Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Ties Bind: Family, Music and West “By God” Virginia

By: Jordan Pauley, Lead Journalist
The Boulevard Tavern, located on Kanawha Boulevard in downtown Charleston, West Virginia, has hosted its open mic night Thursdays for quite some time now. It is not much different than what you might find at any other similar function around town. A large crowd of music lovers from all walks of life and hosted by a local favorite musician, and at this locale that musician is Justin Steele. I made my first trip to this particular event, per request of the host himself, with the promise of a great show. Justin, along with his brother Rick, would be hosting and the night itself would end with a performance by their band, The Fabulous Brothers Steele. From the moment they took the stage, just the two of them, you could sense a closeness between them, they fed off of each other musically and absolutely loved doing it.

photo credit: Jimbo Valentine

Rick and Justin Steele are brothers. Brothers with a bond so strong not even the worst kind of heartbreak, family tragedies or distance could break it. The type of loyalty you find between a native West Virginian and the Mountain State itself: loyal, strong and steadfast. Jackson County natives, Rick and Justin grew up on a farm in rural West Virginia. From an early age they both took an interest in music; receiving their first instruments for Christmas from a Sears catalog. By the time Rick was fifteen and Justin was twelve they had started their first band. When recalling what that early sound was, Justin says, “We heard Nirvana and we just wanted to thrash.”
Self-taught musicians, their musical aspirations were not always encouraged. Before being adopted by their step-father they were pushed to play sports and pursuit other activities. Music was not an option. Luckily, someone recognized and encouraged their ambition and so a love affair between the brothers and their music began.
“I took my guitar to school every day. It was a little Sears classical and I took it every day,” recalls Justin, “I got made fun of but I didn’t care.”
“All these kids we grew up with were playing the same shit. On stage with their chop [hair] cuts and their guitars and amps their parents bought for them. They were all playing fucking Wonderwall.” Rick tells me in his account of the events, in an accent only a native of Jackson County could have. “We wanted to be different.” And different they were, starting a thrash band in the early 90’s in Jackson Country as kids.
“We sucked.” Justin tells me with a laugh. “When I was 15 we actually got paid to stop playing a show we did at Wesleyan College.”
As they grew up, so did their musical tastes take different paths. Justin began listening to more grunge and thrash-core as well as punk. Rick was a straight metal kid, reciting hearing “Kill ‘Em All” by Metallica that he really knew that he wanted to play music.

“I could play every Nirvana song ever. I remember driving to Parkersburg with mom to get the ‘In Utero’ [sheet music] book.” Justin recalls.
“Yeah, I remember that.” Rick agrees.
Eventually their lives would lead them down different paths. Justin took off to Morgantown where he played in a pretty successful punk band called Truckgrind Your Face.  Rick remembers his trips to visit Justin and go see his band as some of the most memorable times of his life. The band gained a fairly big following in the Morgantown and Pittsburgh punk scenes, however things did not work out. Eventually, in 2008, Justin would move to Virginia. While he was there he says he took to writing depressing country songs. Eventually he would find his way back home, as so many West Virginians so often do. It was then that he approached Rick about some of the new music he had been writing.
Rick was reluctant at first. “I liked metal; I really didn’t wanna play country.” Eventually the brothers would find a common ground, taking on an electrified rockabilly sound as they called it. This allowed both of the brothers to showcase their unique style and influences.
“It all just came back together because I was writing country songs for, ya know, nobody,” Justin says,  “I just brought these songs to Rick and he would give his input… I’ll play the song and I could just look at him and he would know where to pick it up and put it down. No matter if we were playing country or thrash or whatever.”
“That’s how music is… I’ve played in four bands with him,” Rick states as he points toward his brother, “I’ve played music with everybody but I’ve only been in four bands. Just to reiterate how in sync the brothers are as musicians, Justin later tells me: “About three weeks ago we played that theater show in Jackson County and that was the first time in five years that we have ever practiced as a band.”
After spending some time playing the occasional house show and open mic, the duo began to garner a following. Eventually they would start playing bars and other local live venues as many as four nights a week, at which point they decided to start an expansion of the band. “We auditioned about thirteen bass players… then we met one that would finally show up for gigs,” according to Justin, “then we had a bit of an issue. His attitude, tardiness, death threats… it got kind of weird.”
Finally all the right pieces fell into place. Bo Ballard would eventually take the reins on bass, Stan Bumgardner on the fiddle and ultimately bringing in “Washboard Dave” Thomas. All of these guys combined to form a unique band that brings their own original sound to the stage. Don’t attempt to categorize it, these guys have a sound all their own.
“We’ve been called hillbilly punk grass whatever.” Justin says
“You know why they do it, because the words sound good together. But we’re different, we’re our own thing.” Rick adds.

In renewing their bond as fellow musicians, the Steele brothers have also brought a new and refreshing change of pace to the Charleston music scene. Not only do they draw from their own life experience and each other, but from the loyal fan base they have gathered along their way. They know that others feel them reaching out to those who stay to listen, and whether there are six or sixty in the crowd the passion and message are still the same. After all, like Rick said, that’s what music is.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Gold Domed Underdog

Guest Submission
by: Steven Allen Adams

"Charleston--it was such a rare thing to ever come here. Field trips, school contests, and quiz bowl. Other than driving through to someplace else, I can count on one hand the times I came to Charleston as a kid.

But every time I did, I'd look for the gold dome. Like a moth to a porch lamp, I'd stare and I'd say to myself "I want to live there one day."

That day came over three years ago, coming to work as an investigative journalist and working in that same gold-domed building. Three years later I went to work again under the gold dome, this time helping connect people to their government.

Would I like to live somewhere else? Maybe. But would I like to make a life somewhere else? Hell no. The best group of friends I've had I made in this city. This city allowed me to meet the girl of my dreams. I've worked with some highly creative people that I wouldn't have met otherwise.

Every street, alley, and trail I love. It's where I plan to be for a long time. While many of my generation have left to chase better jobs and what they feel to be better opportunities, I choose to stay. Call it a love for the underdog. 

West Virginia, and Charleston in particular, are not perfect places. Often this city has to be dragged to change. People here tend to divide into groups with an aversion to outsiders and outside thoughts. Big cities can often power through these issues. Charleston is small, so you're often dealing with the same people and attitudes.

Some choose to snipe from behind pixels without trying to make positive efforts to help change Charleston for the better. That's never been my style. I can be snarky and sarcastic, but I back it up. I help plan HallowEast as a member of East End Main Street. I take my video camera out and show what's going on in this city. And I blog about this fair city, warts and all. Because imperfections sometimes bring out true beauty.

Charleston is great. What we have to do now is come to terms with what Charleston currently is, good or bad. Only then can we formulate plans that help move this city forward. We already have one of the most vibrant arts communities around. Now we need to unite. We need to support our artists, comedians, and musicians and not divide up.

I still can't believe I live here. I'm thankful for every moment I get to live my life under the gold dome. We should all be thankful. So break the ties that bind us so Charleston can become a haven for all."

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Monday Night Open-Mic Competition Review

Editorial by Jordan Pauley            

               Monday Open-Mic’s have long been a staple at Charleston’s “World-Famous” Empty Glass. As it’s hosts shifted, so did the show evolve; acts changed but the crowd not so much. Always preserving that genuine dive bar feel, no other venue in the area captures quite what the Empty Glass does: the distinct feel, the lack of certain identity among the crowd and ultimately the eclectic group of local musicians who take the stage every week, spilling their guts to friends and strangers alike. Yes, the Empty Glass is quite unique however no local music scene is complete without a place like it.
                This time around host Donnie Smith has implemented a competition, gathering musicians from around the area, as well as acts from as far away as Boone and Logan Counties. Not only did the evening feature music, but local artists Matt Wallace, Leah Towler, Project Biscotti and Jessica Cha had a chance to display their talents by showcasing some of their artwork. With help from bartender Terry Taylor, the idea came to fruition and with sponsorships from The Empty Glass, Pies and Pints and Charleston Underground a fantastic array of prizes has been put together to help these “starving artists” pursue their dreams. Ranging from gift certificates from Pies and Pints, a paid show at The Empty Glass and promotional packages from Charleston Underground--these prizes are sure to provide that certain something, to bring forth the best of these local musicians.
                The competition is a collective effort. Each of the eight contestants will be performing on three consecutive Mondays. Each vote will be tallied at the end of the night and the act receiving the most votes from all three of their performances will be declared the winner. Think American Idol sans the soulless promotion… that and true performances from true artists.
                Although not greatly varying in style, each act brought a unique flavor to the stage. In front of one of the largest open-mic crowds I’ve ever seen at any bar, each performer gave it their all; this time not only for the typical open-mic exposure and reception but to be judged by the crowd.
                The first act of the evening was Brandi Good, opening with a brand new song. Her voice caught my attention from the beginning. Hints of country, blues and even a taste of 90’s alternative/pop, reminiscent of solo Eddie Vedder with a splash of Duncan Sheik.  A soulful singer and a skilled guitarist, I found Brandi’s performance quite enjoyable.
                Mark Bates from Hurricane found his way to the state next, bringing some unexpected country flair to the night. Although a couple of pop-like songs found their way in his set, Mark’s true calling is country. His incredible rendition of George Jones’ version of “May the Circle Be Unbroken” said it all. True West Virginia spirit.
                Local guitarist Ryan Wright performed next. This guy can flat out play. Wearing John Lennon style sunglasses, he tried to hide his eyes while taking the stage for an emotionally charged set. Inspired by his guitar teacher and mentor battling illness, Ryan really shined. Intriguing guitar work and howling vocals made a great set that was played for Mike, not us.
                Derek Bowen, a true showman form Chapmanville was our next act. Wow, this guy’s got it all:  amazing energy, musical talent, a fresh sound. Upbeat from the beginning, offering a nice change of pace thus far for the evening, he opened with an acoustic version of AC/DC’s “TNT”. This beer swilling, harmonica playing, Gallagher fashion inspired country boy reminded us all how beautiful we were… and how talented he is.
                Five-piece band from Charleston, No Pretty Pictures, set up and displayed their talents next. A fairly new act in town, they feature a trombone player. An acoustic pop/punk style act, with more rehearsal these guys could be on to something.
                Our next performers are tough to describe. Novelty? Grunge? Punk? Comedy? Who knows, but these Boone County natives are something else. Each song was like a two minute punch in the gut, with topics ranging from jacking in mama’s bed (the actual song title) to how much they hate everybody. These guys are as fresh and original as they come. If Kurt Cobain and Stephen Lynch had a love-child it would sound like Project Biscotti.
                Area open mic regular Jody Herndon found his way to the stage next. His Dylan-esque style with a 90’s alternative touch is easy to listen to. I love this guy’s harmonica work, and his featured guitarist, Dylan Burkhammer, put simply can fucking wail.
                Originally from Baltimore, our last act Alex Good brought the first electric instrument to the table. Dude can play; reminiscent of Rick Perdue he had a knack for looping. Although a great guitarist I felt a lack of originality compared to the rest of the acts. On the other hand, that may come with time.
                This, ladies and gentlemen, was as good of an open mic night I’ve ever seen. A great crowd, a showcase for all local artists and a legendary venue; this performance had it all. It seems Donnie has unleashed a new force on the local open mic scene, adding more intrigue and interest to the concept, giving people REAL motive to give it their all.
                The final round of The Empty Glass Open Mic competition will be held Monday May 20th. Please make your way out to support all of these wonderful LOCAL musicians. These guys are really doing it all for you. Until next time, this is JP for Charleston Underground. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

CHUG, You and a Surprise!

There has been an overwhelming response of thankfulness from everyone we've talked to in the Charleston arts and entertainment community. We knew we needed something to bring us all together, but we had no idea the impact we could have! It's not even been three months yet and we already have an audience base of 1,500-2,500 a week on our Facebook page.

We just want you guys to know a little more about our staff and what we do, so you guys can better understand exactly what it is we do and how you can get involved.

Basically The Charleston Underground was officially formed December 23rd, 2012. With Jessica Cha and Renae "Perrywinkleblue" Phillips behind the wheel in addition to our content creators (Jason "Roadblock" Robinson and Kitty Killton at that point) we reached 500 Likes in a little over two days. Facebook even awarded us with a milestone for reaching 400+ in the first 48 hours. We were completely blown away and still are now that we're nearing 1,000 Likes.

As you may have read, we are a group of artists who are interested in getting our community involved in the arts/entertainment arena. We help artists get exposure and try to make a difference with all aspects of the arts. With the limited staff that we do have, we work very hard to get information to everyone and to get out and cover everything we possibly can.

Since we began, we've gained some very talented staff members and have really come together as a group of artists. From food reviews to concerts, from painting to film production, we cover a wide variety of topics and continue to look for new and upcoming artists to share with the community.

With that being said, this is what we need from you guys!
       - Pass the word around about The Charleston Underground - we're a great networking and promotional tool to use, and even if you don't know performers and artists, share us with your friends, because everyone appreciates art and entertainment!
       - Like our Facebook page if you haven't already done so. Like we were speaking about earlier, we have an audience of 1,500-2,500 people weekly, yet only 959 Likes.. so we know you're out there. This way too, we can see exactly who is tuning in to our page and we can project demographics to see what you guys are most interested in!

So if we can get this ball rolling once again and get more people coming to downtown Charleston for the arts, we feel like it could make a great impact on the community.

We'll also be announcing something HUGE in the coming month, so STAY TUNED because you DO NOT want to miss this. Clear your calendars for June 1st folks. That's all we can say right now!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Adelphia's Sports Bar & Grill

Upon entering Adelphia’s Bar & Grill, I was instantly taken in by the mood of the restaurant. The lighting was very complimentary and the layout was very easy to navigate. Early weekday afternoons at Adelphia’s seemed a little slow, which is why I was surprised we were not instantly greeted as we made our way through the door. We stood for a minute or two at the host stand and waited to be greeted. Once greeted, we were sat next to the window, which was nice because it was a little rainy out and Capitol Street is such a lovely view in the rain. The man who assisted us was very accommodating with seating us near an outlet for the laptop as well. You wouldn't think a sports bar would be so well equipped for a techie like me, but this one was most definitely prepared.

Our server made her way to the table shortly thereafter and seemed young, hip and trendy. She was able to roll with our jokes and took our indecisiveness in stride well. I was impressed with her ability to play into conversation with us.

Once our food had arrived, we unrolled our silverware and to our dismay, had to polish off the water spots from where they had not been polished after being washed. I’ve worked in restaurants myself, and it has always been standard to polish our silverware, so I was a little surprised to see this type of carelessness from such a well-known restaurant.

The music at Adelphia’s was very atmospheric and current, although the interior design was very “chain-like” and is reminiscent of an Applebee’s or Bennigan’s. While lacking a local business feel, the décor is still very “sports bar” like. The dining seats were a little uncomfortable to sit on for a long period of time, which while it may not be the intent, actually encourages patrons to leave sooner than they might otherwise. I found it interesting that the bar seats appear different and the bar experience of Adelphia appears to be a much different one than that of the dining experience.

So if you and your friends are having a night out on the town, I would recommend Adelphia's if you're drunk and don't care much about particulars, otherwise, you may want to look elsewhere in Charleston.

Dining experience: 6 of 10


Adelphia Sports Bar and Grill - January 28, 2013

-Stuffed Mushrooms
-The Classic Greek Gyro
- ½ LB. Black Angus Burger with Cheese and Bacon

 First Appetizer:

Spanakopita ordered at 3:30
Arrival Time 3:47
Spanakopita was super fresh, full of flavor, and cooked to perfection. The tzatziki sauce was a wonderful medley of yogurt, cucumber, dill, and a gentle kiss of garlic. It was mouth-watering and unforgettable.  

Second Appetizer:
Stuffed Mushrooms Ordered at 3:35
Arrival Time 3:47
The Stuffed Mushrooms were amazing! The stuffing had a fresh bread crumb mixture with green peppers, red peppers, yellow peppers, yellow onion, green onion, shrimp, and gyro meat topped with a lightly buttered mozzarella cheese. There was no predominate flavor. It was a full medley of mouth exploding flavor!

Main Course:
The Classic Gyro with Feta and Sweet Potato Waffle Fries ordered at 3:48
Arrival Time 3:57
The Sweet Potato Waffle Fries were too overdone. The fries were hard, crunchy, and they tasted like the oil they were fried in was burnt and old. Very disappointing.
  The Classic Gyro with Feta was good, but by putting the tzatziki sauce on the bottom of the gyro it makes the bottom of the pita fall apart; making it very messy to eat.  However, if the sauce was put on the top it would have held the gyro together better and would disperse the flavors of the entire sandwich.

Main Course:
½ LB. Black Angus Burger with Bacon and Cheese and Onion Rings ordered at 3:48
Arrival Time 3:57
The Onion Rings if they are not freshly hand battered it will fool even the toughest of food critics!
The ½ LB. Black Angus Burger with Bacon and Cheese was ordered to be cooked to medium, but arrived to the table very well done. It was sent back to the kitchen; when it came back out the lettuce, tomato, and onion appeared to have been left sitting in the holding station under the heat lamp, leaving them wilted, mushy, and unsavory. Fresh vegetables were requested and upon the arrival, the lettuce was carelessly chosen and had not been picked through, seeing as it had brown spots. The burger was still well done and due to time constraints was not sent back again. The burger patty was not freshly hand formed meat, but was a prepackaged burger. That makes a huge difference in flavor and texture.

Editorial by Jessica Cha
Food Review by Donnie Smith

Wednesday, January 16, 2013



If you’re looking for a new “hip” coffee shoppe hangout, look no further!

Around 11:00 this morning, we reluctantly dragged ourselves out of bed and made our way downtown to a relatively new coffee shoppe on the corner of Lee and Morris—Moxxee, which has only been around for about a year. We had heard a lot of positive things about Moxxee and had to see for ourselves if the rumors were true.

Being relatively new to Charleston myself, I was a little nervous as to how easily I would find this location, where I would park, and whether or not we could find a seat once we actually arrived. I found the location with ease, which really made me feel a little more relaxed about the whole experience. The coffee shoppe itself looks quite small from the outside, but you can easily spot it from the street if you look for their logo, which looks like mirror-image goats in a circle. 

Now, you may be thinking, why goats? I know we did, and so we asked. Ethiopian Ibex, to be more specific. Apparently the farmers had noticed their goats coming back from grazing and they would be completely wired. You know, like you do... and so the farmers decided to follow their goats one day and saw the goats consuming berries. The farmers took the goats’ lead and decided to try some for themselves by boiling it down at home, and creating coffee for the first time.

The parking lot was convenient and I was relieved to not be parking on the street, which is rare downtown. We entered the coffee shoppe from the Lee Street entrance and were greeted very quickly by the friendly and personable staff. After we introduced ourselves and were seated by the window, I opened my laptop; Renae broke out her camera and we berated the staff with questions. 

Everything we learned about Moxxee, we learned from Ryan--our fantastic barista. The atmospheric music paired with eclectic décor drew us in, but we stayed for the coffee and the conversation. With a variety of clientele coming in at comfortable intervals, we were surprised that such a little coffee shoppe stayed so active throughout the day.

Surprisingly enough, this coffee shoppe is non-profit. How can a business afford to be non-profit you ask? We asked that as well. It turns out that this coffee shoppe is owned by five people who just so happen to be coffee enthusiasts and world travelers. The owners of Moxxee created this shoppe in hopes of sharing their love for coffee and so it’s a hobby in a way, seeing as how none of them have quit their “day job” so to speak.

My favorite thing about the coffee shoppe is probably the fact that the staff really takes the time to meet you, as an individual.

The coffee and conversation aren't the only things to hang around for, either. Their baked goods and biscotti come from some local shoppes, the furthest location being Pittsburgh, PA.

Also if you’re looking for a relaxing place to blog, meet business colleagues, or just enjoy a rainy day, this place is perfect! There are plenty of outlets for all our fellow technophiles. I've actually been plugged into one this entire article. Not to mention the 100% Organic Cotton t-shirts for sale that we've been drooling over this entire time.

So we have to confirm the rumors, folks. This place is fantastic, earth friendly, and very personable. When you’re here, you’re not just another dollar in their pocket or another brick in the wall of customers that frequent Moxxee—and that’s WHY they frequent Moxxee. 

Because here at Moxxee, it’s not just about making a turn around, it’s about enjoying life through good coffee, music and conversation. Hope to see you here soon!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Holy crap you guys!


We are ASTOUNDED at the effort put forth by everyone in the past two days. We opened our official Facebook page - two days ago and had 250 Likes within 24 hours of the launch!

If that wasn't enough, we at CHUG decided "Heck, if we can get 250 in 24 hours, we can get another 250 can't we?"

So we put out a challenge to hit 500 Likes within 48 hours and like Barney Stinson, you guys told us "Challenge Accepted!" and blew us away.

We even decided to make it worth your while. We put up the claim that if you guys can hit 500 Likes by our deadline we would post nude photos of a staff member. But you guys moved too fast for us to deny you a second staff member included in the deal.

We got closer to the deadline and decided we would extend it until midnight, just because some people work and can't really be online until after 5pm. Glad we did. We even upped the ante again and said anyone who shares our launch posts by midnight tonight, we would invite you to the 'nudies photoshoot' (which by the way, is going to be the most epic shoot you've ever seen!)

So we hit 501 Likes around 7pm and started sending out the address in private messages to those of you who shared our launch posts. As of this moment, we have 536 Likes and still 1 hour left to share the launch posts and guaranteeing your invite to the shoot.

Also, if you are coming to the photoshoot, you will need to bring your ID with you. This is for three reasons.

1) We will have drinks at the house and we will not allow you to have one if we cannot verify you're of a legal drinking age.

2) Because this will be a surprise for those who do not attend, you must sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) to attend the photoshoot.

3) And obviously there will be nudity at the house, so if you're under the age of 18, we cannot allow you to come inside the house. What you do outside the house with binoculars is up to you. :)

We will be announcing the date and time shortly, but it will take place in the next couple days.

ALSO ----- BIG ANNOUNCEMENT TOMORROW and we would love for you all to participate! Stay tuned! You guys are amazing!

Let's do this Charleston!

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