Road Blog: Friday May 31, 2019 - Huntington, WV
Huntington, West Virginia
May 31, 2019
My EP-Release solo-acoustic run down south was supposed to start on Thursday with a show just outside of Dayton, Ohio, but after talking to my friend Gretta, who suggested I make sure the show was still on after the tornadoes and storms that went through the area earlier this week, I decided to confirm with the venue. Sure enough, the joint had no power or gas and the show was off. Sorry Dayton – we’ll get that rescheduled asap!
So I left on Friday morning instead of Thursday for the six hour drive through Ohio, across the Ohio River, and into West Virginia. It got a little hairy in Columbus, after I misread Karen Jacobsen - Create Your Dream Make It Real (my GPS)’s instructions and missed an exit in the middle of a construction maze, but other than that it was relatively uneventful. It started to cloud over as I approached the West Virginia line and it was raining by the time I coasted into Sheetz for some way overdue gas. Huntington is a smaller city nestled in beautiful hills and mountains on the south bank of the Ohio River. It’s really pretty and I’ve loved this area since I started coming here with The Tucos a couple years ago.
I checked into my hotel, which sits in the parking lot of a somewhat dilapidated strip mall and adjacent to a couple (not-really) upscale gentlemen’s clubs called Southern X-posure and Lady Godiva’s. I booted up the laptop and felt the soothing warmth of re-connection after mostly ignoring my phone for the drive. As I stood up something fell on the floor - a shirt, and I thought….”That’s odd, I haven’t unpacked or anything yet.” I picked it up and turned it around and smiled as I read the giant block letters JOHNNY MERLE WILLIE & WAYLON in the tradition of all those other first-name shirts representing everyone from all the singers in Black Flag to The Golden Girls. Then I thought…..”Ooh gross this is some dude’s shirt!” and threw it on the chair and washed my hands. I contemplated keeping it, but that’s not the right thing to do, and besides I have boxes of tee shirts dating back decades that I never wear, so I’ll leave a note for housekeeping that it was the previous occupant’s of this room and they should contact them, and for what it’s worth maybe BUCK should have been added to that shirt too, but I’m not sure the maid will care about that part.
I drove into the city and headed downtown. I’d not been in this area before. It’s a nice mix of new businesses common to bustling downtowns and old architecture, lots of people milling about, hanging in the park by the fountain, grabbing an after-work drink, or taking photos with their kids, all decked out in green graduation gowns with big smiles, knowing that high school is finally over and it’s nothing but the freedom, wealth, constant-fun, and consequence-free life of adulthood ahead. I parked in a ramp adjacent to the venue, grabbed my guitars, and walked across the street.
You never know what you’re going to get when you head into a venue you haven’t played before. I’ve seen some strange things. Restaurants can be especially odd, but they can be cool too. Black Sheep Burrito & Brews is a Mexican restaurant/craft-beer bar/music venue. There’s a big room off to the right with a nice stage at the end and its own bar. There’s tables out front and circular booths around the perimeter. I was greeted by a couple bartenders who couldn’t have been friendlier and helped me get situated with my gear and merch, and also situated with some amazing street tacos and beer. The guy recommended the catfish, Korean, and portobella tacos, the latter of which recently won best taco in the state. I took his advice on the Korean and Catfish but went with steak over the portobella, and a brown ale on the side. It was an awesome meal!
I met Corey Zornes, who was playing, and then Walter DeBarr, also on the bill, who was a little distraught, having just lost his phone. As someone who loses pretty much everything that passes through my hands, I felt his pain. I saw him with it a couple hours later, so I assume all is copacetic.
Walter went on around 9 and played a short set of really, really solid songs with great vocals. He reminded me a bit of Benjamin Booker with his gravelly voice, and the songs were a bit like the mellower, dark side of Patterson Hood, with strong melodies and great stories against some dark, ringing chords. I really enjoyed it. I played next, to a good, attentive, and responsive room, and had a decent set. Corey went on after me, solo-electric, with a sweet, red Gibson hollow body through a Vox amp. His songs were complex, with jazzy chords and arrangements and a nice array of effects, but really well constructed and executed, and completely engaging. It’s been a long time since I’ve been out on the solo-acoustic circuit and the shows are so hit and miss – many empty - or worse, apathetic rooms and venues. Black Sheep, Corey and Walter were not that. These guys were great, the bar staff were so friendly and welcoming, and the crowd was present and responsive. It was a really good show.
My pal Jared showed up at some point. He plays bass in Flat Tracker, a band we’ve played with previously in town. Like everyone I’ve met here, he’s a super nice dude. We got caught up over a beer about all things Flat Tracker and Tucos and West Virginia and Michigan. I think that’s a big reason I keep doing this – so many great people I would never see otherwise. I met a whole bunch of new people, sold a surprising amount of merch, loaded out, asked Karen how her night had been as I hit the hotel in “Recent Places,” and headed east towards the hotel.
I was back in my room around midnight, relatively early. Hit the ice machine (that must have made the guests in #107 really happy) and enjoyed a nightcap in a disposable plastic cup before crashing out to some Forensic Files. Huntington continues to be a great stop, and every time I come here I like the city and the people more. Very much looking forward to coming back in the fall.
Today it’s off to Lexington, where I’ll stay tonight, then down to Danville where I’m playing a private show on a goat farm with some dear friends. What could possible be more awesome than that? It’s going to be a good night.