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.
Morgantown 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.
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.
“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.
“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.
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.”
Morgantown has a particular knack for mixing small name acts with big name talent into it’s tight-knit music community. Over the years, those on the verge of fame and those already living in the limelight have shared their art with locals, leaving an impact far beyond their stellar performance.
Often times though, Morgantown is criticized for it’s shortage of mainstream artists, creating a push for bigger and better acts to visit the area. I’ll admit it can be discouraging to look at a venue’s lineup and only recognize a few names on the list. However, many fail to realize that big name talent gets their start in small town venues. In Morgantown, it takes a little extra digging to see that these unknown names may just be the next big thing.
In fact, a slew of big name acts have graced the venues of this small college-town. Though they weren’t the chart-topping superstars we knew them as today, Morgantown’s has a long history of artists making a local appearance before getting their big break.
123 Pleasant St, one of Morgantown’s oldest music venues, holds some of the area’s richest music history. The primarily alternative-leaning venue was not always rock shows and jam bands, as the club used to be called The Underground Railroad Nightclub and featured an eclectic mix of artists.
On one occasion in the venue’s colorful history, a small band (at the time!) known as The Red Hot Chili Peppers graced the Underground Railroad stage. The show, which also featured up and coming act Gene Pool, packed the intimate venue to capacity, rocking out to early hit’s before the band caught their big break into stardom.
Another big name artist made his mark on the Morgantown street’s back in the ’90s, with an epic pop-up performance at a Sigma Chi fraternity party at West Virginia University. In 1994, Dave Matthews Band jammed out with hundreds of music hungry students eager for a good time. The stage, which was apparently made of plywood and cinder blocks, was situated at the top of High St., among fraternity row.
A photo, which began circulating via Facebook, generated numerous comments from attendees of the once in a lifetime concert experience. Some could recall the day entirely – which was apparently overcast, but warm. Others made mention of their set, noting DMB played early hits like “Satellite” and “Watchtower.”
Morgantown continues to turn out up and coming artists, more recently hosting Kendrick Lamar at the historic Metropolitan Theater. The November 2 show, which featured local rapper D-WHY, came at a time when Kendrick was still earning his credibility in the world of hip-hop. Shortly after his small concert in Morgantown, Kendrick Lamar went on to win seven Grammy’s.
When digging deeper, it’s evident Morgantown’s music community has more to offer than meets the eye. Who knows? That small show you catch next Friday night may be next year’s Grammy winner!
There is always a mastermind behind that crisp sounding song coming through your speakers. And no I’m not talking about the artist performing – I mean the artist who mixed the track.
Production and recording services are a vital part of the music making business. When an artist needs a track laid, they look to a solid producer to help nail the job. In Hollywood, an artist doesn’t have to search far to find recording assistance, but in a small town, local artists find their options far and few between.
One WVU student is making it his mission to change that perception by offering his own creative services to local artists. Nicco Catalano, a junior studying Finance, finds his niche behind the scenes mixing and recording crafty beats.
“The best thing about music production is meeting someone for the first time and listening to their life story through their music,” Catalano said on his experience in the recording business. “It can be quite emotional. Getting to know the person behind the music is what makes this job so enjoyable.”
From his Morgantown apartment, Catalano created his business, NeekAttack Productions. His startup aims to provide affordable, quality recording and mixing services, something he values in a production company. However, what started as a simple hobby turned into somewhat of a creative obligation.
“To be honest, I never felt there was a need until I realized how many artists WVU and the Morgantown area have to offer,” Catalano said. “I started this as a hobby, but I quickly realized the opportunity for a business that had high demand and no supply. I knew that I was capable of delivering a product that would eliminate the need for artists to travel to other studios. Along with the in-house production, much of my business consists of online transactions with artists through Twitter and my website which allows for opportunities outside of Morgantown.”
Catalano’s background in business pushes much of his recording efforts, looking beyond just Morgantown’s budding music scene. Catalano has teamed up with a diverse collection of artists including Chris Allen, Woody Pond, Arizona Zervas, ARYE, C-Trox and Ryan Oakes. While he has been able to reach a variety of artists through his recording efforts, Catalano is eager to expand his reach.
“I would like to think I have worked with a large majority of students who are pursuing music, Catalano said. “I’m sure that there are students who are unaware of my studio in Morgantown, but I can only expect to eventually come into contact with them. I will continue to increase my efforts in connecting NeekAttack Productions with West Virginia University, in order to give every student the opportunity of recording their music.”
Catalano’s passion for mixing and mastering has helped him quickly make his mark on the Morgantown music scene, but more importantly, the local scene has made a profound impact on his perspective for music.
“Local artists show a huge appreciation for my business,” he said. “There was a huge void in Morgantown, in the sense that there were many artists with nowhere to record their music. A studio in Morgantown has ignited the music scene and brought to light the talent that resides here. I even have had a few artists that I work with ask other artists in Morgantown if there was a music studio where they can record their music before applying to WVU. Nothing but love and respect has come from starting this business in Morgantown.”
Morgantown though, is an eclectic place to start a music business. While Catalano has found great success in servicing the WVU music community, appealing to the diverse mix of artists that frequent our area as a whole can be nothing short of a challenge. When you’re just as likely to find a bluegrass band as and EDM group in Morgantown, how does a producer truly penetrate the music scene?
While many may criticize Morgantown’s mix of underground and well-known acts, Catalano sees Morgantown’s quirky lineup as its unique strength.
“Morgantown’s music scene is quite strange. Not like a weird strange, but strange in the sense that there is so much quality talent that people fail to recognize,” Catalano explains. “WVU’s low tuition cost attracts students from all over the place, so the ‘Morgantown’music scene is actually a melting pot of musical styles and influences from other cities. It’s honestly so unique and I feel so fortunate to be right in the middle of it.”
Catalano continues to explore new artistic routes and expand his grassroots recording business. This month, NeekAttack productions is scheduled to host a show with Day One Lifestyle showcasing local talent at 123 Pleasant St.
For more information on NeekAttack Productions or the upcoming showcase, click here.
When you walk down High St. there’s no telling what kind of music will fill the air. With an eclectic mix of intimate venues, listening options span the length of the musical spectrum, making it hard to settle on just one genre.
Lately, Morgantown has been dancing to a new beat, trading in it’s traditional Appalachian roots for a more techno-friendly sound. EDM music is quickly becoming one of the most sought after genres for young people, and judging by the growing local lineups – EDM is the top choice in a college town.
“I think EDM is music made for partying,” said WVU student and house music enthusiast, Chelsea Walker. “The fast pace and all the crazy beats – it’s just fun-loving dancing music. When you put that in a college town, we are obviously going to eat that up because we are living that kind of lifestyle.”
EDM is not just a genre – it’s a culture. For most fans, attending an EDM show is about the experience as a whole and not just the performer on stage. The lights, the crowd and the venue all play a role in creating an ideal rave-style atmosphere.
“I think Morgantown is a place that has a lot of students and young people which is very popular with the house music scene, so I think just being a college town here – it’s kind of the perfect hub for EDM acts,” Walker said. “Overall, it’s just a very popular genre amongst students here.”
With die hard fans eager to rave and mingle, EDM’s fan base continues to grow in both size and power. And thanks to the viral response from listeners, EDM has climbed the charts and moved to the top of festival lineups worldwide.
Although many students are loving the surge in house music, putting a genre of global proportions into a small city like Morgantown can be challenging and a bit unorthodox.
One of the biggest challenges students notice, is keeping the genre presence balanced. While EDM shows have become the hot ticket in town, non-techno fans are feeling a bit forgotten. A rising number of EDM shows means other genres begin to get drowned out and students are noticing.
“I think Morgantown could do a better job at keeping things diverse,” said Jen Brown, a WVU student and frequent concert-goer. “I think we get a lot of EDM and I don’t think we get as much hip-hop acts as I would like. Looking back, you can recall a ton of EDM acts but not many hip-hop acts outside of Fall Fest.”
Another challenge for Motown EDM fans is undoubtedly the city’s small size. Keeping the beat alive in a tiny town is difficult, especially in an area as rural as Morgantown. Often times, Morgantown misses out on bigger name acts to the Pittsburgh metro area, which offers a more diverse venue selection. While the town offers quaint venues such as 123 Pleasant St. or Mainstage Morgantown, neither place can support thousands of ticket holders. However, the demand for big-name acts remains high among students and young listeners.
“Having bigger acts like Big Gigantic or Borgore definitely makes you want to be more involved in the music scene in Morgantown because people are familiar with the people performing,” said Brown of Morgantown’s growing EDM presence. “I also think there is something special in Morgantown about the small underground scene, not only of EDM music, but of jam bands as well.”
Although Morgantown’s EDM scene has it’s quirks, the arts culture overall is truly one of a kind.
“Morgantown has the ability to host big and small acts and have the shows be just as exciting,” Walker said of the music scene’s unique charm. “I think Morgantown is a really cool place where we can have big name acts like Kendrick Lamar or more local acts like Giant Panda Guerilla Dubsquad and draw equally large crowds.”