Friday and Saturday were chock-full of great music for me.  Friday night I attended two great rock shows and saw six spectacular bands, and then Saturday I was privileged to witness an amazing concert by The West Virginia Symphony Orchestra.  The weekend ran the musical gamut from punk to metal to classical.  Once again I’m reminded that people who say there’s nothing to do in Charleston are borderline delusional.   Any time you can watch people who are passionate about music practice their art, that’s something to do.  The real problem in this town is apathetic people who refuse to go out to shows, then complain that “Charleston doesn’t have anything.”  Guess what folks, Charleston does have great stuff going on, and if you stayed at home, you missed it! 

First on Friday was the all-ages show at the Labelle Theater in South Charleston.  Punchline was the headline act, and local favorites Holden Caulfield and The Concept provided strong support.  A crowd of about a hundred kids showered the bands with enthusiasm throughout the night.  The mosh pit was a true sight to behold….from a safe distance. 

This was my first time seeing local hardcore legends Holden Caulfield, and as soon as we figure out our schedules, we’ll have them on a future episode of RFC.   Their powerful musical attack got the night off to a strong start.  

You may remember The Concept from episodes seven and thirteen of Radio Free Charleston.  Mike, Dave and Ross are one of the hottest power-punk trios in town.  They did not disappoint.  The crowd went wild when Steve from Punchline joined the guys for a cover of the NOFX classic,”Linoluem.”

Punchline were real pros, with tight arrangements, great vocals and a true rapport with the crowd.  I wasn’t familiar with them before the show, but I left as a fan.  This Pittsburgh four-piece tore through a set that could have been a “greatest hits” for any other band.  Don’t be shocked if these guys break out big soon, like their labelmates Fall Out Boy.

After a dinner break (Hardings Family Restaurant), I made my way to The Sound Factory, where, along with a criminally-sparse crowd, I caught three great heavy-sounding bands.   Despite the small audience, each band gave their all and put on amazing peformances. 

Greyface from Parkersburg had a unique sound, with a female vocalist fronting a hard-hitting band.  I caught the last half of their set, and invited them to appear on Radio Free Charleston in the future.  It was a good night for recruiting bands for RFC.  I’d be proud to have any of the bands that I saw Friday on the show. 

That also includes Huntington’s Earth To Eros, who put on a stunning show, that showed off some amazing progressive-metal chops and incredible vocals.   This three-piece outfit sounded at times like Morphine, Queens of the Stone Age, and even Pink Floyd.  They closed their set with an astounding cover of Billy Joel’s “Pressure” that has to be heard to be believed. 

The headliners were A Place Of Solace, who will be on a future episode of Radio Free Charleston. We planned to have them on the very next episode, but they have a line-up change coming soon, and want the newest version of the band to be on RFC. This band puts on an incredible show. Tommy, the lead singer, is a hyperactive ball of energy on stage. I can’t wait to get them on video tape for the show. I also can’t recall hearing a local band that’s able to shift gears so effectively from loud, pounding songs that almost liquify your internal organs to melodic art-rock.  This is a band that deserves a large following.

Friday was my rock ‘n’ roll night. I listened to kick-ass music from 7 PM to just after 2 AM. It was a real rush, but Saturday was a whole different kind of kick-ass experience. It’s too easily overlooked, but Charleston is the home of a world-class symphony orchestra.

The West Virginia Symphony Orchestra presented a stunning evening of music before a large and appreciative audience.  The brief overture to “The Magic Flute” by Mozart served notice that the orchestra was in top form and that we were in for an evening of unforgettable musicianship. 

Guest violinist Elina Vahala led the WVSO through a glorious reading of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E Minor.  Ms. Vahala proved herself worthy of playing the 1678 Stradivarius violin, which was generously loaned by the Finnish Cultural Foundation last night.    The crowd responded with the first extended standing ovation of the night. 

After the intermission, the orchestra launched into Modest Mussorgsky’s “Pictures At An Exhibition” as orchestrated by Maurice Ravel.  This is one of my favorite pieces of classical music and the Symphony’s rendition was so spot-on that I didn’t even miss Greg Lake’s vocals.  The music was edge of your seat thrilling throughout and was so stirring that when the orchestra starting playing the majestic “Great Gates of Kiev”, I almost expected Jerry “The King” Lawler to enter the arena.  At the end of the flawless performance, the audience rewarded the orchestra and Maestro Cooper with a well deserved ten minute standing ovation.  Only the most jaded observer could find anything to nitpick about this performance.    It capped off a sterling evening of marvelous music. 

And it made up half of a very memorable musical weekend for me.   Though the music they were playing was as diverse as one could imagine, the musicians that I saw and heard at the LaBelle Theatre, the Sound Factory, and the Clay Center all prove that there is plenty of passionate, compelling music being made right here in the heart of West Virginia.