What once was..

123 Pleasant St. has a long, rich history that goes back as far as the City of Morgantown does. And while it started up as a music venue in the 1980’s, it had a detailed history prior to that.

Morgantown began to rapidly grow in the early 1890’s, and there was a need for housing. The area that is commonly known as “123 Pleasant St.” was built in 1891 as Morgantown’s first major apartment building that housed everybody from college students to railroad employees and merchants. A famous architect even lived there, Elmer Jacobs, who can be attributed with designing many of the buildings that stand today.

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During the roaring twenties, businesses started occupying and filling the buildings. What is recognized as the stage room in 123 currently, in fact, was home to the very first radio store in the region. The Radio Appliance Company opened and set up a public radio set, inviting all to experience “the wonder of the modern age.”

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It didn’t last very long, but it seems like a fitting start.

For the next 60 years, businesses came and went. It wasn’t until 1982 when Morgantown introduced a new underground music scene. The Underground Railroad reflected the style and musical tastes of the venues creator – Marsha Ferber. With a group of friends, Ferber conceived the venue with the idea of having “a bar where music was the binding force bringing together all types of people in a peaceful atmosphere.”

 The Underground Railroad’s name 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.

But on April 25, 1988 – Ferber walked out of the bar and was not to be seen or heard from again. Gone missing without a trace or a hint of whether she was dead or alive.

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Ferber’s vehicle, purse and other personal belongings were found undisturbed. The case is still open to this day..

 

(Part 1 of an ongoing series..)

The Mind Behind the Music

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.

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Nicco Catalano – Founder and CEO of NeekAttack Productions

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.

NeekAttackdisc“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.” 

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This flying WV boasts a collection of signatures from artists that have worked with NeekAttack Productions.

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. “WVUs 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.  Its 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.

Coming Soon Big Gigantic

Big Gigantic Is a very well known band at this point and have been playing many festivals and other venues since 2009. The band is made up of a saxophonist and producer Dominic Lalli, and a drummer Jeremy Salken. The band falls under the genre of electronic dance music, and MainStage is excited to have them preform on April 12th 2016. Big Gigantic does not have a long history, but a proud one.

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MainStage if a great new venue that caters to all genres of music. It came onto WVU’s campus in the fall semester of this year. For more details on it take a look at this early post made on this website.

Many people are thrilled that MainStage was able to get such a big name like Big Gigantic. Everyone that was interviewed said that this was only the second time Big Gigantic had been anywhere close for them to see the band not at a feastval. People like Jessica Arvon said “I love Big Gigantic but the only chance I get to see them is at festivals. I am glad I will finally get to see them in a normal venue with a smaller crowd.” She has seen the band preform two other times but both of them were at Electric Forest a festival in Rothbury Michigan. She says that is her favorite festival and place in the world, but is excited to get to see one of her favorite bands in a smaller atmosphere.

Other’s such as Ryan Hoke share the same opinion, that while he has seen Big Gigantic at several different music festivals he is excited to see them in a smaller venue again. He saw them several years ago when the preformed at the Metropolitan theater in Morgantown, and said “being in a smaller crowd makes the show that much better and personable.” This will make the the seventh time that he has seen the band so they must be doing several things right in order to et such a reliable fan.

When these two students were asked what makes Big Gigantic such a great band? The responses from both were incredibly similar. Ryan said “they just bring so much to the table, while being electronic they are also ver funky and you can’t help but get down at the shows.” Jessica said ” they are the perfect combination of real instruments and electronic music, that makes you want to dance.”

We encourage all people to go to MainStage and check out this show. It will be a great time for all who like good people and good music. The venue is also incredibly easy to get to and is located right downtown. If you are a student it will be very easy to find, but if not it will still be pretty easy to find. All you have to do is go to the Mountainlair (at the center of campus) and follow this map.

After you see this show there is a strong possibility that you will be hooked. If that is the case check out the rest of the tour dates. Maybe one of the shows is coming by your hometown.

The Evolution of The Moose

By Jade Artherhults

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.

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  • 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

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A view of the DJ booth

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.

Rising star in jazz will hit MainStage Morgantown today

Morgantown will be greeted by a rising star in jazz music today at MainStage Morgantown.

Kamasi Washington, a Los Angeles-based jazz musician, will hit MainStage Morgantown in a couple of hours – doors open at 7 p.m.:

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Washington has been gaining acclaim since the release of his triple album ‘The Epic,’ a nearly three-hour long record worthy of its title that featured a 10-piece jazz band, backed by a 32-piece orchestra and a 20-person choir.

Washington credits the inspiration behind ‘The Epic’ to a series of dreams he had:

‘‘I had this dream about a group of young warriors living in a village beneath a mountain.’’ He went on: ‘‘At the top of that mountain, there’s this gate, protected by a guard. The warriors spend all their time training to kill the guard and seize control of the gate. One by one, they are defeated by the guard. But the last warrior has the power to win, and the guard hesitates for the first time, because he sees that the warrior’s heart is good and that his own time has come.’’

‘‘The guard is the person who protects the music and pushes it forward,’’ he said.

Washington, a 34-year old saxophonist, could be considered jazz’s latest celebrity, and may even be credited for revamping the genre’s appeal to younger listeners. Prior to his record release, Washington played saxophone on Kendrick Lamar’s ‘To Pimp A Butterfly,’ which also featured several of his bandmates. He will also be playing several festivals this season, including Bonnaroo and Coachella.

While Washington is naturally inclined to play saxophone, he is also skilled in the drums, piano, and clarinet. He even wrote the string arrangement for Lamar’s album. But his passion is in the tenor saxophone, picking it up at an early age and instantly falling in love with the sound. In fact, Washington has only played on one saxophone – a Selmer Mark VI which belonged to his father.

That was at 13-years old. Washington was playing the drums at 3-years-old, and was playing the clarinet at 9. Within two years of his discovery of the saxophone, Washington earned the lead tenor saxophone chair in the top jazz ensemble at the prestigious Alexander Hamilton High School Music Academy in Los Angeles. At the same time, Washington joined the Multi-School Jazz Band, a compilation of young local musicians from surrounding areas of his community.

In 1999, Washington began studying at U.C.L.A. with the composer Gerald Wilson, who has worked with musicians such as Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald. After one year, Washington was invited to go on tour with Snoop Dogg – heading the horn section – where he got his first taste of the road and his first taste of Hip-Hop, which continued with him performing behind big names like Lauryn Hill and Nas.

And Washington hasn’t stopped touring since. He has been on a world tour since October, traveling to places like Tokyo and Australia to perform. And he has now made his way to Morgantown, West Virginia.

Big Plans for Morgantown’s Newest Venue

By: Molly Shadle

 

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If you’ve been out in Morgantown recently, you’ve probably heard about the city’s newest music venue, Mainstage Morgantown. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with the owner of the venue, Tim Crockett, and find out more about him, the venue, and what the future holds for not only Mainstage but also the music scene in Morgantown

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Crockett is originally from San Antonio, Texas and has been in the music business for about 20 years –working with artists in a variety of genres ranging from country star Garth Brooks to rap icon Jay-Z. When searching for locations to open his own venue, Crockett says he looked at areas such as Columbus and Maryland before deciding that Morgantown would be home to his venue. He also says that agents advised him to find a building with at least a 500-person capacity for shows. While that may seem like a large capacity, Crockett has even bigger plans for the future.

Previously, if you wanted to see a bigger named artist you would have to travel to Pittsburgh, PA to venues such as Stage AE…however, larger shows may no longer mean a road trip for Morgantown residents.

“Over the next 12-18 months we’ll pretty much get everybody,” Crockett explains, “We just made a  deal with the city to use the parking lot next to our building, so we’ll be doing outdoor shows there… up to 1,500 or 2,000 people outside.” Crockett also states that the venues liquor license would allow them to serve alcohol during the outdoor concerts — a huge deal for a venue in a college town.

An even bigger deal to college students and guests might be the venues plan to start serving food. The kitchen was recently approved and Crockett says they are working on finalizing the menu. “We want to have a lot of sharable things on the menu and figure about creative ways to make the food easy to carry around,” Crockett says mentioning sweet potato fries as a possibility, “we want the menu to be priced from $3-$8…nothing too outrageous.”

Staff and guest input is also very important to Mainstage, Crockett says he often contacts artists when a comment or suggestion is made about a particular band or DJ. While it was difficult at first to land bigger named artists, Mainstage has been working diligently to establish its reputation and attracting bigger shows by the week.

George Clinton for example, played in Pittsburgh at Stage AE on a Saturday and at Mainstage the following Sunday.
“That was deal where I really had to push and over pay the artist to get the artist to come,” says Crockett, “but we ended up selling out the show on a Sunday with $55 tickets.”

Whether or not you have been to Mainstage, it’s definitely a venue worth checking out — especially with all of the upcoming plans for improvement. For more information about Mainstage or upcoming shows you can visit their website at http://mainstagewv.tunestub.com/ .  Be sure to stay posted here as well for more information and potentially ticket giveaways for shows!

 

Morgantown’s Electronic Shift

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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.”