Setbacks at Mountain Stage, artists still impressed
Published: Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 08:10
Mountain Stage with Larry Groce recorded live at the Clay Theater in West Virginia University’s Creative Arts Center Sunday and will air Nov. 18.
Mountain Stage is a famous national music radio show produced by WV Public Broadcasting based in Charleston, W.Va., and is distributed through National Public Radio. Planned headliner Brandi Carlile traveled to Morgantown, W.Va., but called in apologizing that she was ill, couldn’t speak and would not be able to perform.
The new line-up included Logan Venderlic, The Trishas, Bob Shank, Kat Edmonson and Ben Taylor.
"When we have a problem, often it turns into an opportunity, and it did. First, we got to put Bob (Shank) on, which added a nice element. Secondly, both Kat (Edmonson) and Ben (Taylor) particularly got to do more than they would have, and I think both were really good," Larry Groce said.
He said Carlile would be rescheduled.
Locally renowned Logan Venderlic opened the show. Born in St. Mary’s, W.Va., Venderlic is a 2012 WVU graduate from the School of Journalism with a minor in Creative Writing. He explained that his success didn’t come until he started playing out of state, and then his music grew back into Morgantown.
With his acoustic guitar and harmonica around his neck, the front-man sang a southern indie-rock sound with an upbeat folk swing. He was backed by another acoustic guitarist, a lead electric guitarist, an electric bassist, a drummer and a back-up singer with auxiliary percussion such as tambourines and shakers.
Venderlic was great at engaging the audience, as he made them laugh and feel like a part of the show. The crowd was truly sad to see him leave the stage.
"I just want to thank you to everyone who has supported me and allowed me to get from the stands to the stage," Venderlic said.
The Trishas played next. This female five-member bluegrass band varied their setup, but at their core they consisted of four part vocal harmonies who would play acoustic guitars, harmonicas and a mandolin while splitting a kick drum, floor tom, tambourines and shakers amongst themselves. One lead hollow-body electric guitarist led the melodies without singing.
The women met through similar musical circles and finally decided to stick with their group after performing a tribute show to a member’s father, singer-songwriter Kevin Welch.
"Mountain Stage has always been a bucket list show for us to do," band member Savannah Welch said.
Last minute add-in Bob Shank played interesting styles on the banjo and hammer dulcimer.
"They called me at 1 p.m. (the day of the show), and I said ‘Sure, I’ll do it,’" Shank said.
He had done Mountain Stage twice before and was glad to join the lineup unexpectedly to promote his new album. One may assume a banjo player would be a simple folk act, but Shank played intriguing foreign styles that kept the listener intent. Shank put his musical talents aside working a regular 9-5 and raising kids, but he said, "I’m playin’ music again, having a hoot of a time."
Edmonson, originally from Austin, Texas, is an up-and-coming singer-songwriter with a very unique blend of her own kind. She is best described as a singer-songwriter with a sort of jazz, country and blues style.
Although her album has more elements, her performance stripped her songs down to solely singing with the acoustic guitar accompaniment of her tour guitarist, Steve Elliot.
Edmonson’s beautiful voice soared over the audience’s heads as they calmly swayed to the guitar.
"I took everything I’ve ever loved, and I make music out of that," Edmonson explained. "I’ve been frustrated. Constantly, people in the business world, they ask me to classify myself, but when I listen to others (artists in specific genres), they never sound the same (as me)."
Ben Taylor ended the performance with laid back soulful folk music, comedic anecdotes and childhood stories. He describes his music as "folk music for mutts; music for folks whose spectrum of influence is so diverse that they wouldn’t know what to say it was."
Taylor is the son of musicians James Taylor and Carly Simon and effectively fills in their shoes with his pleasant melodies and clever lyrics.
Starting out with just himself, he slowly added in the other band members playing electric guitar, electric bass and drums.
Taylor’s new album is perhaps his best yet. "I’m getting older, and as I mature I get better and better at saying more with fewer words," Taylor said.
The artists expressed their admiration of West Virginia and Mountain Stage. Even during The Trishas’ first visit, Welch said, "West Virginia is absolutely gorgeous… Every single person we’ve met is oddly, eerily sweet."
Ben Taylor said Mountain Stage is always "smooth as a gravy sandwich" and names it the best performance and broadcast event he’s done.
"I really love the community support and the intimacy," Edmonson said. "It’s an amazing thing that people would be drawn to a particular program and not just a particular artist – people that want to come and listen to things that are new to them.
"It shows signs of intelligence; a willingness to give and to receive the music that’s in the universe."