We The People — Ryan Hoke

By: Molly Shadle

 

Reading articles about artists is interesting enough, but what about those of us who consume the music and are part of the community and experience that comes from the music created by or favorite bands and musicians? I had the opportunity to sit down with Ryan Hoke, a student here at West Virginia University, who makes music a huge part of his life (and budget).

Ryan is a Senior Religious Studies major, originally from Charleston, WV. I asked Ryan questions about the his personal relationship with the music culture in Morgantown and what he thinks it means for the city’s future.

Molly: How involved would you consider yourself in the music scene here in Morgantown?

Ryan: Well, I would say that where the majority of my money goes, and I know a lot of people who perform. A lot of my friends are DJs here or work at the venues, in fact that’s my roommate playing music right now.

M: So you, yourself do not play any instruments or in a band?

Ryan: I do not play, I would consider myself the appreciater, they (musicians) need me to appreciate and enjoy their creations. That’s definitely one of my favorite things about being friends with artists here, is the joy they get out of playing for people who in return get joy out of their music… it’s a great thing.

M: Even though you aren’t a performer yourself, how has music had an influence on your life?

Ryan: Well, I’d say that one of my favorite things to do in the entire world is dance and I need music to dance to, so it’s been a very valuable source of joy in my life. And like I said that’s where the majority of my money goes… It’s just the entire culture of music and people that surround it that can put such a large group of people in such a good mood…it’s a bonding experience.

M: Would you say that’s the most important part of music in Morgantown is to you personally, the bonding experience?

Ryan: Obviously it’s a big part of it, not everyone shares the same taste or values, but music can bring people together to dance and express themselves in a positive way.. it’s a great way to unify people and find connections.

M: That’s awesome, so what changes do you see happening to the music culture here in Morgantown?

Ryan: One of the most influential changes recently in my opinion would be the addition of Mainstage..

M: Before Mainstage was in Morgantown, where would you go to see live music?

Ryan: Before… the usual place I would go to see music would be 123 Pleasant St. but, even then they (123 Pleasant St.) weren’t necessarily getting that large of names… Sometimes places like Lux or Bent Willy’s might have a prominent DJ or two play there. Now with they addition of Mainstage we are seeing headliners and huge names that most people would never think would come to Morgantown.

M: Where would you say you see music in Morgantown in the future then?

Ryan: The way it looks to me is that Mainstage will continue to have prominent artists, and the more of us that go to the shows will make Morgantown an even bigger hotspot for artists to come to. I guarantee that the music scene is going to grow, it might not be as large as places like Pittsburgh but I can definitely see us getting up there.

M: How do  you think that will impact Morgantown as a whole?

Ryan: I personally think that it’s going to be a very positive impact, of course. It’s going to attract a lot of visitors from not only out of the city but out of the state to come, so it’s definitely going to improve tourism…which will bring more people and ideas.. and hopefully create a more colorful culture overall. I think the best thing that could happen the expansion of music culture in Morgantown is to alter even more so the views of people here to more accepting of diversity and the arts and new ideas.

Molly: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Ryan: Morgantown has the potential of being a very great, creative, and unique city and I would definitely like to see that grow over the next couple years.

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Structural Happenings

I’m sure the majority of you have been to 123 Pleasant Street before (if not, go as soon as physically possible). While you’re there – full tuned into the music blasting from the stage – it might peak your interest if you look at some of the signs hanging from the walls. Hell, even the brick walls hold some deep Morgantown history.

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This week I got to meet with Michael Caplinger, the historian for 123 Pleasant St. who has compiled a boat load of information about what the brick row has been over the decades.

Back when Marsha Ferber and company first started the music scene up in 1982, they had the intent of making it a place where everyone was welcome. The now famous music scene came from her “desire to have a place where people could ‘find their way to freedom,’ by interacting and listening to music without regard to skin color, dress, sexuality, hair style, or ideas.”

Harriet Tubman, the heroine of the real Underground Railroad, was painted on the wall of 123 and came to symbolize the bar’s concept of basic equality among all people.

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Quite a welcoming beginning.

The infamous stage – where many a famous musician has planted their feet and belted their heart out on – has not been renovated too much. In fact, it used to be smaller prior to the venue being refurbished in the mid to late 1990’s.

“It was smaller than that back then in the 90’s and 80’s,” Caplinger said. “When (the current owner) bought the place, it extended out, it gave you a lot more room thank god. They used to put 12-person bands up there when it was a small stage and it was like ‘oh god this is way to tight.’ It was an incredible improvement.”

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Take a look up, and you may notice the ceiling might not be so 21st century looking. That’s because it’s just barely a 20th century roof.

“When (the owner) renovated the place, that’s when they uncovered the ceilings,” Caplinger said. “Nobody knew they were there because there were two drop ceilings that had been hung over the years, so he just started pulling out those ceilings and it was like ‘holy shit, there’s a 1921 tin roof.'”

So next time you’re roaring to the music, take a look up at a little piece of the roaring twenties.

Then take a look at the surrounding walls. Plenty of nostalgia for some of the older folks here in Morgantown who remember the Underground Railroad.

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Here’s a couple original signs for the 1980’s music club that started the scene in Morgantown.

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(Part 2 of an ongoing series..)

 

Spreading Roots in Morgantown: Artists Get Their Start in a College-Town

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.

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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.”

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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!

Inside the LOCKN Festival

This is a very new festival that has just started to emerge. Although it is such a new festival, that has not stopped it from getting amazing bands to come and preform. Even in its first year it was able to get many big names (amongst the newer rock following) to attend. maxresdefault.jpg

LOCKN has only been around for three years, and 2016 will make its 4th. Many fans are already incredibly excited about it, due to the fact that a large portion of the lineup is already announced. Tickets have already started to be sold and the music doesn’t even start until August 25-28. That just goes to show how much fans truly love this venue and festival.

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The venue is a horse racing track located in Arrington Virginia. With marvelous view of the Blue Ridge Mountains that surrounding you in all directions. The music itself is not the only thing that will keep bringing you back to this amazing festival. The workers and the people who attend are just as important. When the creates of LOCKN set out they had one simple goal. “We’re a group of dedicated music fans who began this journey in 2013, aspiring to provide the ultimate atmosphere for live music and community to flourish.” This is straight from the LOCKN homepage. LOCKN truly cares about not only the music but the atmosphere as well. They even supply the campsite with many different varieties of camp spots to accommodate all types of people who would like to attend. Having a sober LOCKN section, and even a family section within the campsite. This shows they want everybody and anybody to come and enjoy the wonder that is LOCKN.

The people that attend the festival have nothing but love for this place. The workers love it just as much if not even more. The fans and workers were even able to overcome and still have a great time in 2015, when the first day was canceled due to a severe thunderstorm. Which devastated the stage setup and the campgrounds. Although one day of music was gone that did not stop anyone from enjoying themselves. The bands that were canceled were squeezed in-between other sets throughout the weekend which is much better than missing them altogether. The fans and worker didn’t mind though because they understood it was an uncontrollable situation. Maybe the workers cared a bit more, because they had to clean up the mess and re-setup everything that was taken down.

One attendee (Josh Spacek) who has attended the last two years of this festival says ” I never intend on missing another year, LOCKN an incredible festival”. He only has missed one year of this festival and is sad just that he didn’t know about it earlier.

One person who has never missed a year of LOCKN and has already purchased her next years ticket can’t wait to get back. Samantha Lilly, who has attended the first year in LOCKN’s history has returned every year. The previous towers though she not only went for the music, but also to work. She says “It’s great to be able to feel like you are a part of the community helping out, rather than just attending”. It is awesome that people love this place so much that they not only want to be there but also contribute for the greater good of the festival. Not to mention that if you work you also get a free ticket.

Another attendee (Connor McCafferty) who has also attended the last two of three years says ” I love this venue the only bad part about it is trying to get in”. What he means by this is there is only one entrench and checkpoint into the venue (unless your VIP). This process always takes an incredibly long time. This past year it even took six hours of waiting in line with his car to get in. He did however comment “even though the wait is so long to get in, its worth every second of waiting”.

Depending on where you are it is a relatively simple drive. All of it is main roads and there are not many turn (in relation to morgantown). From near or a far the trip to this festival is more than worth it, and should be looked into by anyone who love classic and new Rock n Roll.

 

 

Hanging Out With the High St. Jazz Band

By Jade Artherhults

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.

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The band stops to perform for a family eating at Tailpipes

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.

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“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.

Ghost House Rises From the Dead

By Jade Artherhults

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.

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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.

Get To Know — Ivan Gonzales of The Manor & Friends

By: Molly Shadle

 

If you are into the music scene here in Morgantown, you’ve probably seen the band, The Manor and Friends, perform live or at the very least heard of them. I spoke with the bass guitarist of the band, Ivan Gonzales, to get to know a little bit more about his personal journey with music and The Manor and Friends.

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Gonzales (left): Gonzales Instagram

Gonzales is originally from a small town in New Jersey, but moved to Morgantown to attend West Virginia University where he majors in Communication Studies and minors in Spanish.  Gonzales says he grew up in a household where music was part of his daily life- his father played guitar ever since he can remember… however, Gonzales mentions that he wasn’t always the musician he is today. “I started picking it (guitar) up in high school, I wasn’t very good at it and it was frustrating…soccer was my main thing,” he explains.

After Gonzales moved to West Virginia he met Nick, another member of Manor and Friends, who he says he wanted to start playing music with. “Him (Nick) and my other friend jammed all the time and I wanted to jam too but I wasn’t good enough at guitar…” So he says he found another instrument to be able to play with the duo, “I picked up the bass because no one else was playing bass, so that’s kind of how I started.”

The band started after Gonzales moved to an apartment complex in Sunnyside known as the Manor and a neighbor named James,  who heard music playing from next door, came over to join. Gonzales, Nick, and James began meeting other friends who wanted to play with them and joking about starting a band and surely enough started gaining attention while playing for their friends.

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The Manor and Friends: Gonzales Instagram

Gonzales says someone suggested the band’s name The Manor and Friends after the apartment complex where they began playing and it caught on quickly with the group. “We liked the name because it’s really what were all about.”

Playing in a band in college can be difficult at times… Gonzales explains that the band has been trying to push their music and create opportunities for themselves however, he says, “we’re kind of holding back on it because of school, so thats been the biggest problem… not being able to throw all of our time into it.” Although for Gonzales, he believes the effort he puts into the band will be worth it— and he is probably right. The Manor and Friends has experienced as Gonzales describes it, a snowball effect. The band will be playing this year at Express Fest this Saturday, Mad Tea Party in June, Camp Barefoot in August, and Pink Music Festival in September.

 The bass guitarist has certainly come a long way from his former frustration in high school with the guitar. In addition to the gratification Gonzales experiences with the band’s gaining traction, he adds that, “The most rewarding part is seeing the smiles on people’s faces jamming to our music in the crowd.”