History of 123 Pleasant Street [Morgantown, West Virginia]

History of 123 Pleasant Street [Morgantown, West Virginia]

reprinted from: http://www.123pleasantstreet.com/misc/history/4

Page 4: The Underground Railroad, the Dry House, and the Underground, 1982-1990 

In 1982, 123 (the stage room) and 125 (the upper room) became the home to a vibrant Morgantown music community with the opening of The Underground Railroad (URR), largely conceived and operated by the now-legendary (in Morgantown, at least) Marsha Ferber.

Marsha and a group of friends with a common interest in music and a distaste for the status quo of the early 1980s spawned the idea of a bar where music was the binding force bringing together all types of people in a peaceful atmosphere.

The Underground Railroad’s name came from her desire to have a place where people could “find their way to freedom,” by interacting and listening to music without regard to skin color, dress, sexuality, hair style, or ideas. Harriet Tubman, the heroine of the real Underground Railroad, was painted on the wall of 123 and came to symbolize the bar’s concept of basic equality among all people.

The bar reflected Marsha’s idealism, her politics, and her taste in music. To help things out, at nearly the same time U92 (the WVU student radio station) went on the air with an alternative format and began supporting local music, while the student newspaper, the DA, began to follow happenings and shows at the bar with interest. To complete the circle an independent record store on High Street called Backstreet Records began carrying local music in conjunction with stuff you couldn’t find anywhere else. Morgantown’s underground music scene was born.

The Underground Railroad specialized in music-inspired fun, with healthy doses of art and politics which emanated an energy that invigorated Morgantown. It was the Reagan years after all, and there was revolution in the air among those not of the conservative mind-set.

There had always been local bands and artists in Morgantown, but the arrival of a venue which supported them on a long-term basis inspired a flowering of original music, art, and nearly anything else people wanted to put on the stage or the walls. Moreover, beginning with a show by Bo Diddley in January 1985, nationally known bands started showing up on the URR stage at an ever-increasing rate. The Dry House, an all-ages venue, opened in the lower room in 1985. The Brick Row building was showing its age by this time, but it became a place that drew people back again and again.
[Note: During URR days the liquor bar was in the stage room. The upper room was turned into a vegetarian eatery (during the day) and bar area at night. The Blue Ribbon Restaurant, two doors up from 123 in what is now The Adventure’s Edge store, was a standard visit for Undergrounders after long nights of music.]

The Daily Athenaeum, April 24, 1986

In the spring of 1988, the pivotal Morgantown band Th’ Inbred broke up, and student favorites Shank Swing and the Divots called it quits also. Still, April of 1988 was like any other month at the Underground RR, with a bevy of bands playing. This changed on April 25, the day owner Marsha Ferber walked out of the bar and disappeared without a trace. She was never seen again. Marsha was reported missing but the police, her family, and her friends never turned up any substantial leads to her whereabouts either dead or alive. Like Elvis, one can still hear rumours of Marsha sightings from ex-Morgantownies around the world. The case is still open.

An article about Marsha’s Disappearance from the DA, 1988

“Duff’s Band List,” 1989

The employees kept the venue running for another year but it closed, along with The Dry House, seemingly for good, in late May of 1989, one year after Marsha’s disappearance. In January, 1990, the bar changed hands and reopened as “The Underground.” The Underground only lasted about 6 months, when the bar changed hands again.

New Zealand’s Axemen at WFMU New York (broadcast 24 November 2009)

Reprinted from: http://blog.wfmu.org/freeform/2009/11/new-zealands-axemen-at-wfmu.html

Downloads and Links:

Download Zip File of Live Audio Tracks

One of the big touring surprises for 2009 has to be the visit of New Zealand’s legendary Axemen to U.S. shores.

The band began in Christchurch in 1981 and stood somewhat aside of the pop path exhibited by much of the the Flying Nun label roster, but are without doubt one of the more fascinating Kiwi exports.

Various live shows and releases displayed a loose but virulent amalgamation of avant-garage, Half Japanese style sax primitivism, confusion, and general air of maladjusted greatness.

They’ve got two reissues “Big Cheap Motel” and “Scary!” out now on Siltbreeze, and are hitting the road coast to coast with Times New Viking.

– Brian Turner/WFMU (WFMU Playlist & Streaming Archive for BT’s show)

View Full Radio Show Details 

View Live Track Details 

Play Full Radio Show (MP3)

Host: Brian Turner
Engineer: Jason Sigal with Alex Yockey
Released:November 24th, 2009

November 24, 2009

New Zealand’s Axemen at WFMU (MP3’s)

Axemenlive It’s a chore enough these days for any kind of overseas band to land a U.S. tour on any scale, so its was nothing less than a pleasant surprise when we learned that New Zealand’s Axemen had a pretty extensive one lined up with Columbus, Ohio’s Times New Viking this fall.

The Axemen started in Christchurch in 1981, a time when New Zealand and Flying Nun records in particular were stirring up a major musical waves (ones that were felt in countless 1990’s US indie bands and are still being felt today especially disciples like TNV), yet the sweeping, strummy pop element that was evident in many of the Nun’s stable was only a part of the fuzzy picture that was the Axemen.

The band’s central core of (Little) Stevie McCabe, Bob Brannigan, and Stu Kawowski recorded in both cheapo home mode and in traditional studios, but setting had little to do with the wide-swing of directions that are evident wherever you drop a needle (or cue up a tape).

There’s tons of basement weirdness nodding to the more antisocial Velvets and Swell Maps moments, scatterings of drunken White Album recreation attempts, even moments where they sound like Royal Trux way before their time.

When they played at Union Pool in Brooklyn last week I could swear they were going for a Stackwaddy/Doors thing, but then they became Half Japanese with Stevie playing sax solos on guitar. In Axemen recordings, they have one song about Elmer Fudd that sounds like Psychic TV, and another that is totally inspired by Grandmaster Flash. They even did a full album of Elton John songs. I have a feeling that if Flying Nun gave them the giant studio budget like they did Straitjacket Fits they would have come up with an album just as great as their Big Cheap Motel and Scary! Part III cassettes that Siltbreeze thankfully reissued in 2009.

Check out the clip below (and more after the jump) of the band on a 90’s NZ kids’ TV show (promoting their Peter Wang Pud album!), and dig in to their November 20th visit to my radio show, engineered by Jason Sigal and Alex Yockey.Thanks for Terre T for leaving us all the food the Reigning Sound didn’t eat earlier that day, there were some fancy pastries!

The Axemen Live at WFMU, Brian Turner’s show

Lineup: (Little) Stevie McCabe, Stu Kawowski, Bob Brannigan, Dragan Stojanovic

Promo video for Three Virgins LP (being reissued by Siltbreeze in 2010):

You cand find more on the Axemen’s My Space page and Y2K blog,the latter of which has updates on sometimes-member Mick Elborado’s recent exploits at his workplace; he recently drove his car through the lobby of his employers’ building, New Zealand’s equivalent of the IRS. No one was hurt, but New Zealand’s government might be learning a thing or two about satisfying employees’ gripes in the future.

Posted by Brian Turner on November 24, 2009 at 06:27 PM in Brian Turner’s Posts, MP3s, Music, Video Clips | Permalink