Silicone and Confidence

Earlier this week, I posted a download of Neutral Agreement's album I Bet You Never Thought. As I mentioned, not long after I was introduced to the band, singer/guitarist Matthew McDowell left the band. As a three-piece, guitarist Bryan Patterson took over vocal duties, and the band also changed drummers. The re-shaped band returned with a new style that took on influences from slightly heavier post-hardcore bands like Thrice and Thursday but still maintaining elements of pop punk. In 2003, they released The Joyful Facade, for which they recorded this video for the song "Silicone and Confidence." The video was shot at the Frederick Hotel in Huntington in the old ballroom, which we stumbled upon while doing a photo shoot (above). I'll be posting the album next week.

01 September 2011

DOWNLOAD: Worn Thin - Demo

Around 2000, I played in a band that shall remain forgotten. But one of the highlights of playing in unsaid group was the bands with which we shared the stage. I'm not talking bands of mediocre accomplishment like Thursday, Breaking Pangaea or Zao, but the fellow up-and-coming hardcore and punk acts from the region. One of my band's early shows was at 123 Pleasant Street in Morgantown. Though we were hardly impressive (aside from maybe our stage antics), we received some excitedly kind words from Carlos, singer of Worn Thin. He and I hit it off immediately as he's the type of guy with whom it is difficult not to get along. Then Worn Thin played. They were a fairly new band out of the D.C. area, and their melodic hardcore style rang of Lifetime, of whom I was a big fan at the time.
Carlos and I kept in touch over the next couple years. My band soon called it quits, and his band's style changed more into D.C. youth crew hardcore punk, losing much of its melodic elements. Worn Thin recorded a number of records for different labels and members went on to play in Police & Thieves, Trapped Under Ice and others. But more than ten years after that show, I've held onto this four-song demo on a burned CD. While it's not the most original material (what is?), Lifetime-esque hardcore will always have a place in my heart. As will those times of playing fun shows with new bands and meeting good people. That is why I got into that damn scene in the first place. This demo just reminds me of that.
Artist: Worn Thin
Album: Demo
Year: 2000
For fans of: Lifetime, Gorilla Biscuits, Turning Point

31 August 2011

WATCH: Freelancers web series

The first time I saw my good friend and fellow West Virginia expat Erica Lies perform comedy was as part of an improv troupe in New York City upon a visit in 2005 (I think). One skit called for the audience to recommend a place you'd go on Spring Break, and I shouted "coal mine," which the cast used for a performance that made me proud. Soon after I moved to Austin for grad school, and a year later Erica, a Morgantown native, followed for the same reason. Since then, my former roommate has been heavily involved in the improv community in Austin, as well as hard at work on a new web series over the past year.
The series "Freelancers" is about two freelancing friends living the post-college career dream of offering a creative life, flexible schedule, and never working for “the man.” But navigating life as a freelancer can be perilous at best for the most talented and tragically hilarious for the hopelessly hapless. Freelancers explores the latter as a work-place comedy about the self-employed. It follows ambitious would-be journalist Anna Feils (Erica Lies), a plucky twenty-something with Joan Didion aspirations but sub-TMZ skills. Her march toward success is alternately aided and upended by the self-aggrandizing Mark (Ted Meredith), a libertarian yoga instructor.
Written by Erica and Ted, the series is based on real-life experiences. "Freelancers" has produced six episodes, and has received positive words from local critics. "The web series totally gets it," said the Austinist, and Austin Eavesdropper wrote, "Something almost every twenty- (or thirty-) something can relate to." As a freelancer myself, I can only agree, and as awkward as it is to watch my friend on screen, the series is quite funny. All episodes are available on the series' YouTube channel, but you can check out the first three here.

Episode 1

Episode 2

Episode 3

30 August 2011

DOWNLOAD: Neutral Agreement - I Bet You Never Thought...

The first time I saw Neutral Agreement was at the Brickhouse in St. Albans around 2002. I had never heard the band before, but I knew they were described by many as Christian pop punk. For someone who is not religious and had grown past said genre of music at that point in my life, I'm sure I approached the show with a sense of cynicism. Over the next half an hour, I bore witness to one of the most energetic, passionate and sincere performance from a local band I had ever seen. The instruments were loud, they sang from their guts and they were tight but still with a sense of improvisation. While they made coordinated jumps, posed with their instruments and fell to their knees like I had seen many bands do, it seemed less contrived. At the end of the show the quartet stopped played, turn toward one another, raised a hand in the air and finished with a song of prayer. Had I not just been shocked by such a powerful performance, the cynic in me would have walked out. Yet I remained, excited to meet the guys in the band, who I saw and photographed a dozens times after. They are guys with whom I became good friends for years after this first performance.
Unfortunately for Neutral Agreement, who were from Hurricane, their live performance was so impressive, any recording couldn't quite do the band justice. I Bet You Never Thought... hints at the band's ability to write a heartfelt punk song with catchy hooks, but doesn't do well to represent the band's spirit and vigor. Following in the footsteps of youthfully sentimental acts Further Seems Forever, Juliana Theory or The Get Up Kids, Neutral Agreement play a brand of rock that is sweet and upbeat yet at times urgent and volatile. Matthew McDowell's untrained vocals ring of characteristics of many late '90s emo-punk bands - at times nasal or off-key but always earnest. While the band's instrumentation certainly matured over the following the year, dual Les Pauls provide an enjoyable crunch, especially on the album's highlight "Five Hours to Elwood."
Neutral Agreement eventually became a three-piece and took on a new style after McDowell moved onto real world obligations. Bassist Matthew Jenkins has continued to run Future Destination Records, which put out the band's albums as well as a number of nationally touring groups. I miss that guy. In fact, I miss all these guys and the sincerity with which they played that few bands from the region could ever touch.

Artist: Neutral Agreement
Album: I Bet You Never Thought...
Year: 2002
For fans of: Further Seems Forever, The Juliana Theory, Get Up Kids

29 August 2011

LOOK: Viva La Revolución de Appalachia T-shirt campaign

For nearly two years, I've spent a lot of time on this blog promoting other artists. Because of that, I am going to justify this shameless self-promotion.
In 2007, I was living in McDowell County, West Virginia, working on a documentary photo project. As I was deeply in touch with my Appalachian pride at the time, I wanted a way to show it off. So I designed the Viva La Revolución de Appalachia T-shirt. I did an edition of fifty shirts, which received a great response. Four years later, I've done five runs of the shirt, each in limited editions on different colors. While I donated the slim profits from the first couple editions to the Big Creek People in Action non-profit in McDowell, I have since used the income (of which there is not much) to support Appalachia awareness projects such as photography exhibitions, community discussions or even this blog.
My goal was to make something that people would wear to show off their pride of a region I love, as well as to encourage awareness or discourse of cultural, political, social or environmental issues in Appalachia. Where I understand it's not much, I am proud that it is anything.
With that said, I am currently accepting pre-orders on the newest edition of the shirt, which is red ink on a light blue garment. (Maybe my favorite yet.) The shirts are $20 each, and that includes shipping. If you are interested, please order today. As always, the edition is limited to about 50. And thanks to everybody who has supported this project over the last few years. Click here for ordering information. Viva La Revolución de Appalachia!

25 August 2011

WATCH: O Lendário Chucrobillyman live in Lexington, 2011

Klaus Koti is known as O Lendário Chucrobillyman, a one-man band from Brazil who wears his Hasil Adkins influence on his sleeve. Koti's The Chicken Album gives a nod to the West Virginia rockabilly madman who recorded an album by the name of Poultry in Motion. Koti's album features tracks such as "Chicken Flow" and "Chicken Strangle." Adkins had a multitude of similarly-named songs - "Chicken Walk," "Chicken Flop" and "Chicken Run" to name a few. Other songs on Koti's album are "Love Miner" and "Whiskey River," which seemingly are also nods to his Appalachian songwriting influence. The music of O Lendário Chucrobillyman lives up to the influence, which is why it received such high praise from fellow Adkins-influenced multi-instrumentalist J Marinelli, who after sharing the stage with Koti, called him the best one-man band he'd seen. Check out these videos of O Lendário Chucrobillyman's show in Lexington.

24 August 2011

READ: Tristan Egolf - Lord of the Barnyard

I was recently in Chicago visiting my old friend Aaron (formerly of The Warriors). Aaron, a native of the Charleston area and son of a retired coal miner, is currently an instructor of creative writing at Columbia College. During my visit, Aaron was nearing the end this book - Tristan Egolf's Lord of the Barnyard: Killing the Fatted Calf and Arming the Aware in the Cornbelt
. Lord of the Barnyard is a fictional biography/history of farm boy John Kaltenbrunner and the Appalachian-affected Middle America coal town of Baker from where he comes.

Salon wrote of Egolf's 1999 debut novel: "He practices a form of shotgun writing -- aim in the right direction and spray words on the page -- always searching for another country-fried turn of phrase that will one-up his last one. Egolf mixes fable, metaphor and pure anger to attack mob mentality, class warfare, the mindless media and the just-under-the-surface madness of the Midwest. His brilliantly warped, pedal-to-the-metal vision has the obsessive quirkiness of a Pynchon, the rough-and-tumble bad-assness of a Daniel Woodrell and more than a malignant touch of the Faulkner who created the Snopeses."
I'm nearly half-way through the book's 400 pages, and my anticipation builds with every new paragraph. In fact, I missed my bus stop yesterday because I was so entrenched in what was going to happen to Kaltenbrunner next. Though the author or the story have no significant relationship to West Virginia (one minor but memorable character is a Mountain State native), Lord of the Barnyard does ring of Appalachian characteristics familiar to anyone from the region. I highly recommend it. Thanks, Aaron.

23 August 2011

WATCH: Daniel Martin Moore - Flyrock Blues

I recently posted a video of Ben Sollee and Daniel Martin Moore performing "Dear Companion", a song about a miner's letter to his wife. It is the title track from their collaborative album, which was produced by Jim James of My Morning Jacket. Also on the album is the soft-spoken track "Flyrock Blues," which is played by Moore alone. It is one of my favorite tracks on the album - probably because he mentions West Virginia. Nevertheless, here is Moore very elegantly playing the song in a shed.

22 August 2011

DOWNLOAD: Transistor Indiana - songsforanactivelifestyle

After multiple requests, I'm finally posting this demo from yet another unfortunately short-lived Charleston-area indie rock/emo band. Transistor Indiana formed in the early 2000s around the same time as similarly-styled Apart From the Projector. In the same vein as No Knife, Burning Airlines or Trail of Dead, the Kanawha Valley quintet play a brand of rock that is aggressive, dramatic and some times sweet. A threesome of crispy guitars is fronted by Bud Carroll whose passionate vocals are backed by hollow screams. It is a sound that could have easily found the band on Jade Tree Records in the late '90s. Transistor Indiana recorded an album for North Carolina-based indie metal label Tribunal Records, but it was not released after the band broke up. What remains is this four-song teaser, while certainly representing the young musicians' ability to write quality songs, does not live up to the band's intense and provocative live performances. Carroll, along with bassist Bruno, went on to play in American Minor, but the demise of Transistor Indiana left many people in the region wanting more.
Artist: Transistor Indiana
Album: songsforanactivelifestyle
Year: Early 2000s
For fans of: No Knife, Trail of Dead, Burning Airlines