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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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
Picture this: It’s 9 p.m. on Friday night and you’re out on the town with your friends, when suddenly, you hear the melodies of a tuba, trombone, and various other percussions marching down the street. You stop and for a split second, you forget where you’re at. Are you on the legendary Bourbon Street? Nah, you’re still on High Street and the music you hear is from none other than the High Street Jazz Band.
Chances are you’ve heard the band if you’ve ever been downtown on the weekend. Their soulful New Orleans-inspired jazz tunes are infectious to those who surround them. The band attracts everybody around them as they march up and down High St.
The band has been playing together since 2010, according to John Bryant, the band’s manager. Two of the founding members, Larry Schwab and John Fitzmaurice, met while they were members of West Virginia University’s marching band. Fitzmaurice, a tuba player, and Schwab, a trumpet player, met on the practice field for the band. Fitzmaurice was playing a lick of Bourbon Street when Schwab heard him and joined in. Then, a connection was made.
Then, they began recruiting members to join them.
“I had a class with John and he asked me, ‘Hey, do you play trumpet?’ and I said yes, so he told me to come out, so I did,” says vocalist and trumpet player Alex Higgins.
Bryant, who also plays with the band, said he saw the band performing at a local bar. “I saw them performing at Gibbie’s, then we did the march out [on High St.], and that was it. I was hooked,” he said.
High St. Jazz Band consists of over ten members who all play different instruments. Anything from tubas, sousaphones, drums, and even banjos can be heard on the streets of Morgantown. However, they don’t limit themselves to only playing on High St.
“We play on High St. every Friday night. Then we have about three or four gigs during the month,” Bryant said.
They also travel the state once a year to various public schools for an educational music tour. The tour is meant to inspire and provide students with the opportunity to learn about music. With a number of public schools cutting funding of the arts, now is as an important time as ever to spread the love of music.
“The band’s main focus is music education,” Bryant says. “We try to hit at least six to eight schools, which isn’t much in the 55 counties of West Virginia, but we make an impact,” he says.
The band’s mission statement sits on a shelf in their practice space, which is a room in the basement of the Monongalia Arts Center.
“This is something fun to do in our free time, but we always keep our mission statement in mind,” Bryant says.
Interested in catching the High St. Jazz Band in action? They’re playing at the MAC this Thursday at 7:30 pm. All proceeds from the show go to the MAC.
And, of course, they’ll be on High St. on Friday night.
Local post-emo band ghost house rose from the dead earlier this week. The band, comprised of Ethan Schnell (vocals/guitar), Geoff Minnear (guitar), George Zatezalo (drums), and Mason Fanning (bass) not only released their full-length LP this week, they’re also playing at 123 Pleasant St. tonight with post-hardcore legend Balance and Composure.
Balance and Composure kick off their tour tonight in little old Morgantown. It’s a short run, but they’re still hitting a lot of states in such a short time.
I sat down with Geoff from ghost house to talk about their revival and how it feels to be playing with Balance and Composure.
Jade: So, how did you guys get on the bill with Balance and Composure? Geoff: L.J. [the owner of 123] asked if we would be interested, and I was like ‘Yeah!’ He’s really good about knowing what local bands might fit really well. We have a good working relationship, so that was cool that he asked.
How many times have you guys played 123? I was trying to think of that today. We played there almost once or twice a month for about a year and a half, so maybe a baker’s dozen [laughs].
Right on. So what made you guys decide to release these songs this week? Well, we would have done it a lot sooner actually, but we didn’t actually get them because our friend Brett recorded them and worked on them and then immediately moved after we were done, and he’s got a lot of stuff going on because he’s an L.A. guy now, so it just took him a while, like all of 2015 basically.
Oh jeez. Did you guys record here in Morgantown? Yeah, we recorded in our practice space.
Cool. Where’s that at? Um, it’s actually a secret. It’s by the river, I’ll say that.
[laughs] Nice, nice. How did you guys decide on the band name ghost house? It was me and Ethan I think. We used to live together and it’s an old house and makes weird noises, and so we used to joke that it was a ghost house. And we couldn’t come up with a name so we kinda just picked it. Not because we loved it, but because we couldn’t think of anything else.
This is your guys first show in awhile. Yeah, we have not practiced. It’s been awhile since we’ve played these songs.
So are you guys nervous to play tomorrow? Not to play. I’m excited to play with the group again, but I’m just nervous to get everything together for the show, which is usually where all the nervousness comes from. But I’m excited to play the show.
Any other projects? Yeah, me and Mason play together a good bit. We haven’t played any shows though.
This will be ghost house’s last show, so be sure to make it out to 123 Pleasant St. tonight for the show. They’ll be accompanied by Roger Harvey and Balance and Composure. Get your tickets here. Doors open at 8 pm and the show starts at 9 pm.
When WWVU-FM, Morgantown’s college radio station, got the news in September that they had been nominated for six of the possible eight College Music Journal awards, it didn’t take long for General Manager Matt Fouty and Music Director Emmi McIntyre to decide on loading up a van of U92 staff for a road trip to NYC.
Before the CMJ nominations were announced, McIntyre said the original plan was that only a few people were going to go to the 5 day event. However, that all changed when they found out about the stack of nominations. When October arrived, 10 staff members and Fouty rented a van and made the trip to the Big Apple where they would later win three of their six nominations.
WWVU-FM: Station of the Year
Emmi McIntyre: Music Director of the Year
Cody Roane: Specialty Show Director of the Year (Urban Diner)
“The running joke when I joined that we had been nominated for Biggest Improvement for about five years in a row, but we never won. And so it was my personal victory that we got nominated for Station of the Year,” McIntyre said.
McIntyre credits U92’s hardworking and dedicated staff for the multiple nominations. U92 is one of the few college radio stations that is on 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days of the year with live DJs. WWVU is also different from a lot of stations in the fact that they have a regular rotation that makes sure lesser-known artists are getting airtime.
McIntyre says what makes U92 different from every other college radio station that plays Kurt Vile is that U92 also plays similar artists like The Furr, a local Morgantown band. Community involvement and making sure local bands are well-represented on 91.7 FM is something U92 works hard to make happen. The station recently announced Moose Fest, a festival to showcase beloved local bands at 123 Pleasant St.
In a world full of streaming services, radio is still alive and well. And for U92, things are better than ever. All eyes and ears are on the station since winning Station of the Year.
“We’ve really grown into our potential. We have a really great staff now that realize what we can do with radio. Some people underestimate what we can do with it. They want to downplay radio as nothing anymore, but it’s still a very powerful medium.”
-Emmi McIntyre, Music Director
WWVU-FM has been on the air since August 22, 1982. Broadcasting at 2,600 watts, the station is able to reach Morgantown and surrounding areas. U92 was born from three guys who were passionate about music. According to GM Matt Fouty, what is now the station of 91.7 FM used to be called the Listening Room, where friends would hang out and listen to vinyl together.
“They just decided one day, ‘Hey, we should start a radio station!’ So they got with the Board of Governors at the University and got the O.K., and that’s how the station got started.”
-Matt Fouty, General Manager
So, what was one of the first songs played on the airwaves of 91.7 FM? None other than “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles.
Fouty said U92 is adapting to an ever-changing system to make sure people are able to listen whether they’re in Morgantown or miles away.
“People always say ‘Oh, radio is dead’ because they think of Spotify and all the streaming services and they look at that as radio is dead, but I just see it as changing. It’s really morphing into a different type of broadcast… There are even cars now that have wi-fi that can play online streams, and so we have an internet stream on our website,” Fouty said.
Being a DJ is a great way to gain experience in the world of broadcast journalism, but the skills you learn while working at U92 carry over into real life, according to Fouty.
“The station is here for students to get life lessons and experience that you wouldn’t get in a classroom setting. Like the urgency that you need when figuring out, ‘Okay, I have this much time left on a song before I have to pick another. I’ve gotta have something lined up,'” Fouty stated.
“And if you use that in a metaphorical sense, that’s kind of the way life is. You always have to be in the mindset of, ‘Okay, what do I have coming up next? Oh, well I’ll just treat it like I’m DJing,'” he said.
So, what does Fouty think is next for the station?
“Evolution. Now it’s time to figure out what’s more important: terrestrial radio or strictly online radio? It probably won’t happen for the next 5-10 years hopefully, but we have to be aware of what the next stage of evolution of radio is.”
“I don’t think terrestrial radio will ever truly die, I just don’t know if the standards around that, like the receivers in cars and home radios, will become harder to get,” he said.
Even with all the talk of streaming services and on-demand listening, U92 doesn’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon. It’s an exciting time for everyone at WWVU-FM, so be sure to tune into 91.7 FM locally or stream the station online.