The PopCulteer
September 23, 2011

Great Local Music

One of the challenges I’ve faced writing this column is reviewing CDs by local artists while trying to maintain a sense of objectivity. Since I know so many musicians through Radio Free Charleston, to present an honest review, I feel the need to explain any connections I might have with the band. In today’s PopCulteer, we’re going to look at two excellent CDs by two bands that have long histories with me and the show.

InFormation is a band that I first saw over four years ago at the LaBelle Theater in South Charleston. We had them on RFC, and when the band experienced some growing pains and line-up changes, I introduced Curtis Chittenden and Shane Durham to bass player, Roy Graley. The trio has gelled into a major creative force in the area, making music that really stands out, even in a vibrant and diverse music scene such as Charleston’s. I’m honored to have played a small part in this band’s story.

InFormation has released their debut CD, “For The Believers,” and it’s an amazing achievement. This is one of the best-produced and engineered local CDs that I’ve ever heard. Produced by the band and engineered by Brandon Ferguson at Liquitone Studio in Ona, this CD sounds better than most major-label releases on the market today. Even the design work, by Brianna Mullins, is high-class.

It doesn’t hurt that this CD contains eleven terrific original songs. And it doesn’t hurt that all three band members are virtuoso players. Curtis, who sings with a unique voice, is also an amazing and versatile guitarist, who tears out solos that bring to mind the work of Brian May and Jimmy Page. Roy’s bass skills have been legendary in this area for a ridiculously long time, considering how young he is. Drummer Shane plays like he’s the long-lost love child of Keith Moon and Carl Palmer.

InFormation does not fall into the trap of simply showing off their chops. Their songs are so well-constructed that their musicianship sort of sneaks up on you. From the powerhouse opener, “Wind Against My Back,” to to political tune, “FIX,” to the torch-like closer, “She’s Like Poison,” “For The Believers” is a top-notch collection of original songs, played with a level of professionalism to which most bands can only aspire.

You can catch InFormation live twice in the next week, and buy the CD from them at their gigs. CDs are for sale at The Cellar in Marmet, and Budget Tapes and Records in Kanawha City. Tonight InFormation will be at The Blue Parrot at 10 PM, with the re-formed Happy Minor opening. Next Friday the band will be at The Empty Glass with The Kingfish Five. Of note: all InFormation shows for the foreseeable future are also LADIES NIGHT, where the female of our species gets in with NO COVER!

You can see the band performing their song, Won’t You Think Twice: in RFC 142, right here…

HarraH is another band that I have very close ties to. The band’s frontman, Lee Harrah, is a close friend who is part of the RFC production crew, and I even named their debut EP, “First Strike.” This collection of five songs also includes eight live tracks as a bonus, making it a pretty good value for the ten bucks the band is asking.

The five EP tracks are all originals by the band, recorded in guitarist Kenny Booth’s home studio. Despite being recorded in a home studio, the sound is still state-of-the-art metal, remarkably well-recorded.

The CD opens with “Blood Moon,” the band’s live show-stopper. The bluesy jam, “Man Alive,” presents a tale of betrayal by an evil woman while “My Beatiful Weapon” is a showcase for Lee Harrah’s intense vocals.

The bonus live cuts, recorded at Shamrocks in Huntington, include the band’s version of songs from Lee’s previous bands, Syphter and Stone Ka-Tet. It’s a great live recording and makes the CD a great value, essentially fleshing out the EP to a full album’s worth of music, available for ten bucks from the band. Be warned, that this is a metal album, and the F-bombs drop like snowflakes in the winter, but at least no two are alike. Check out the band’s Facebook page for details on upcoming shows and information on how to get this limited edition EP.

And you can see the band performing “Blood Moon” in our big anniversary episode of the show, right here…

Porkchops Fundraisers

Eamon Hardiman is in the home stretch with “Porkchops,” the first ever sequel to a West Virginia movie! You can come out this Sunday for a fundraiser to help produce the DVDs of the movie (due out by Halloween).

The new film is done and they need to make DVDs so Sunday night they’re throwing a huge fundraising shindig complete with live music, free food, and a massive auction of props and wardrobe. Everything will go towards the production of DVDs and other goodies for “Porkchops” Halloween premiere!

The show starts at 10 PM and is at The Empty Glass. You must be 21 or over and the cover is a five dollar donation to the cause.

You can also kick in some production money via Indie A Go Go…

Square Meal

Another unique fundraiser takes place this Monday at Little India Restaurant on Charleston’s East End. The Arts Council of Kanawha Valley has come up with SQUARE MEAL, a wild idea for artists to compete for micro-grants. It’s a little complicated, so let’s go to the press release….

“This valley is bubbling over with talent and creative ideas! The difficult task to narrow down the submitted proposals to the top 4 was given to a panel of city officials, artists, and community leaders. So without further ado…. in no particular order, the 4 presenters will be:

1. Charleston Cinematheque – Every Wednesday evening at the Charleston Cinematheque we will be showing classic, contemporary, independent, culturally and historically significant films for FREE at an established and revered local establishment.
2. Southern Coalfields Project – The Southern Coalfields Project will photograph scenes along the routes that were originally photographed by Marion Post Wolcott, New Deal photographer, in September of 1938.
3. Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School of Charleston – to promote their monthly nights of Dames, Drinking, and Drawing, so it can expand to more figure drawing events for the public.
4. Qiet, the Band – equipment purchase to enhance the intention of changing how people perceive WV music, through unique catchy songs but also multi-media presentations during and alongside their shows ( performance art, fiction, traditional illustration, film and sculpture)

The final voting comes from you – yes You! And your friend over there too! While enjoying yummy food from Little India, the presenters will pitch their idea to gain your one vote! The final winner will go home that evening with a grant from the tickets purchased for the event.

Square Meal will be Monday, Sept. 26 from 6-8 pm at Little India, 1301 Washington St. E, Charleston. Purchasing a ticket on-line or making a reservation is strongly encouraged. Tickets are $16 ($10 grant, $5 restaurant, $1 ACKV) You may use debit/credit via our PayPal account here for a few more cents (silly fees). Reservations can be made by emailing or calling (304)807-ARTS (2787).

FestivALL Charleston is a partner with us by providing a base fund of $200 for each grant. Yeah, for not starting at zero!”

The deal is, you pay sixteen bucks for a dinner from Little India, which is a great deal anyway you look at it. Of that amount, ten bucks goes into the big artist pot o’ money. While eating you will hear pitches from the four participating grant-seekers. You vote on the one you think most deserves the grant, and the winner takes home the money raised that night. If a patron votes for someone who doesn’t win, they will have the chance to make a direct contribution to their cause.

Ripper Reminder

Don’t forget you still have five chances to see the CYAC musical, “Jack The Ripper.” It’s the focus of the latest episode of Radio Free Charleston, see…

“Jack The Ripper” can be seen at The WVSU Captiol Center Theater tonight and tomorrow night, and again Thursday through Saturday next week. Admission is $10/$6 for students or seniors. And here is the cast list for this powerful musical drama, which I didn’t have in time to include in episode 145 of RFC…

Jack The Ripper/Frederick: Donnie Smith
Matilda: Melanie Larch
Inspector Aberline: Kevin Pauley
George Lusk: Jim Balow
Doctor: Bob Martin
Young Frederick: Max Goins
Annie Chapman: Suzanna Morris
Philip: Nick Ingram
Mary Kelly: Maddy Gourevitch
Jack’s Mother: Tanya Dillon-Page
Polly: Kaylen Surface
Aaron Kosminski: Austin Lowe
Tizzy: Jackie Mundy
Frances: Katie Shaver
Seymour, the Newspaper Man: Austin Sussman
Nasty John, Workman: Michael Tighe
Kate Eddowes: Mariah Plante
Harry the Piano Player: Alex Medina
Alice: Sheila Jarrett
Elizabeth Stride: Mandy Petry
Martha Tabram: Taylor Henderson
Inspector Reid: Nik Tidquist
Whores/Chorus: Emilla Smolsky, Kendall Brittle, Traci Boardman, Caitlin Moore, Daisy Thomas, Kim Howard, Haley Arthur, Ashley Hernandez, Paige Baisden, Kat Johnson, Mandy Harper, Rowan Maher, Katy McNulty, Katelyn Lowe,

Speaking of Stabby Things

My Facebook buddy, comedienne Erica Duerring, pointed out this cool item you can buy from Amazon. It’s The Ex 5-Piece Knife Set with Unique Pink Holder Designed By Raffaele Iannello. The perfect gift for the scorned woman in your life. Of course, if they did a version for guys, it’d be attacked by anti-violence groups, but still, this is pretty damned funny.

Erica plays Compost Brite in Cartoon Dump, by the way. You should check out this cool amalgam of bad animation and great comedy, co-hosted by “TV’s Frank” Coniff, of MST2K fame, in his role as Moodsy The Clinically Depressed Owl.

Just think how cool it would be if maybe the FestivALL folks decided to bring Cartoon Dump to The Clay Cemter next June! Larry, are you listening?

More Of The New 52 From DC

We’re going to look at a few of this week’s DC Comics reboot titles here. There are a couple of disturbing trends in this new comic book universe. There seems to be a lot of ultra-violence, and a lot of violence toward women. Also in this “more enlightened and diverse” universe, there isn’t much diversity in body type. Apparently all lesbians are supermodel-beautiful with giant boobs, and like a lot of the ladies in the new DCU, they  run around in their underwear a lot. And when people get killed, they don’t JUST get killed. They tend to get dismembered, too.

It’s not all bad, but it’s not all good, either.

Wonder Woman #1
by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang

It’s yet another reboot for our Amazon Princess, and this time they got it right. Her costume has been restored to something more recognizable than last year’s Jim Lee-designed mess, and instead of messing with all the political intrigue that had built up in her comic book over the last few years, they’re jumping right into a powerful story that promises a mystery based on Wonder Woman’s mythical origins.

They did this by turning the book over to two major talents, Azzarello is one of the best “edgy” writers working in comics today, and Chiang brings a fresh look, thankfully far outside DC’s new house style, to the book.

Just check out this sample page…

Now go get this book. It’s a home-run!

Green Lantern Corps #1
by Peter Tomasi and Fernando Parsarin

This is yet another book from the Green Lantern camp, and that means that it’s got the problematic “non-reboot, reboot” issues that afflict the world of The Lanterns (and Batman, too). It shows a little wishy-washiness on DC’s part that they didn’t exactly re-start their entire universe. Their Green Lantern titles and Batman books are going to keep most of their recent continuity, which in the case of Green Lantern makes for some confusion and will lead to massive continuity glitches in the near future.

The problem is at its worst with this book. The Corps is lead by Guy Gardner and John Stewart, two of the alternate Green Lanterns from Earth. If, as has been posited with the new Justice League, the Hal Jordan Green Lantern has only been operating for five years or so, then he shouldn’t even have two alternates yet, and neither of them should possess a full-time ring yet.

A nice scene with simple conversation between two characters

One of the goals of the DC reboot was to bring lapsed readers back into the fold. They’re going to come in and find a completely-new Superman, but a Green Lantern that’s saddled with years of continuity that no longer makes sense using the rules of this new universe.

Aside from that major problem, this book suffers the weaknesses of many of the other new DCU titles. It’s excessively violent-two female Lanterns are killed in the first couple of pages, one beheaded, the other sliced in two. The artwork, though competent, is generic, with excessive computer coloring.

However, there are some redeeming qualities here. Tomasi is a good writer. The interplay and conversation between Gardner and Stewart saves the book from just being another superteam gore-fest. It’s enough to make this book worth watching, for now.

Batman #1
by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo

Batman is another DC character who circumvented a bit of the reboot. Since his books (like Green Lantern’s) were the top-sellers of the old DC Universe, they decided not to mess with success, and keep his recent history mostly intact.

They missed a golden opportunity. If we are to believe that, in the current DCU, superheroes have only been around for five years, then we have to believe that Batman is on his fourth Robin, and has survived a broken back and being “killed” by a version of Darkseid that doesn’t exist in this new universe.

Given that the character is saddled with all this excess comic book baggage, Batman #1 does a pretty good job of giving us a starting point while bringing us up to date. Snyder’s script works all the new details into a story that hooks you from the beginning, where you seemingly have Batman teaming up with The Joker.

We're all different heights so you can tell us apart!

The artwork is by Greg Capullo, who for years has been the main artist on Todd McFarlane’s Spawn. Sadly this means that he draws an awful lot like his former boss, one of the most over-rated artists in the business. Unlike McFarlane, Capullo can actually tell a story with his layouts, so the book moves along nicely, and he does a great job with machines, architecture and costumed characters. His civilians look pretty goofy, and this very odd page where Bruce Wayne is standing in a tux next to Dick Grayson, Time Drake and Damian Wayne is just bizarre,with Bruce drawn to look about seven feet tall, next to the progressively shorter former and current Robins, who look a bit like Russian nesting dolls.

Hopefully Capullo can shake some of the more distracting McFarlane-isms over time.

Over all, this book is solid. I’d rather see a total reboot, but this works for what it is.

That’s it for now…

Your PopCulteer will try to get to the rest of this week’s new DC comics over the weekend. You can also look for our other regular features, and please try to make it out to some quality live entertainment if you’re here in Charleston. There is so much going on in town. We need to support the local scene.