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.

The PopCult Toybox: Monster History at ShockaCon 


Jeremy Hatfield

Jeremy Hatfield

ShockaCon happens this weekend, and your PopCulteer is honored to be a guest. I will be appearing on a panel Sunday morning, along with my fellow toy experts, Lee Harrah and Jeremy Hatfield. Lee, in addition to be one of the area’s dominant vocalists (see him in RFC 200) is a long-time toy collector and expert on monsters, some of them green. Jeremy is the man behind Third Floor Comics at the Antique Mall in Nitro, as well as being a gentleman, scholor, co-owner of Definitely Loud Entertainment and a Ghostbuster.

Together, we will walk you through the history of monster and horror toys. We will begin with the advent of television, when decades worth of Universal Monster movies were exposed to a generation of children, who demanded toys based on Frankenstein, Dracula and The Wolfman.

From there we will trace the lineage through the Aurora model kits, Creepy Crawlers, The AHI Monsters, Kenner’s Alien, McFarlane Toys, Sideshow Toys, Re-MEGO figures and up to today’s hottest toy line, Monster High.

This all happens as part of ShockaCon, happening this weekend at The Beni Kedem Shrine on Quarrier Street between the mall and the civic center. The History of Monster Toys Collector’s panel starts Sunday morning at 11:30 AM on the main stage. A full schedule of ShockaCon events will be posted in PopCult on Wednesday. Check the ShockaCon website for ticket information.


'The Lion King' earns top ticket 


NEW YORK - Here's something the folks at Disney can take real pride in: "The Lion King" is the top ticket of all time.

With a worldwide gross of over $6.2 billion, "The Lion King" stage musical has now achieved the most successful box office total of any work in any media in entertainment history, the Associated Press has learned.

The show quietly took over top spot from the $6 billion-earning "The Phantom of the Opera" late this summer, according to representatives from both shows. "Phantom" producers Cameron Mackintosh and The Really Useful Group congratulated "The Lion King" in a statement, calling their rival show "The Pride of Broadway."

The total makes "The Lion King" more valuable than any single Harry Potter film, the blockbuster "Titanic," or any of the "Star Wars" movies. By way of comparison, the highest-grossing film in history is "Avatar," with nearly $2.8 billion worldwide.

"It's difficult not to become emotional at this realization of the show's impact," said Thomas Schumacher, president and producer at Disney Theatrical Productions. He recalled the long road the musical has taken from its beginning in four downtown rehearsal rooms in May 1997.

"Our goal then was to tell the story purely and theatrically so that audiences could feel it in their heart," he added. "And, to this day, that is the audience experience whether they see the show in Madrid; Appleton, Wisconsin; South Africa; Tokyo or Broadway. Of that, we are deeply proud."

The figure only calculates box office receipts from the various worldwide stage productions, not sales of posters or CDs and other merchandise, revenue from the film, which grossed $423 million domestically, including its rereleased in 3D, or syndication and licensing fees. Currently, there are 10 productions of "The Lion King," including those in New York, London, in Hamburg, Germany, and on tour across North America.

There's no need to cry for "The Phantom of the Opera." It's still the longest-running show in Broadway history and 140 million worldwide have seen it. There are currently eight productions with new ones planned for Moscow, Hong Kong and Istanbul.

"The Lion King," which features music by Elton John and lyrics by Tim Rice and the vision of director Julie Taymor, was an adaption of an animated film when it hit the stage but has in many ways overshadowed the film. It tells the story of a young lion cub's coming of age and uses puppetry and dance in ways that haven't been replicated.

It was the highest grossing Broadway show last year and is the highest-grossing production so far this year, despite rival shows in five bigger theaters and musicals like "The Book of Mormon" often charging hundreds of dollars more per ticket.

Part of its longevity is due to its movie tie-in, simple-to-understand story, family friendly themes and the fact that it's a spectacle not dependent on big-name stars. Twenty-two global productions have been seen by more than 75 million people.

"The Lion King" chased down the overall box office crown despite "Phantom" having a big head start: Disney's show began on Broadway in 1997, while "Phantom" debuted onstage in 1986 in London.

"It's the distance runner, it's the marathon runner. It's taken 17 years of legitimacy to get there," said David Schrader, executive vice president and managing director at Disney Theatrical Group.

What makes the achievement all the more remarkable is that Disney executives haven't gouged every last cent from the public. In fact, they've purposely left money on the table.

Last week, for example, the average ticket price at "The Lion King" was $128, while "The Book of Mormon" was $50 more. And while top premium tickets for "The Book of Mormon" was $477 and $300 for "Wicked," the highest price at "The Lion King" was $197.50, illustrating a conscious attempt to keep even the best seats in the house under $200.

"We're never going to be the top price. We're never going to have the highest VIP price. We're never going to have the highest orchestra price," said Schrader "We're not in this for tomorrow afternoon. We're in it for however many years we've got. We're trying to be moderate."

The other half of the equation - attendance - is also strong. It has increased four of the last five years on Broadway, the London production has seen a 6 percent increase in attendance over the last five years, and the latest North American tour has seen an 11 percent increase over the same period.

Both "Phantom" and "The Lion King" have benefited from the emergence of premium - or dynamic - pricing, although the Disney musical has obviously enjoyed more seasons using the tactic. It involves increasing or decreasing prices for certain seats depending on demand and started with the 2001 musical "The Producers," which set a precedent with $480 tickets.

At the mother ship in New York, Schrader said the Broadway audience is made up of four key groups in roughly equal proportions: Manhattan residents, commuters from the New York, Connecticut and New Jersey, domestic tourists and foreign tourists. "There's no way you get to 17 years without somehow holding all four," he said.

Clever advertising - like using digital screens to show crisp images of brightly costumed characters at Pennsylvania Station and the city's airports - and a scrupulous attempt to maintain its high quality onstage mean "The Lion King" hasn't devolved in to a kids' show or a joke.

It still attracts a well-heeled crowd, routinely breaks $1 million a week at the 1,700-seat Minskoff Theatre and Disney has been loath to ever discount its tickets.

"If anything, the lack of change is what's remarkable," Schrader said. "Everything erodes, everything comes apart. So the fact that it hasn't is curious."

Schrader spends much of his days poring over audience data, figuring out demand patterns based on historical trends, school holidays and even weather forecasts.

He knows that 6 percent of a Broadway audience is from the Philadelphia metro area. He knows that daylight savings time will "inevitably" mess up schedules. He'll add a ninth performance during a holiday week but balances that with a need to not overtax the cast.

"I love puzzles," he says with a smile.

But of "The Lion King's remarkable longevity and continued potency, Schrader is modest about how much effect he has. "I wish we could take credit, but it's the audience and it's the word-of-mouth that's driving it."

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Winners have been announced for the South Charleston Mound Festival that was held Sept. 13.

First-place winners are Scott Stephens, painting, sculpture and graphics; Bridget Tudor, photography; Lesa Cook, primitives; Christina Berry, pottery; Bob Taylor, wood; and Kaitley Whitt, general crafts.

Second-place winners are Sue Johnson, painting, sculpture and graphics; Bill Wood, photography; Chris Arnold, fiber; Michele Kendrick, pottery; Robert Worth, wood; and Teresa Young, general crafts.

Third-place winners are Kay Huffman, painting, sculpture and graphics; Anita Chapman, visual art; Joanna Wheeler, fiber; Karl Hager, metal; Doug and Ruth Kemp, wood; and Beth Ingels, general crafts.

S.C. Mound Festival winners announced  

Winners have been announced for the South Charleston Mound Festival that was held Sept. 13.

First-place winners are Scott Stephens, painting, sculpture and graphics; Bridget Tudor, photography; Lesa Cook, primitives; Christina Berry, pottery; Bob Taylor, wood; and Kaitley Whitt, general crafts.

Second-place winners are Sue Johnson, painting, sculpture and graphics; Bill Wood, photography; Chris Arnold, fiber; Michele Kendrick, pottery; Robert Worth, wood; and Teresa Young, general crafts.

Third-place winners are Kay Huffman, painting, sculpture and graphics; Anita Chapman, visual art; Joanna Wheeler, fiber; Karl Hager, metal; Doug and Ruth Kemp, wood; and Beth Ingels, general crafts.


200Radio Free Charleston has finally reached its 200th episode, and it does so in a grand manner with four never before seen performances by the area’s top bands, plus animation, short films and more. Your host, Rudy Panucci, presents songs from Farnsworth, The Laser Beams, HarraH and The Velvet Brothers. There is a short film from Frank Panucci, a movie trailer from Jake Fertig and the first new animation featured on RFC from Third Mind Incarnation since 2007.


Hosting the show in front of some building

This episode of the show is called “Blues Brothers Shirt,” named after a shirt which your host received as a gift from his new wife, Melanie Larch, the day after they got married less than four weeks ago. This milestone episode of the show is a monument to procrastination. If I had continued producing Radio Free Charleston at the pace that I did between 2009 and 2012, we would have hit episode 200 last November. I wanted to make the show really special and came up with grandiose plans and panicked as the date approached.

As a stalling tactic, I created the RFC Mini Show. This would allow me to slow production of the full length episodes down to one per month or less while I figured out what I was going to do. It turns out that The RFC Mini Show has taken on a life of its own and the format of featuring two songs by a single band is very popular. My original plan of retiring The RFC MINI SHOW with episode fifty has been scrapped, and now the plan is to roughly alternate between full episodes of Radio Free Charleston and episodes of The RFC MINI SHOW.

The RFC MINI SHOW turned out to be a very good idea, because it allowed me to keep cranking out at least some version of the show while delaying the inevitable arrival of episode 200.

Which is a good thing, because my original plan for Radio Free Charleston 200 was not even remotely practical and crashed and burned like a flaming toy zepplin. Originally, I wanted to take the singers from popular area bands and switch them around to perform one-off songs. While this may sound like a very entertaining idea, logistically, it makes as much sense as trying to assemble a wristwatch with your tongue. It’s simply too much to ask bands to break up and re-assemble and properly rehearse songs that will only be performed once. I had a few bands interested in it and it would have made for some killer performances but it was just not logistically possible. Some of the bands who expressed interest may still wind up doing a scaled-down version of this idea on a future episode of the show.

My second idea was to take old songs that were popular in the days of the Radio Free Charleston radio program and have them covered by newer bands who have made their name in the video era of RFC. I’ve always loved it when bands in the local scene cover each other’s songs. Again, this was a truly wonderful idea yet also a logistical nightmare. It is quite an imposition to ask a band to learn and rehearse and record a song that they have never heard before.

As outrageous a favor as this was to ask, two bands actually came through for me. The Laser Beams covered a Go Van Gogh song while HarraH took on a Three Bodies tune. The results were tremendous fun and we are proud to bring you those two performances as part of episode 200.


Go Van Gogh, living in a wiggly world

Go Van Gogh was one of the most-popular bands of the original Radio Free Charleston era. With rock-solid songwriting, great musical chops and loads of charisma, the two teams of brothers that made up the band became frequent guests in the RFC studio and remain good friends to this day.

Stephen Beckner and Mark Beckner, currently of The Nanker Phelge, share the songwriting credits for “Shut Up, I Love You,” which was the most-requested local song on the old RFC radio show, and I thought that it was a perfect fit for The Laser Beams.


The Laser Beams at The Empty Glass

The Laser Beams sprang up as the backing band for The Wayward Girls School of Burlesque. When Pepper Fandango teamed up with her fellow Wayward Girl (and guy), Cat Shrodinger and Leo Tuxedo, they gelled as a band and created the amazing tribute song and video about West Virginia’s Attorney General, Patrick Morrisey. They eagerly learned the song and came into The Empty Glass to record it for me.

Go Van Gogh’s version of “Shut Up, I Love You” can be seen on episode 14 of RFC.

Three Bodies laying down on the job

Three Bodies laying down on the job

“Shingles and Tar” is not a song that was actually played on the old RFC radio show. It was written after we went off the air, but Three Bodies, the band that recorded it, ranked with Go Van Gogh as one of the top bands in town back in the day. In 1992 Three Bodies booked studio time to record four demos, and asked Spencer Elliott and me to produce the sessions. My main job was to get the band ready before we went in the studio, so I managed to get us into The Empty Glass on a Saturday morning, where the band practiced their four songs for six hours, one day before we hit the studio.

With lyrics by Jon (Kris) Cormany and music by Kris and Brian Young and Brian Lucas, “Shingles and Tar” was my favorite tune of what was a great batch of demo recordings. We featured a music video for Three Bodies’ version way back on episode three.


HarraH at The Blue Parrot

I thought the song would be perfect for HarraH, Charleston’s masters of metal who are currently preparing to triumphantly reintroduce themselves to the world after what has been a pretty lousy year. We brought the band into The Blue Parrot, where they tore through the song in two takes. This is the first recording of the band with their new second guitar, Josh Blair, and to be honest, they have never sounded better. By the end of the year, HarraH will be a force to be reckoned with on the local music scene.

I was able to pull off getting these two cool cover songs for our milestone episode. However, the juggling act of producing what is essentially a weekly program while planning a top secret trip to Chicago to get married and writing a very popular (and now imitated) pop culture blog on a daily basis, plus taking care of other professional commitments left me a couple of songs short of a full show.

This is not the first time people have said that about me.


Farnsworth in the widescreen “20 Days”

Luckily, I had also taken on the assignment of producing a Beat Club-style music video for the band Farnsworth. The guys in the band wanted something special and retro for their debut vinyl release. They specifically wanted their video in the old standard definition aspect ratio.

With their permission, I created an alternate widescreen version, which is exclusive to Radio Free Charleston. It’s the same performance, but a drastically different edit of their song, “20 Days.”

The Velvet Brothers circa 1990

The Velvet Brothers circa 1990

This left me with one more song to finish the show and luckily, the heavens opened up and rained their musical manna down upon me when I learned that The Velvet Brothers were going to reunite and play a show at Bruno’s in early September. The Velvet Brothers were the first full band that I featured performing live on the Radio Free Charleston radio show way back in 1989. The studio wasn’t big enough to hold the entire band, so we ran cables all over the building with the drummer in the hallway, the bass player in the production studio, and the keyboard player in the newsroom. With the guitarist and vocalist in the FM studio with me, they managed to create magic live on the air for about twenty minutes at three o’ clock in the morning.

The Velvets today

The Velvets today

So the chance to feature one of the bands that was so strongly tied to the origins of Radio Free Charleston was too great to pass up. We are proud to feature The Velvet Brothers, all eight of them, playing us out on our 200th episode with their original song, “All I Know.” It was an incredible night and I don’t recall ever seeing Bruno’s so packed. It was the my first time shooting video from a Lounge mosh pit while straddling a palm tree.

Our musical peformances for this episode would not have been possible without the huge amount of help from many folks. Eric Meadows, Voice of Appalachia Radio and WVSU EDC made the Farnsworth video possible. Jason “Roadblock” Robinson, The Empty Glass and Chris Chaber enabled us to record The Laser Beams. Tom Crouse and The Blue Parrot played host to us for the HarraH shoot, which was the final piece of the puzzle. We also want to thank Bruno’s for not kicking us out when we showed up to record The Velvet Brothers (and for the great cheeseburger).

A scene from Frank's film

A scene from Frank’s film

We are also proud, if that’s the word, to feature a moving short film by Frank Panucci. Frank is, of course, my brother and an RFC Big Shot who has contributed to every episode of the show. His film is a subtle, deep meditation on the recent changes in healthcare in this country and our role in the new world economy and how man affects the planet.

A shot from

A shot from “The Feast of Flies”

Jake Fertig and his Vandalia Studios have been part of the RFC animation corps for about a year now, letting us bring you episodes of “The Flocking” and other cool stuff, and he was planning to give us a big animated special for episode 200, but he had another big production that was rush-released on September 3, and with a new daughter taking up his time, we decided not to chain him back to the animation table yet. Luckily, the multi-talented Mr. Fertig has yet another cool project in the works, a feature film, and he let us include the trailer for “The Feast of Flies” in RFC 200.

One of the controversies early in the run of Radio Free Charleston was the major tiff between me and the creator of Pentagram Flowerbox, an animated series that we ran on the show. The exchanges got so heated that we simply went our separate ways and I excised his work from the program. I always regretted that things ended so poorly, due mainly to poor communication on my part.

Monkeyshines Car Wash

Monkeyshines Car Wash

A few years ago, the person in question took ill and passed away. On his deathbed he expressed regrets over the nastiness and said it would be okay to restore his cartoons to the show and use previously-unseen shorts. The only condition is that his real name not be used. So these are credited to Third Mind Incarnation. I don’t think it’s violating his wishes to point out that the actual animation was done by RFC Big Shot, Brian Young. We bring you two cartons starring the Monkeyshines Car Wash crew in this episode.

That’s pretty much the story of Radio Free Charleston 200 and why I’m so glad to have it in my rear-view mirror. I think we put together a great show for you and now I can settle into a routine where maybe we start producing the show on a more regular basis.

Co-producer, resident diva, big shot...wife

Co-producer, resident diva, big shot…wife

I also have to take a moment to thank my lovely wife and co-producer (and RFC Big Shot), Melanie Larch, without who this show probably would not have made it past five episodes. She sings on most of the jingles, runs camera for the musical performances and has shot 90% of the host segments on the show. Just last month, we (finally) got married, and we look forward to continuing to produce Radio Free Charleston as a married couple.

If you listen carefully in the outro, you will hear me mention when I will stop doing the show. I hope that this Earth-shattering news doesn’t devastate too many of our fans. You have to realize that I can’t do RFC forever.

W.Va. children's chorus adding 3 new groups 

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - The Appalachian Children's Chorus has launched a new group in Putnam County and plans to establish two more in Kanawha and Raleigh County.

The Putnam County choir, called Cantanti Valle, held its first practice last week.

Appalachian Children's Chorus founding and artistic director Selina Midkiff told The Charleston Gazette that the nonprofit plans to start a group in Raleigh County in January. The group will be called the Celebration of Harmony.

Midkiff says the Charleston-based chorus also hopes to form a new Kanawha County group for special needs students. The group will be called Canto.

The chorus's other groups are in Kanawha, Mason and Logan counties.

'Maze Runner' opens on top of box office 

By JAKE COYLEThe Associated Press

NEW YORK - The young-adult adaptation "The Maze Runner" raced to the top of the box-office with $32.5 million, giving a budding franchise a quick start out of the gate.

The 20th Century Fox release easily outpaced the $13.1 million debut of Liam Neeson's hardboiled private eye thriller "A Walk Among the Tombstones" and the $11.9 million opening for the ensemble-cast dramedy "This Is Where I Leave You," according to studio estimates Sunday.

The strong opening for "The Maze Runner," adapted from James Dashner's science-fiction YA novel, is a big success for a movie that cost $34 million to make and was released in the normally quiet month of September. Fox aimed to make the film - about a group of teenage boys mysteriously locked inside a giant maze - the first post-summer event movie, putting it on IMAX and large-format screens.

"Our little $34 million-budgeted film is pretty darn strong," said Chris Aronson, head of distribution for Fox. "No one had launched a YA title in September. We took a risk, but it paid off.

Aronson said attracting young moviegoers has been "the Achilles heel" of Hollywood in recent years. But the studio has recently found success with relatively low-budget YA releases, like "The Fault in Our Stars," the Shailene Woodley melodrama that made $125 million earlier this year despite a budget of just $12 million.

"It shows the pitch-perfect strategic planning of Fox," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for box-office tracker Rentrak. "Teenagers are probably the most fickle creatures on the planet to figure out. So marketing to this particular group is tricky and there have been a lot of casualties in this YA war."

But "The Maze Runner," which drew a 51 percent female audience despite an almost all-male cast, is now a promising franchise. Its opening was further boosted by $37.6 million internationally. Aronson announced Sunday that the planned sequel, "The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials," will bow Sept. 18 next year.

While Neeson's box-office strength has been hard to beat in recent years, Universal's darker, R-rated "A Walk Among the Tombstones" came in well below the track record established by his "Taken" series or, from earlier this year, "Non-Stop." Neeson stars as a justice-seeking former NYPD detective.

Warner Bros.' "This Is Where I Leave You," about a large suburban family sitting Shiva for the funeral of their patriarch, boasted an A-list ensemble cast including Tina Fey, Jason Bateman and Jane Fonda.

But such adult fare rarely lights up the box office, even when directed by a filmmaker with a proven record of attracting crowds. The film, adapted from Jonathan Trooper's best seller, was directed by Shawn Levy, who is best known for broader comedies like the "Night at the Museum" franchise.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Rentrak. Final domestic figures will be released today.

1. "The Maze Runner," $32.5 million.

2. "A Walk Among the Tombstones," $13.1 million.

3. "This Is Where I Leave You," $11.9 million.

4. "No Good Dead," $10.2 million.

5. "Dolphin Tale 2," $9 million.

6. "Guardians of the Galaxy," $5.2 million.

7. "Let's Be Cops," $2.7 million.

8. "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," $2.7 million.

9. "The Drop," $2.1 million.

10. "If I Stay," $1.8 million.

Monday Morning Art: Velvety Smooth 

MMA 922

Our art this week is a painting on digital black velvet of Greg True and Johnny Velvet, based on a frame-grab from The Velvet Brothers’ performance on Episode 200 of Radio Free Charleston. That’s right, RFC 200 will be winging your way later Monday morning, along with full production notes. You will see and hear The Velvet Brothers, Farnsworth, The Laser Beams and HarraH, and you will see all kinds of new mind-hurting weirdness. That’s later today. For now, look at the velvety wonderment of this image clicking on it to see it bigger. If that’s not big enough, then get really close to your computer monitor.

Sunday Evening Videos: ShockaCon Is Coming! 

10355494_588886917893028_6588607383510956933_oThe third installment of SHOCKACON, West Virginia’s premiere horror and sci-fi convention, starts Friday, with all sorts of cool guests like Eria Eleniak, Michonne’s Pets from The Walking Dead, Tyler Mane, Jennifer Lynn Warren, Fred Williamson, Vernon Wells and more. It all kicks off Friday afternoon. Then day two begins with a huge costume parade through the mall scheduled for Saturday. In all there are three days of good, old-fashioned cool stuff happening, right in Downtown Charleston.

There will also be music from The Renfields, The Jasons and The Big Bad, plus dancing by The Wayward Girls School of Burlesque. Stand up comedians will perform horror-themed sets Friday and Saturday nights. Vendors will be selling all manner of cool horror/sci-fi stuff, including books, toys, jewelry, art and costuming. Seminars and discussion panels include Q & A sessions with the stars, plus discussions on effects make-up (with R.J. Haddy, from the SyFy show, “Face Off”), and panels on collecting, cosplay, writing, burlesque and surviving the zombie apocalypse.

This all starts Friday, September 26, and runs through Sunday. It’s Three days of horrific fun at The Beni Kedem Shrine Center, on Quarrier Street, right between The Charleston Civic Center and The Charleston Town Center Mall. For a full schedule of events and ticket information, check their website or Facebook page, or just check back in PopCult on Wednesday.

Above you see a cool promo spot produced by Scott Gregg, with announcing by Stephen Hensly, both of whom work on the best webshow that I can’t get away with mentioning by name here. Below you’ll see a spot I put together.

After the jump you can watch last year’s PopCult videos from SHOCKACON, and our two Halloween shows, which originated from the event.

You’ll have a blast, so come on out to SHOCKACON. You’ll see all kinds of stuff. Lots of folks from the PopCult/RFC family will be there, including me, Mel Larch, Lee Harrah, Danny Boyd, Eamon Hardiman, Ghostbusters WV Division, The Wayward Girls School of Burlesque, and more of the fine folks I’ve been telling you about here for years.




Hey, now that we’ve mentioned it in PopCult here in the Charleston Gazette, they’ll probably do an article about it over in the other paper later this week.

RFC Flashback: Milestones Past 

Above you see this week’s RFC Flashback, which is the 100th episode of Radio Free Charleston from May, 2010. I’m posting it because I am about to head out to record the host segments for Radio Free Charleston 200. It really doesn’t seem like I’ve been doing this long enough for us to have this many shows in the archive, but numbers don’t lie.

We’re going a little more low-key for our two-hundredth show. It’s not like we can go shoot at Top-O-Rock at the moment. But I think you’ll enjoy it when we drop it on you Monday. For now, here’s our first double-0 show. Original production notes are HERE.