Episode 23 of Radio Free Charleston, The Feast Of Stephen Reunion Show, is online now! This is a document of one truly amazing night of musical magic at LiveMix Studio. On May 12, members of a band that hadn’t played together in fourteen years gathered at LiveMix to kick out the jams one more time. Radio Free Charleston was on hand, and here’s the story behind the music.
To start with, I should explain who The Feast Of Stephen was. In the early 1990s, they were one of the top bands in town. They had come together out of the ashes of The Swivels (AKA The Swivel Rockers). Singer Bob Miller, Guitarist John Radcliff, and drummer Tom Medvick were all in that band. Joey Fabulous came from The Blind Blue Leper Society, and bassist Dan Jordan joined after a stint with Some Forgotten Color. The Swivels, BBLS, and Some Forgotten Color were all mainstays of the old Radio Free Charleston radio program, but by the time The Feast Of Stephen had formed, I was not active in the local music scene.
Around 1993/94, Joey Fabulous relocated to Washington DC, and the band recorded a remarkable CD before going their separate ways. Rad and Tom Medvick wound up in The Mad Scientist Club. Dan is now playing bass for Whistlepunk 2.0 (alongside fellow former member of Some Forgotten Color, Spencer Elliott). Joey holds down the fort in our nation’s capitol with his band, My Life On Hold. Bob is doing Bob stuff.
“We’re getting the band back together!”
Joey Fabulous was one of the first people to contact me when I started the Radio Free Charleston MySpace page. We reconnected and caught up on old times. Likewise with John Radcliff, who is now based in Parkersburg. I’d actually maintained some contact with Tommy Medvick during my years taking care of my mother. His wife, Wendy, supervised mom’s home care. And of course Dan was on the very first episode of the new RFC as a member of Whistlepunk.
John Radcliff drove down to LiveMix Studio earlier this year to record some songs for RFC, and he immediately fell in love with the place. He also started the Parkersburg Songpull, which gave birth to our first road trip RFC show, episode 18.
Joey Fabulous just happened to be interviewed for a Spanish-language documentary about Spanish coal miners in West Virginia. The American debut of this film was scheduled for May 12 at the Labelle Theater in South Charleston. Joey decided to see if he could try to get the band back together that night, after the movie premiere. The wheels started in motion, but things did not go smoothly.
Rad was up for a reunion, as was Dan Jordan and Bob Miller. Occasional percussionist Fred Taylor was also on board, but it was getting hard to track down Tom Medvick. Luckily, about three weeks before the May 12 date, I ran into Tom and Wendy Medvick at the Kroger in Dunbar. The final piece of the puzzle was in place and the reunion was on!
To explain a bit about what was going on with RFC at the time of the reunion show, RFC Big Shot Melanie Larch was on hiatus from the show, preparing for her role in the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra production of “Carmen.” So I was short a cameraperson for what promised to be a very ambitious show. A stroke of good luck was that Jerry Fugate, longtime friend of the band and the fellow who treated us to an impromptu mandolin rendition of the RFC theme to close out the Parkersburg road trip show, was along for the evening, and was willing to not only act as my second cameraman, but Jerry also conducted some interviews with the members of the band, and he was invaluable in cluing me in to what was coming up in each song in terms of vocalists and guitar solos.
Bob Miller was in tremendous voice that night. He was belting out the tunes as if he were David Byrne possessed by Jim Morrison. He also asked not to be interviewed for the show, a request I respected. I have a great deal of respect for Bob, and wouldn’t want to put him on the spot or make him uncomfortable. The absence of any interviews with Bob is not due to any slight on my part, but you get to hear him sing all over the show, and his talent speaks for itself.
Percussionist Fred Taylor had to be coaxed onstage for a couple of songs, but the band was tickled to death to have their old buddy on hand. The night wouldn’t have felt complete without him. It was a real kick when he picked up the tambourine and joined in late in the evening.
A Long, Wonderful, Day
Bass player Dan Jordan, along with myself, put in marathon duty on May 12. In the afternoon, I taped Whistlepunk 2.0 for Radio Free Charleston (you can see the results on episode 20 and on upcoming shows). After a dinner break at Blues BBQ we headed back to LiveMix where preperations began for The Feast Of Stephen reunion. I’d say that Dan and I both probably put in more than 12 hours each that day.
I’m not complaining about the hours. May 12 was one of the most exhilirating days of my life. For some reason I had a huge burst of energy. I was bouncing around like a kid on crack on Christmas morning. I was jumping up on risers to position the stationary cameras and jumping down from the heights to the point where I was asked to quit doing it because watching me was making people’s knees hurt.
We started out taping Whistlepunk 2.0 in the afternoon. For the first time, we pulled the blinds and let LiveMix be flooded with daylight. It looked spectacular and it was a great day spent taping Spencer, Dan, Brian and Karen. If we had just gotten the Whistlepunk 2.0 tunes on tape, it would have been a satisfying day.
But the day was not over. After dinner, the other assorted members of TFOS started trickling in. We knew Joe would be the last to arrive, because he was off becoming International Movie Star, Joey Fabulous at the Labelle Theater.
Once the band was assembled, the amazing night began. Joey Fabulous arrived fresh from the red carpet at The Labelle Theater in South Charleston where he attended the premiere of “AsturianUS,” a documentary about Spanish coal miners in West Virginia. Joe’s grandfather was the famous “Senor Minero de Carbón Fabuloso,” whose importance in the history of Spanish-speaking coal miners is legendary.
Yes, It Really Was Magic.
With the band all together, we settled in to record the magic. Now I have to be honest with you about something. The magic was rehearsed the night before. The guys wanted to get together one night early just to make sure they knew the songs and to get their chops back. Tommy Medvick hadn’t played drums since the birth of his daughter almost three years ago, and Johnny Rad had barely touched his electric guitar for some time, concentrating instead on the acoustic (as seen in episodes sixteen, seventeen and eighteen of RFC)
May 12 was a magic night, but magic doesn’t happen without planning and hard work. I popped in briefly on the Friday night before our taping, and the vibe was amazing! It was all so that we could make the best special episode of Radio Free Charleston to date. I also have to confess to some laziness on my part. I really should have written a script for my intro, but I didn’t. The intro you see at the beginning of the show was ad-libbed when it hit me that I could just do one host segment and then let the band take over the rest of the show. I grabbed Jerry Fugate about five minutes before the band was set to start and ducked out in the hallway to shoot the introduction to the show. I flubbed a line in the middle, but you see most of what I came up with.Then we commenced to taping. I can’t really convey in words the sheer exhiliration I felt that night. I was priviliged to be there for a real magic rock and roll experience. The guys tore through eight songs that night. Each one a masterpiece. Between songs, Jerry and I interviewed the members of the band that wanted to talk on camera. We used four cameras–Jerry and I were the handheld cameramen, while we had a locked-down camera in the back of the room, and of course, the legendary LiveMix drum cam. When all was said and done, I had well over four hours of video to edit. I was not easy on myself, loading up with four cameras, and deciding to be experimental with my editing approach. The complex editing job, combined with the illness that eventually culminated in the death of my Aunt, Stella Jo Warden, kept me from delivering this show on the schedule that I’d hoped for. In fact, it’s a good six weeks late. I hope you all find it worth the wait. I’m pretty proud of it.
But right now just sit back and enjoy The Feast Of Stephen, on Radio Free Charleston.