Morgantown Catching Up on Hip-Hop

Hip-hop isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you picture a small town in West Virginia. Morgantown, however, nods along to a different beat. This small Appalachian community houses a unique spot for genre’s of all types, especially hip-hop.

akon_onstage.jpgMorgantown fosters a unique music climate – Morgantown locals and the West Virginia University student population. This mixed audience draws in a varied pool of artists, ranging from local bluegrass to mainstream rap acts. It’s evident that the University brings a bit of urban flair to Morgantown, with students attending from more metropolitan areas. With this metropolitan pull, comes the interest in hip-hop music.

 

“I think Morgantown benefits from the diverse student body,”said senior WVU student and avid hip-hop fan, Corey Elliott. “Young hip hop fans are implanted from all over the country on to campus.”

While it hasn’t always been so in with the urban music scene, Morgantown has made major strides recently to make hip-hop a priority. When polling students about their feelings on the surge in hip-hop, most agree that there has been a noticeable increase.

“I’ve definitely noticed an increase,” Elliott said. “Especially with the addition of Mainstage Morgantown, I think it’s making hip-hop shows more prominent here.”

Numerous acts, ranging from up and coming to mainstream have left their print on Morgantown’s quirky music community. Starting as early as FallFest in 1998 with a set from Biz Markie, hip-hop has slithered it’s way into our lineups. Since then artists including Kanye West, Busta Rhymes, Wyclef Jean, Young Joc, Akon, Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa, Chance the Rapper, J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar. Even that extensive list though is still not enough to settle the craving for rap fans in the area.

Upcoming shows however are sure to make a dent in the need for hip-hop concerts. Riff Raff and MGK are scheduled to pack Mainstage this month, with many already anticipating a sell out.

“I’m most excited for Riff Raff just because of how entertaining he is,” explains Elliott. “Obviously, he’s toured through Pittsburgh, but his stop in Morgantown is a good alternative from your typical artist.”

For more information about upcoming shows at Mainstage Morgantown, click here. 

 

 

Living in Harmony

There’s no question that Morgantown has a bustling and exciting music scene. It seems that there’s a new act announced every week, whether it be at 123 or Mainstage.

Mainstage opened just last year. Anyone familiar with the venue will know it used to be the less popular Chic-N-Bones. Since opening, Mainstage has brought in some pretty big name acts. Perhaps the biggest name to be announced, Animal Collective, will be taking the stage this fall.

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When Mainstage opened their doors, they “vowed to change the local music scene“. However, did the scene really need changing?

123 Pleasant St. has been pulling in big name acts since they opened. Bands like The White Stripes, Black Flag, and Red Hot Chili Peppers are just a few that have played the stage of 123. Recently, Balance and Composure played at 123 (and the high schooler in me was squealing during the entire show). In May, punk rockers Titus Andronicus will be coming to 123.

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It’s obvious that we at The New ‘Motown’ love the music scene here and the rich history that our veteran venue has. I’ve heard people say that 123 and Mainstage have been trying to compete, but I’m not entirely sure that’s true.

I’ve been following the lineup announcements that Mainstage since they opened, and most of the artists have been very heavily influenced by EDM (Electronic Dance Music). While, as listed above, 123 holds a wide variety of shows – anything from punk/post-punk, alternative, jam band, folk, and don’t forget their weekly open mic nights.

Since their opening, I haven’t seen Mainstage host a single open mic night. They also haven’t hosted as many local bands, with the exception of a few Manor and Friends shows.

What I’ve drawn from the two venues lineups is this: they’re appealing to different crowds for different reasons. If you love bigger names in the EDM/rap scene, then Mainstage is the venue for you, while you can get a smorgasbord of wonderful local and national performers at 123.

I believe these two venues can live in harmony. It’s wonderful that Mainstage is getting people out to shows that normally wouldn’t attend a concert, but it’s extremely important not to overlook the credible music scene that 123 has built up over the years.

What do you think? Are the two venues competing? Let me know in the comments.

Freak Show Sanctuary

“It was a bunch of freaks, whether it was punk rockers with mohawks, or hippies or whatever – it was a sanctuary and I like to think it still is.”

That’s Don Duppee, one of the managers in charge of running the day-to-day operations at 123 Pleasant St. He’s been with the freak show since the start, coming in as a freshman in 1985 – heading to 123 Pleasant St. for his first time on September 4 – and it has been home to him ever since.

And the 123 Pleasant St. we know all too well may not have been a reality if it weren’t for this guy, along with LJ (the head manager) and the local community that has loved the brick row sound garden since its beginnings.

This week I headed back to 123 with Michael Caplinger, the historian, and got to check out the main office for the venue. Obviously, it was a treasure trove of ticket stubs and event posters. But one picture stood out:

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That’s Marsha Ferber, the legendary creator of the Underground Railroad that started the music wave in Morgantown.

If you’ve read some of my previous posts, you’ll know her story is an interesting one to say the least – vanishing outright in 1988 without a trace. The Underground Railroad closed down shortly after. It opened again as the The Nyabinghi Dance Hall, but due to complications with the building it was ready to be shutdown.

“When this bar shutdown – the dance hall – when it closed and that whole legacy of the Underground Railroad and everything – it was devastating to this community. It really was. It can’t be underestimated what a dark cloud descended on Morgantown at that time. It was like ‘what are we going to do? Is it worth even being here’ because there was no outlet for anything like that?”

They managed to buy the condemned building and spent half a year refurbishing the century-old building, conducting “some kind of geology experiment.”

“(The building) was neglected. The biggest issue as far as code enforcement was the electric, so that was huge. And there were a lot of holes in it, and the building inspector really frowns on holes,” Duppee said. “It was in bad shape. A lot of work that had been done to this building over the years – going back decades – a lot of it was like ‘well you know we can fix that or just lay something down on top of it.’ So you started ripping up the floor in the upper bar and there’s like 5 layers of flooring. There’s linoleum, and then there’s a layer of carpeting, and then another layer of linoleum. Oh my god they just never took anything up, just layered it over.”

With the help of the community, they managed to dig the building out and revamp it in a matter of 6 months.

“I mean I don’t even know how we did that,” Duppee said. “It seems to me now – we’re all much older and maybe much wiser – but I can’t even figure out how we managed to do that. But there were a lot of us. Literally hundreds of trips to the dump to throw stuff away.”

Morgantown can certainly attest to new out-of-town businesses coming in nowadays, and Duppee speculates that the brick row may have been home to these random assortment of businesses if it were not for the communal love that kept the joint alive.

“For LJ to see that at that time – a much younger man than he is now – to look at it and be able to say ‘I have the means to do this; I can take on this project,’ it was pretty monumental,” Duppee said. “I can’t imagine that if he hadn’t have done this… if he hadn’t had stepped up I don’t know that this would not be a parking lot right now…”

“Or changed into a sheets,” Caplinger chimed in.

And thank god they kept it that way. The assortment of ticket stubs I saw in that office was staggering. A random compilation of musicians you never thought would make a stop in Motown:

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(Pt. 3 of an ongoing series.. )

Morgantown at Electric Forest

By: Preston Lilly

Electric Forest is a newer festival, that started in 2011. Morgantown students have been there the entire way. This festival encompasses a very wide variety of music. It has al sorts of EDM music as well as Jam bands and even Bluegrass music. This festival caters to everyones musical tastes no matter what you are in to.

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Even with this festival being nine hours away there are many people from Morgantown that have made the trip for the past four years. Only ever missing one year, which was the first year it was ever an event. Ever since then however it has grown exponentially, until now and it has been sold out the past two year. Last year it took about three weeks to sell out, this year went by even faster and sold out the day they went on sale. It is crazy how it can get so big so quick, but Morgantown people have been there from the start.

The first year John Nistendirk and his friends went there were only five of them that made the trip. The following year after spreading the word to all of their friends, he convoyed with forty-five other students. They started in Morgantown, and made their way to Michigan in a ten car convoy. The group has only grown each year as well. It is now up to around 60 people who convoy and attend this festival, that’s not to mention all of the people who don’t convoy up.

The group that went together says that convoying makes the trip around an hour longer, because you have to wait for everyone and make more stops. That however does not take away from the fun. The convoy of this trip makes even the drive a blast. There are always group texts going on between all he cars, just cracking jokes or keeping each other up to date with whats going on in each car. It also makes the gas station stops loads of fun, everyone jumps out to fill up their gas tanks as well as throw some frisbee or just hangout with the other cars.

That’s only the beginning of the adventure as well, the real fun doesn’t start until you arrive. Being with ten other cars all from your area makes the trip even better. You know everybody around you, and there is always someone trying to go and do what you want to do. You always have friends to go wonder around with, and check out different types of music.

The energy that that WVU students brings to Electric Forest is incredible as well. The entire festival is some of the nicest and most welcoming people that there are, and the Morgantown students fit right in. The atmosphere Electric Forest Creates is very unique, and it is great how so many people can come together and just have a great time with strangers. You go in knowing only the people you came with, and leave with so many new friends you can’t even remember half of their names.

Another great part about being with the Morgantown group is you can never really get lost. The venue is very large and it is fairly easy to get separated from friend while trying to walk through the crowd. One good way to avoid this is to have a totem (a big stick with a sign  on it). With the Morgantown squad you can always find at least one of the totems. There is always a flying WV somewhere, and several other ones. So even if you get lost just go to a show, and find one of the totems.

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If you are from the area, and want to join in with the fun all you have to do is check out the Facebook wall. It has been running since 2013, and just keeps people updated as to whats going on. For instance this year the group has gotten so large they cannot just pull up and say we are together. Now they have to sign up for group camping, and the signup list was posted on the wall. It has all sorts of other things like people selling tickets, and all the information you would need about carpooling or caravanning.

All photo’s pulled from Electric Forest official website photo gallery.

Reshaping Appalachian Stereotypes Through Music and Art

By Jade Artherhults

When one thinks about music and culture in West Virginia, the first thing to come to mind is usually banjos and bluegrass. However, two friends based out of Morgantown have created a project to broaden the way people view culture in West Virginia and all of Appalachia.

“Every Appalachian’s story is authentic.”

-The unofficial Travelin’ Appalachians Revue mission statement

The Travelin’ Appalachians Revue, co-founded by local Morgantown friends Tyler Grady and Howard Parsons, went on their first tour around West Virginia last summer. This June, they’re hitting the road again for their second annual tour, titled Things Said to a Hole in the Ground.

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“When we started it, the idea was to highlight West Virginia creativity that isn’t exactly pigeonholed into the old-timey folky cannon. We aren’t shunning anything, but there’s other stuff in West Virginia,” Parsons said. “There’s graffiti, punk rock, weird noise-pop. There’s everything. It doesn’t seem to get quite the attention that the old-time bluegrass does.”

This year’s lineup is jam-packed, with about seven to ten performers at each stop. There’s something for everybody, too. There will be visual art, spoken word, and music performances.

“We’re promoting alternative Appalachian artists,” said Bryan Richards, the visual arts coordinator for the Travelin’ Appalachians Revue. “To ignore visual art is a great disservice to a large section of people in Appalachia, so we’re trying to focus on local artists at each stop this year.”

The show is going all around West Virginia, so there will be multiple opportunities to catch the tour – though no show will be like the last since there will be local acts in each town.

“We want to continue on the idea of creating community within the state rather than within the communities we visit. Part of the real goal of this is to stay as inclusive in our state as within the communities we visit,” Grady said.

So, what are the future plans for the Travelin’ Appalachians Revue?

“I wanna go farther. I wanna go longer and farther. I really want to put the Appalachian part to work,” Parsons said.

Check out the Travelin’ Appalachians Tour dates below. The entire lineup can be found on their website.

6/14 The Shepherdstown Opera House – Shepherdstown, WV

6/15 TipTop – Thomas, WV

6/16 The Historic Fayette Theater – Fayetteville, WV

6/17 The RiffRaff Arts Collective Theater Upstairs – Princeton, WV

6/18 (As part of FestivALL) The Boulevard Tavern – Charleston, WV

6/19 The Blue Church – Wheeling, WV

6/20 (West Virginia Day) 123 Pleasant Street – Morgantown, WV

What do the students want?

By: Preston Lilly

Here at Morgantown we have all sorts of concerts covering a very wide variety of bands, but what do students want to see more of? We also wanted to know where they would like to see more concerts as well?

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At all of the different venues that we have here in town almost every different type of music is played. From hard dubstep such as Flux Pavilion and Borgore, to rap such as Waka Flaka Flame and Riffraff. It does’t stop there either, there is another side of the spectrum. Like jam bands like Lotus or Pigeons Playing Pingpong, to bluegrass artists such as Cabinet and The Jeff Austin Band. This brings us back to our questions what do we want to see more of and where?

To find out the answer to this question we interviewed several students from Sophomores to Seniors. Not very surprising there were several different answers that we received. There was however one genre of music that overpowered the others by a little bit. We interviewed a total of seven students from around the campus. Three of the students wanted some form of EDM. Two wanted different forms of rap. While two of them wanted different varieties of rock music.

Elliot Chiartas (Senior) wants to see more current hip-hop music. Specifically rappers such as Meek Mills, or Kendrick Lamar. When asked why he felt this way his response was “there is just to much EDM and we need to mix things up a little more around here”. If he got a choice as to where these people would play he would like it to be at MainStage. He just says this is his favorite venue on campus so that’s where he would like to see his favorite bands.

There was one other person who wanted to see more hip-hop around campus. Noah Hackman (Junior) but he did not want the new style of rap. He wants people such as Snoop Dogg to return to Morgantown. He got to see him one other time in Morgantown at the Coliseum, but he wants him to come back. He also commented that if Snoop or someone along those lines were to come a show on the green at the mountain lair would be the best spot.

Others wanted music that was not rap though, Like Ryan Nash (Senior) for instance. He hopes to see any typeof soft rock come to Morgantown. He said “soft rock would be great if it came sometime soon so we could enjoy it in this great weather”. He too would love it if a band of this genre would preform on the green, so it could be outside in the beautiful weather we have been having.

There was one other person who wanted more rock music Drew Mcmilon (Junior), but he requested more jam bands like Phish or Lotus. He commented “I feel like there is a good growing fan base in town and any show would get a good crowd”. If he had a say in where they would preform it would be MainStage. He thinks this venue is one of the best things to happen to Morgantown, and loves attending concerts there.

Now we move into the crowd favorite EDM. While there are many different types most people accept what they can get. People like Michael Buchler (Sophomore ) want to see more electro indie come to Morgantown. This is artists like Cherub  bands that use real instruments while also mixing in EDM aspects. He wants them to come because “they are a really impressive performance because they actually play instruments”. He wishes more bands along these lines would perform at Bar 123 though, he just really enjoys the setup and wishes more bands like that played there.

Garret Warner (Junior) was another person who wanted more EDM music. He on the other hand wants hard dub or trap music such as flosstradamus or Excision. He says ” I want bands like this because you need crazy hard music to really be able to wile out”. Garret is another person who would love to see more of his favorite genre of band at MainStage. He just says he loves the venue and can’t get enough of it.

The last person we talked to was also on the side EDM her name was Jessica Arvon (Sophomore). She wants the same types of bands that Garret Warner did hard dubstep/trap music. She likes these bands “because there are no words and many of the artists play similar songs, so even if you don’t know the artist you can still dance and have a great time”. Like many others above she would love bands to go to MainStage, she just enjoys the space the have and love how it’s a pretty wide dance area.

Sadly these interviews did not give us a definitive answer as to what students want to see more. That is only because every student is so different. What one person loves and can’t get enough of maybe the person next to them doesn’t want that at all. So from what we have found out I think the types of shows we currently have is great. It is a solid mix of all genres to keep everyone happy. The only thing I could really suggest would be to just have more shows. You can never disappoint with a good live band.

 

 

Building a Brand: Andrew White Gets Candid on Guitars

From a small town storefront on High St. to the stages of the biggest arenas in the world, Andrew White Guitars strum far beyond the Mountain State.

The mastermind and hand-crafter himself, has always been fueled by music. Although it wasn’t until a trip to Spain during his college years that he truly fell into his passion for crafting sweet sounding instruments.

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Andrew White, American luthier and designer

“I was on a study abroad trip and I wanted to purchase a guitar while I was in Spain,” explains White. “I went in to buy the guitar, but I told the guy I would only buy it if he allowed me to view the shop where it was made. I just kind of in a light bulb moment decide to build a guitar.”

His hobby soon turned into a career with the help of a statewide business competition. After winning the competition in 2005, White acquired his storefront on High St to start building a brand. Though it’s location is rather hidden at the end of a busy downtown corridor, there is something about White’s intricate designs on display that make his shop so tempting.

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A guitar is crafted in Andrew White’s shop.

“We build all acoustic guitars and they’re all original designs,” said White of his unique designs. “We do both custom, made-to-order guitars and I have a line of production instruments that are built at our factory.”

White, now a revered luthier known throughout the world, offers four main collections to his customers. The Luthier’s Collection, Deckers Creek Series, Signature Series, and Production Series aims to cater to a wide range of musicians and styles, keeping White’s reach as diverse as his designs.

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Andrew White’s guitars are available across the globe.

White’s gift has given him the opportunity to work with countless talented artists throughout his esteemed career. James Valentine, the guitarist for pop group Maroon 5 plays a Model F from White’s Signature Series. Bluegrass acts Yonder Mountain String Band and Keller Williams are known to strum Andrew White designs. Even local acts such as Larry Keel look to White to design their precious instruments.

For White, the experience is more than just a job – It’s a pleasure.

“Everybody loves guitar music and I get to help guitar players become better guitar players by just giving them high-quality instruments,” White admits.

White admits to numerous challenges when owning your own business, especially in a small community like Morgantown. However, hard work and creativity are the recipe for success for this established artist. His nearly two decades of guitar building experience has taught him a few things that he encourages other’s to take with them when pursuing their music ventures.

“The trick is to find your niche and stick with it,” White confides. “That’s the trick to developing a brand. Find your niche and then as soon as your satisfied that that’s who you are and what you want to be, push that and stick with it. It takes time.”

Check out more from Andrew White here!