Local Scene News

We have new feeds added From Charleston Underground and The Defintley Loud Podcast!!

These two cover much of the local art and music scene and if you are from out of town this will give you a great heads up on what goes on in Charleston and the Rest of WV.
You can Read it here on the Empty Glass site or click on the Links and read if on the on the original Site.

RFC Flashback: Episode 56 

montage (1)Episode 56 of Radio Free Charleston, “DEVOBAMA Shirt” hail from November, 2008. This episode features searing hot rock from Dog Soldier, a really cool music video from The Button Flies, encore animation from Frank Panucci, and a trailer for the film “The Bride & The Grooms,” which was written and directed by Charleston native, Butch Maier.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been more six years since we put this show together. Time flies, y’know. Check PopCult each week as we fill in the gaps of the missing episodes from Radio Free Charleston’s past. You can read the original production notes HERE.


New Radio Shows, New Chief Public Defender and New Stuff To Do 

The PopCulteer
January 30, 2015

New programs on VOA

If you’ve been reading PopCult since last November, then you probably know that we’re very proud to have been part of the relaunch of New Appalachian Radio at Voices of Appalachia. The new streaming audio version of Radio Free Charleston has been a big hit with listeners of the station and it’s motivated me to dig deep into my archives for some audio gems, like this week’s show, which devoted an hour to The Music of Stark Raven.

There are other terrific shows on New Appalachian Radio as well, It’s cool to share the streaming airwaves with Amy Van Gogh, Eric Douglas’ Writer’s Block, The Working Class and recent additions like The Anthony Hoey Show, the Bill Gardner and Eric Douglas hosted Reboot It and starting Monday, Chris Higgins with O’er The Moor To Maggie, featuring the best in Appalachian music influenced by the region’s Scottish and Irish heritage. I hope my readers check out all the offerings at New Appalachian Radio.

It’s been a load of fun being part of Voices of Appalachia, and I hope that New Appalachian Radio grows and adds even more listeners in the coming months. I feel like we’re really creating something special here.

Starting this weekend, Radio Free Charleston will take over New Appalachian Radio at midnight Saturday for a six-hour block of the best regional and local music. This time slot holds a special place in my heart because it’s when the original RFC radio show was broadcast over the FM airwaves twenty-five years ago. The plan is to kick things off with a replay of the current episode, and then follow it with two additional streaming episodes of Radio Free Charleston. Just for the die-hard fans, we may slip some surprises in there along the way.

Of course, we’re still cranking out the Radio Free Charleston video show. The plan is to produce a brand-new full-length episode to debut here in PopCult on Monday. This coming Tuesday will see a new streaming show, which will present an hour of cool new local music, and an hour culled from the original Radio Free Charleston program. We have a lot of really cool themes planned for the second hour of our show on NAR in the coming weeks.

Public Defender

Your PopCulteer with the new Chief Public Defender of Kanawha County, back when I had hair and my head was twice the size of hers.

Your PopCulteer with the new Chief Public Defender of Kanawha County, back when I had hair and my head was twice the size of hers.

Because of our last names, a few folks have asked your PopCulteer if he is related to Diana Panucci, the new Chief Kanawha County Public Defender. The answer is yes. Diana is my younger sister and I am very proud of her. She takes over from George Castelle on Monday, so today is her last day as an underling. Monday she becomes an overling.

I consider her new position to be not unlike that of a superhero– defending the downtrodden, protecting the rights of those most in need– however, she tells me she won’t wear the cape I gave her. At least not in court.

Stuff To Do

There is a new original Dan Kehde production running at The WVSU Capitol Center Theater this week and next. It’s new Dan Kehde. That’s all you need to know. It’ll be incredibly well-done. Details below…


Free Music Friday

THAT HIGH COUNTRY REVIVAL will play a cover-free show tonight at Taylor Books, starting at 7:30 PM. Here’s their appearance on The RFC MINI SHOW back when they were called “Lovejoy and The Killjoys.”

Marshall Petty and The Groove bring their soulful jazz to 5 Corner’s Cafe on the West Side, starting at 5 PM. The legendary Carpenter Ants rock out at Bruno’s on Leon Sullivan Way starting at 9 PM. Travis Vandal takes the stage at Timothy’s beneath The Quarrier Diner, beginning at 9:30 PM. All these shows are FREE!

Other music around town Friday…






Free Music Saturday sees The Wegmann Brothers perform at Bluegrass Kitchen Saturday at 7 PM.

10931183_10155092181960007_1387125183802729142_o (1)






Later Next Week



That’s it for this week’s PopCulteer. Keep checking back. We’re here every day.



Country duo Florida Georgia Line announces tour stop in Charleston 

The award-winning country duo Florida Georgia Line will make a stop in Charleston this spring for their "Anything Goes" tour.

The Charleston Civic Center announced the May 1 concert Friday morning. Tickets will go on sale at 10 a.m. Feb. 6.

In 2013, the duo won a Country Music Association award for single of the year for their hit "Cruise." The song also netted them a Billboard Music Award in 2014 for Top Country Song. Other notable singles include "Round Here," "Stay," and "This is How We Roll," which also features country superstar Luke Bryan.

Florida Georgia Line will be joined at the Civic Center by Thomas Rhett and Frankie Ballard.

Tickets will be available at the Charleston Civic Center Box Office, online at LiveNation.com/Ticketmaster.com, all Ticketmaster locations or charge by phone at 1-800-745-3000.

Persistence pays off for Christian author 

By Charlotte Ferrell Smith

Motivated by faith and a love for writing, Brett Armstrong persisted until a publisher accepted his most recent work.

"It's really a humbling thing," said Armstrong, who hopes his novel will be an inspiration to others.

The 27-year-old St. Albans native wrote four books before the latest won a writing award along with a $10,000 publishing and marketing package from CrossBooks which is affiliated with LifeWay Christian Resources. "Destitutio Quod Remissio" was named the grand prize winner of the organization's writing contest last summer.

The package includes placement of the book on the CrossBooks homepage, an on-camera author interview to be posted online, and availability of the book with more than 38,000 retailers globally.

"For me it has felt like a very long and trying road to have my dream realized," he said. "My wife kept reminding me along the way that it would happen in the Lord's timing and manner of choosing. There is no number or combination of words that exists to sufficiently express what having won the CrossBooks contest means to me. It changes quite a bit for me, but one thing remains absolutely constant, my prayer and conviction that what I write is for the Lord's glory and will."

The name of the book is in Latin. Roughly translated, Armstrong said it means "destitution that comes from forgiveness."

The story is about Senator Marcus Servius, a respected politician in ancient Rome, whose life becomes riddled with pain and challenges after it is learned that he is a Christian. He loses prestige, wealth and even his wife as he struggles with a desire for vengeance as well as a longing to let God be in control.

"Without giving away any of the plot, showing an enemy forgiveness doesn't keep him or her from wronging one further," Armstrong said.

He added that Colossians, chapter three and verses 12 and 13 are central to the story's core. "Marcus faces the dilemma of keeping true to this notion or giving in to his desire for vengeance."

Armstrong's regular job is programmer analyst in the state Department of Health and Human Resources Division of Infectious Disease Epidemiology.

He has been writing since he was in elementary school. When the teacher encouraged students to journal, he wrote pieces and read them aloud. He continued to write throughout the years and submitted books to several agents to no avail.

The acceptance of his recent work of historical fiction was an exciting success.

After entering the contest, he resisted checking to see who made the semi finals and finals. Then he heard from officials from CrossBooks that he was the winner.

"I was jumping up and down," he said. "It was startling. It's the fourth book I've written and my first book in print. Early failures help put things in perspective."

While characters in some of his previous works have somewhat reflected his own personality, that is not the case with this one.

"Marcus was never me," he said. "He was wealthy and a very public person. I'm fairly quiet and don't like public speaking."

That may have to change with the recent attention he has garnered.

Press releases about his work went out last week. He already has a book signing scheduled. Aside from the CrossBooks site, he has learned the book is also on German, Danish and South Korean websites. The book is available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Books-A-Million.

While he is still working out the details, plans call for proceeds to go for local and international mission work.

Armstrong is a 2012 graduate of West Virginia University where he majored in computer engineering and computer science and minored in creative writing, math, and history. He is currently working on a master's in creative writing through Southern New Hampshire University.

He also works with youth at his church, The Crossing, in St. Albans.

He and his wife Shelly. a Kanawha County math teacher, live in St. Albans and are expecting their first child in March.

His book signing is scheduled for 4 to 6 p.m. Feb. 21 at LifeWay Christian Bookstore in Barboursville.

Contact writer Charlotte Ferrell Smith at charlotte@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1246.

Essays About Star Trek Comics 

The PopCult Bookshelf

New Life and New Civilizations: Exploring Star Trek Comics
61yaEOi-1oLedited by Joseph F. Berenato
Sequart Organization
ISBN-13: 978-1940589053

New Life and New Civilizations: Exploring Star Trek Comics is a collection of essays about all the various comic books based on the classic television and movie empire published over the last forty-eight years. It’s a long-overdue look at the underappreciated comic book incarnations of Star Trek, and the essays are informative and entertaining for the most part. While some chapters are in-depth and informative first-person accounts, written by folks who actually worked on some of the comic books, there are a few instances of sloppy research and questionable editing that were disappointing to encounter.

The best parts of the book are the essays by Robert Greenberger and Tom Mason, and the introduction by David Gerrold. They speak authoritatively, yet in a humble manner, about what working on Star Trek was like for them. Greenberger was the editor of the Star Trek comic books published by DC Comics starting in the 1980s, and his insights are informative and fascinating. Mason was the editor of the Deep Space Nine and other Star Trek comics at Malibu, and his point of view is very entertaining. Gerrold, of course, has been an expert on all things Star Trek since he made the leap from being a fan to writing the classic original series episode “The Trouble with Tribbles.” His participation elevates any book on Star Trek.

Jim Beard contributes a great chapter that covers how the overly-restrictive license hamstrung Marvel’s first attempt at producing Star Trek comic books by forbidding them to use any concepts that weren’t included in “Star Trek” The Motion Picture.”

Chapters on later Star Trek comics, such as the ones published by Wildstorm and the Manga adaptations are loaded with information that I was not aware of previously because I’d pretty much stopped paying attention to Star Trek comic books by that point. The articles make me curious enough to sample them.

There are great essays on the British Star Trek comics and a daily comic strip from the late 1970s and early 80s of which I was totally unaware. These are revelatory, well-researched and very detailed.

However, there are some disappointments. I was hoping for a wealth of infomation about the original Star Trek comics books, which were published by Gold Key. Scott Tipton offers up a brief overview that’s fun and respectful of its charm, while pointing out some of the weaknesses of the book. However, it’s a very short essay. Apparently to rectify this, there is a second essay on the Gold Key Star Trek comics by Julian Darius that is marred by a condescending tone and really sloppy research. In addition, the second essay alternately contradicts and overlaps with the first.

Both of the Gold Key essays rip apart the story in the first issue of Gold Key’s Star Trek comic book, which famously was written and drawn by people who hadn’t seen the show. Tipton recaps this story in a few short paragraphs in a fun way that shows how silly and unlike Star Trek it is. Darius spends eight pages dissecting the same story in a manner not unlike, and about as fun to read as, an autopsy report. I have to blame the editor for even including the second essay, although since it’s written by the founder of Sequart, his publisher, I guess he had no choice.

And I don’t mean to pick on Julian Darius, but he contributes another essay to this book, which is marred even more by sloppy research and a snotty tone. In his chapter about the Peter Pan/Power Records comic book/record sets, Darius tackles the issue of why Lt. Uhura was drawn as a blonde, caucasian woman, while Sulu was drawn as a black man. Darius writes:

“The artists for the four stories that got comics adaptations, however, weren’t nearly as familiar with the two shows. The most obvious discrepancies were Sulu and Uhura, the two human characters from the show most identified as being of a race other than Caucasian. Oddly, Sulu was depicted as a black man in a blue (science) uniform, while Uhura was a blond white girl! Clearly, something had gone seriously wrong with the colorist.”

This was painful to read, not only because Darius blames the artists or the colorists for what was clearly an editorial mandate, but because he is apparently unaware of the concept of “Publicity Rights” (AKA “Likeness Rights). Other chapters in this book discuss the issue of which comics had the rights to use the likenesses of specific actors and concepts, and I remember when these books were originally published that Neal Adams explained in several fanzines that Power Records was unsure whether or not they had the rights to depict Nichelle Nichols as Uhura or George Takai as Sulu, so they instructed the artists to draw them differently just in case, so that they wouldn’t have to pay the actors any extra money. Leonard Nimoy had filed several lawsuits against Paramount over the use of his likeness on Star Trek merchandise, and many of the licensees decided to play it safe with supporting characters from the show.

I hate to go full-tilt comic book nerd here, but if you can't tell that this is a Neal Adams drawing, then you probably shouldn't be writing about comic book art.

I hate to go full-tilt comic book nerd here, but if you can’t tell that this is a Neal Adams drawing a mile away, then you probably shouldn’t be writing about comic book art.

Darius also fails to mention the artists that he blames for the change. The art for most of the Power Records comic books was handled by Continuity Associates, the legendary art studio run by Adams and Dick Giordano. The artwork on these comics, clearly the work of Adams and Giordano with help from folks like Russ Heath, remains the finest art ever seen in any of the Star Trek comic books. If you’re going to write about the merits of a comic book, you pretty much have to mention who drew it. It’s fine to mention that Alan Dean Foster wrote some great stories, but those comics are sought-after by collectors because of the fantastic art.

It’s ridiculous to assume that Neal Adams wouldn’t bother to research what the actors looked like for a licensed comic book project that he was drawing. The man is a consummate professional.

There is another odd statement in the book, in an appendix about Star Trek comic books that were never published, Rich Handley writes about two unreleased collections of the Gold Key Star Trek comic books that were to have been published by Checker Publishing,

“It is unknown why the company stopped after only five volumes though sales may have been a factor.”

Thirty seconds on Google would have revealed that Checker Publishing hasn’t published any books for over seven years and is only still around as a digital division of Devil’s Due Publishing. They exited the physical book market before the last two volumes of Star Trek were published. That’s why IDW is now reprinting those books in deluxe hardcover editions. It’s not a great mystery.

Aside from those instances of poor research, some of which may be attributable to people writing about the history of comic books that were published before they were born, this is still a solid and informative collection of essays about the Star Trek comic books. It’s just a shame that they didn’t do a better job on the Gold Key or Power Records comics, especially considering that they use the distinctive Gold Key Star Trek logo on the cover.

You could just read the comics, though.

Maybe we’ll get to read more details about the Gold Key Star Trek comics in upcoming editions of IDW’s Star Trek Gold Key reprint collections.

New Life and New Civilizations: Exploring Star Trek Comics is a good overview of Star Trek comic books, particularly from the 1980s onward. The book could have been improved with tighter editing, better research and more examples of art from the comics, but it’s still not a bad effort.  It would have been nice if some of the writers put more effort into giving credit to the writers and artists who worked on the comics. Some do a great job while others gloss over such details. The most glaring errors are in the chapters that I most wanted to read, but the complete book is a worthwhile addition to your Star Trek library.

I still don’t understand why the cover shows an alarmed Star Trek crew running at what is apparently Kelsey Grammer wearing a red shirt.

Shepherdstown-based band RHIN to play Huntington on Saturday (H-D repost) 

Courtesy photo

Since forming in the summer of 2013, Shepherdstown-based sludgecore band RHIN (L-R: Tucker Riggleman, Ben Proudman, Dominic Gianninoto) has been writing, recording, and rocking out at shows. The band will perform at The V Club Saturday night.

Reposted with permission from The Huntington Herald-Dispatch

RHIN has been on a good run lately.

The Shepherdstown-based sludgecore/punk band, comprised of members of Bishops and Black Blizzard and fronted by a “Two Ton Rhino” singer-bassist, released ‘Bastard,’ its debut full-length in December to some critical acclaim, and has been playing shows with West Virginia stoner rock pioneers Karma To Burn.

The band will ride no small amount of momentum into Charleston and Huntington this week for shows at The Empty Glass and V Club for its first shows in the respective cities.

“We’ve started off on a good foot,” Gianninoto said of how his band has started 2015. “The last couple of months, we’ve been getting some shows that we enjoy being on, and playing with some bands that we really look up to.”

RHIN (Gianninoto; Tucker Riggleman: guitar; Ben Proudman: drums) welcomed Karma To Burn to Shepherdstown for the band’s record release in late December, and things went off without a hitch.

“It’s been really great, all the support we’ve got,” Gianninoto said. “We were really nervous about the record release show, with Karma To Burn coming down, making sure it all went well. I was blown away with the response.”

Before blowing some critics away with its sophomore full-length, released on Grimoire Records out of Baltimore, the band’s home away from home, you could say Gianninoto, influenced by the Melvins and Mike Patton, got into “some heavier stuff” living in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

“When I started messing around with a bass and a distortion pedal, that was what started RHIN,” he said.

Returning to Shepherdstown found Gianninoto briefly fronting Domino and the Two Ton Rhinos.

“I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. I wasn’t very focused and I just didn’t know what the hell I was doing, just being in a band, what that means, you know?”

After reuniting with his college pal Riggleman, and recruiting Proudman on drums, RHIN was born in the summer of 2013.

“I was thinking about doing something with music again, because the whole Domino stuff was very short lived,” Gianninoto said. “Tucker told me I should meet this guy Ben, who I’d went and seen in Black Blizzard, and it kind of went from there. I must’ve asked Tucker to play, and he was down.”

The band released its self-titled debut in October 2013 and from there, Gianninoto said the good chemistry and approach has bore sludgy fruit.

“Ben’s really into more extreme metal, and he’s always expanding my tastes with really aggressive stuff. And he’s not afraid to get aggressive or angry,” he said laughing.

“Tucker brings a cool approach to it, in the sense that some of his lead work is really great, classic rock stuff. We both have a love for classic rock, so we share that. Having been in The Demon Beat, he has that garage influence. Some of his lead work is really cool noise rock 90’s stuff, and that’s right up my alley.

“It’s a nice little melting pot I guess. I think me, Ben and Tucker work well together. I like our songwriting process, because we can get it together pretty quick. I think we all just want to be respected and play music that our peers or people we look up to respect in the end.

“I mean, we’ve only been around for, maybe a year and a half or so, and we’re very pleased with our recordings,” Gianninoto said with pride. “We definitely felt like we matured a lot and we’re very pleased with [‘Bastard’].

The guys in RHIN, more used to the Baltimore scene than Morgantown, are looking forward for their first shows in Charleston and Huntington.

“I know it’s the first time, and it’s a building process of trying to get people out but we’re really excited to be coming down that way,” Gianninoto said. “We’ve talked about it now for almost a year, and we’re hoping to do it some more. That’s the cool thing about being in a band, you get to go different places, and we’re always down to play shows, so let’s make it happen.

“We’re just trying to keep the forward motion going, and just keep getting better and writing good songs and playing good shows,” Gianninoto said.

“We don’t waste too much time in general,” the singer-bassist said, kind of summing things up. “I haven’t had much band experience. I’ve had some, but, this has just been an awesome experience.”

If you go:
WHO: RHIN with Rat Ship, Cavern
WHEN: 10 p.m., Saturday Jan. 31
WHERE: The V Club, 741 6th Ave., 304-781-0680
COST: $7
INFO: www.vclublive.com
ONLINE: www.facebook.com/rhinwv

Scooby Doo, Captain Action and JoeLanta 

The PopCult Toybox

scooby-dooThis week the PopCult Toybox brings you some short items along with updated graphics. The International Toy Fair in New York City is less than three weeks away, and lots of companies are jumping the gun with new toy announcements.

Scooby Doo Hits The Bricks

Scooby-Doo, Shaggy, Fred, Velma and Daphne will drive The Mystery Machine straight into the world of construction toys with a series of new Lego sets headed to toy stores, thanks to an extension of the partnership between the Lego Group and Warner Bros.

The new Lego sets include Mummy Museum Mystery, Mystery Plane Adventures, the Haunted Lighthouse and the big-ticket set, The Mystery Mansion (seen below). They’ll range in price from $15 to $90.


With the most eagerly-awaited set, fans can build the beloved Mystery Machine van, which also comes with minifigures of Scooby, Shaggy, Fred, a zombie, a magnifying glass, a possessed tree and a giant Scooby Snack. It retails for $30, and you can bet that more than one Lego collector will team up Scooby and the gang with The Ghostbusters Lego sets that were released last year.

If Lego toys weren’t enough, according to Variety, “A new 22-minute Lego TV special centered on Scooby-Doo will be released this year. Warner Bros. Animation will also release new animated movies based on Lego Scooby-Doo in a similar vein to Lego DC Super Heroes features.”


Cobi sets are still being sold in other countries

All the press releases conveniently overlook the Scooby Doo building sets released by Character Builders in the UK and Cobi in South Africa and other territories two years ago. However, these sets didn’t seem quite as cool-looking as the upcoming Lego sets.

Captain Action Scales New Heights

1606355_792633040796923_5422185700752783545_oFour inches, to be exact. Zica Toys has released some new teaser images for their upcoming 4″ scale Captain Action line, which will include variants of Captain Action, plus Action Boy, Dr. Evil and The Silver Streak. We will keep you posted on this one because the will launch with a Kickstarter campaign that’s due to start any day now.


JoeLanta Beckons

10687514_744266592277417_3205058375406603194_o (1)JoeLanta & The Great Atlanta Toy Covnention  happens in Atlanta, Georgia in the middle of March, and there’s a new website that’s just now being loaded with details and information about the show. Longtime PopCult readers will note that I have covered JoeLanta extensively for the past two years, and the plan is for us to do it again this year. So get ready for an onslaught of cool action figure action in about seven weeks.


The PopCult Toybox weekend edition will look at the recent corporate shake-up at Mattel, and how that may affect the toys we see in the future.

Monster truck back to crush the competition in Monster Jam 

By Billy Wolfe

It has been nearly 30 years since Gary Porter first roared onto the monster truck scene in front of a Charleston audience.

It's probably fitting then, that when he returns to the Capital City this weekend as part of Monster Jam, he'll be in the same truck as that first appearance.

"Charleston has always had a special place in my heart. It was my first show in a monster truck," Porter, 53, said during a recent phone interview. "I hit the big time there with TNT Motosports. It's an awesome venue, and I have a lot of great fans up there."

Porter built that truck - known as the Carolina Crusher - in 1985 for just $11,000. (Monster Jam trucks average $100,000 today.)

"They were a lot simpler and easier to build back then," he said, adding that today's engines alone cost at least $35,000.

For the past 14 years, he has been behind the wheel of a different line of monster truck - the Grave Digger. But for his 30th year on the scene, he thought it was time to revive the 12-foot-tall, 10,000-pound Crusher.

He first got involved in the industry in 1981, when he and his brother opened Porter's 4x4 Shop in Wadesboro, N.C. He was driving a jacked up 1972 four-wheel drive pickup at the time, and Porter said the truck was becoming "impractical."

"The law kept stopping me because it was too high," he said. "We just decided to make it a full-fledged monster."

They built their first truck in 1985 to promote the business and compete in local shows. By 1987, he was competing and making a name for himself in the Crusher with TNT Motosports.

A lot has changed about the industry since he first got involved.

"We were just some good old country boys driving over cars and doing what we loved to do," he said of the early days. "Early on, it was just a fascination with going out and playing in the mud and it just gradually grew from there."

Specifically, the trucks themselves have become more sophisticated. That means a safer ride for drivers and a better show for spectators, Porter said.

"That allows us to do what we do - to try and wow the crowd," he said. "There's safety built in these trucks today from the very beginning."

Speaking of safety, has he had injuries? What about close calls?

"I've turned 'em over, crashed 'em, but knock on wood and thank the Lord, I haven't had any serious injuries," he said. "Like anything else, when a new sport takes off there is a learning curve. As beginners, we didn't have many safety features."

He is still in awe at the industry's growth over the last three decades. He pointed out that some of his fans are third-generation monster truck fans.

"The sport has grown bigger than we ever imagined," he said. "We thought that in a couple of years the fad will fade out, but here I am going into my 30th year."

Porter never expected to be showing off his driving skills to huge audiences.

He also continues on the family tradition of farming. As a child, his family raised beef cattle and chicken. He thought that would be his sole profession.

"It was sort of my childhood dream," he said.

When he's not racing trucks for Monster Jam, he can often be found running heavy equipment on his 117-acre farm in North Carolina, where he lives with his wife, Penny.

He doesn't plan to hit the brakes any time soon.

"I still feel good. I think I have years left in me," he said.

Reach Life editor Billy Wolfe at life@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-4830.

Left of the Dial: Cheers to West Virginia Symphony for 'pay what you wish' model 


Last weekend, the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra offered concert-goers a "pay what you wish" model to see violinist Nikki Chooi perform. Basically, any member of the public could purchase any available seat for any price.

The whole idea was to break down the perception that attending a classical music performance was too costly or that such concerts are inaccessible to the general public.

I'm sure many members of my generation immediately thought of Radiohead when they first heard about the event. The group offered the same model for a digital download of their 2007 album, In Rainbows.

Yet, there are some obvious (and not-so-obvious) differences between these "pay what you wish" models.

At the same time Radiohead was offering the free downloads, they also offered presales of physical copies. In the end, they sold tremendously - more than enough to cover the cost of recording, producing and distributing the album. They were, and to this day still remain, a hugely popular force in modern rock music.

On the other hand, the West Virginia Symphony is a classical music ensemble and was offering tickets to a live performance.

As conductor Grant Cooper told me last week, symphonies are always looking to fund their continued performances, which is much different than a rock band covering the cost of recording, producing and distributing an album. The Symphony, despite its musical prowess, lack the recognition of Radiohead.

Of course, the Symphony and Radiohead are not the first to employ such a model, but Radiohead certainly popularized it in recent years.

The idea of classical music, traditionally considered high-brow, borrowing from rock music, which is typically considered low-brow, to make its performances more available to the public is an interesting turn of events.

n n n

Musicologist, sociologist, and Neo-Marxist critical theorist Theodor Adorno wrote extensively about the differences he observed in "serious" (classical) and "popular" forms of music (jazz and other styles emerging on radio) in the mid 20th century. He was critical of how what he called "culture industries" turned music and other forms of art into commodities.

Academics could spend a lifetime examining his work, but the short of it is that he believed these industries sought to keep the working and lower classes politically impotent by providing them escapism through popular culture.

I could be reading Adorno incorrectly but, to me, it's a matter of access. The rich are allowed to access things that the poor weren't. In the end, the "haves" were more well-rounded in matters of the arts and civics than the "have-nots."

The Symphony's model breaks down some of the barriers created by turning music and other forms of culture into commodities. I'd like to think that Adorno would see it as a good thing, even if money was still involved.

Both records and live performances are products, so to speak. There is no getting around this fact, especially in the modern world. Yet they provide different experiences, regardless of the genre in question. Allowing the public, despite their socio-economic disposition, the ability to access, experience, and enjoy any form of music is crucial.

I'll admit: I'm not necessarily well-versed in the classical world, aside from what little education I received studying music in high school and in college. I've also picked up some knowledge from listening to my colleagues Jim Lange, Frank Stowers and Matt Jackfert at West Virginia Public Radio.

Still, I tend to identify more with rock music. That's likely because of its accessibility.

These days, rock music and other forms of popular music belong to everyone - as does classical music. It's the means by which we are allowed to access these forms of culture that truly matter.

Cheers, West Virginia Symphony, for not only borrowing an idea from the popular world, but also for making your art more accessible to everyone.

Dave Mistich is the digital editor/coordinator for West Virginia Public Broadcasting. His dad's favorite guitarist of all time is Joe Walsh. During an interview, Walsh apologized for Dave's parents raising him on the music of the Eagles. Dave can be reached by email at dmistich@wvpublic.org or you can follow him on Twitter: @davemistich.

Cajun country music artist Yvette Landry set for Culture Center 

By Billy Wolfe

For proof that life truly can begin at 40, look no further than Cajun country music artist Yvette Landry.

Landry, 51, is in more bands than she can count, is nominated for a Grammy and is known as "The Queen of Cajun Bass," but she didn't pick up a guitar until 11 years ago.

Sure, she played piano as a youngster and was a member of her high school marching band, but she had little choice in those endeavors.

"I absolutely hated it," she said. "My parents made me practice all the time and I hated reading music."

But in 2004, Landry found herself in search of an emotional outlet - some way to express her feelings - after her father was diagnosed with cancer.

So, she went out and bought a guitar. Shortly after that, a friend mentioned an upcoming Cajun jam. She thought Landry might enjoy it.

"I opened the door to that jam and it was like opening a door into my past, my heritage that I had not connected with until then," she said. "I fell in love with the music and the people, and it just got me started on this whole immersion.

"Even though I am a Cajun in Cajun Country, I was never connected to that."

Three months later, she was hired by the Lafayette Rhythm Devils. This Saturday, Landry heads to Charleston with Frisson, a subset of the Rhythm Devils, to play as part of West Virginia Friends of Old Time Music and Dance's Cajun Music: Laissez le Bon Temps Roulez (Let the Good Times Roll).

The past decade has been a whirlwind for the multi-talented Landry, who is also an author, teacher, sign language instructor, coach and mom. She has played in Russia as a musical ambassador, played at the storied Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, and toured across Germany, France and Canada.

"The music has really taken me places I wouldn't have had the opportunity to go," she said.

All of that traveling has also produced some performance-related culture shock.

Landry explained that back home in Louisiana, people generally come out to a show to dance. The band isn't the focal point.

"People know we are up there, but we aren't the focus," she said. "We are the vessel to help them have a good time."

At one venue recently, Landry was on stage with a band and looked out over the crowd. She saw lots of familiar faces, including an acquaintance that has been coming to hear her band play at that same venue for eight years.

"You watch the people that come to dance. I watched her out there for eight years."

During a break, they ran into each other in the crowd.

"She said, 'What are you doing here?' I said, 'I'm playing music,'" Landry said with a laugh.

The woman couldn't believe Landry had been up on the stage practically every Wednesday for the better part of a decade. She'd been too immersed in the good times.

But that's not the case in other places. Chicago, for example.

When Frisson played a set in the Windy City, Landry said she was stunned to see people sitting calmly in the performance hall. They applauded after each song, but were otherwise still.

"I got off the stage and I broke down," she said.

A band member had to explain to her that in other places, people experience music just by sitting and listening.

She still finds that "bizarre," but said she's getting used to it.

"It kind of freaks us out," she said.

Her performance this weekend will be in front of a seated audience. She intends to get people on their feet.

"I absolutely want people dancing," she said. "Otherwise, I'll just be up there with my eyes closed."

Asked to describe Cajun music, she said, "It's the music of Louisiana. It's sort of rooted in music that was brought by the French-speaking Acadian people of Canada (the people who were expelled from Canada by the British in the 1700s), but infused with Irish folk music, Creole music and others. It's not just straight French music. It's not straight anything. It's Jambalaya!"

And although she was late to performing, Landry comes from a long line of musicians.

Her grandfather, Lucien Landry of the Bill Landry Orchestra and The Louisiana Six, was known in Louisiana in the 1930s to the 1950s. Her grandmother, Viola Hebert Landry of New Iberia played with her brothers Wilton, Noah, Cap and the rest of the Hebert clan in The Louisiana Six.

Although music has taken her all over the world, she's just as excited about being nominated for a Younger Reader's Choice Award in her home state. The nod is for her book, "The Ghost Tree," which she said is a kind of modern-day Cajun folk tale.

In the book, Landry imagined her grandfather and some of his friends sneaking into the swamps at night and encountering the Ghost Tree, which comes to life on Halloween and tries to eat children.

"It's a story about what can happen to you if you don't listen to your parents down here in Louisiana," she said.

Frisson, which consists of Landry on accordion, bass and vocals, Chris "Chop Chop" Segura on fiddle and Randy Vidrine on guitar and vocals, will play at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Culture Center in Charleston. Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for seniors and $10 for students. Children under 13 get in for free.

Contact Life editor Billy Wolfe at life@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-4830.