Toys for Tunes 2015
As this Holiday Season comes to a close, there is one thing for sure the season for giving continues! Throughout the year I have the opportunity to attend many charitable events within the music community. As busy as I am, unfortunately I don’t make it to as many as I would like. Having the deepest ties to the Rock and Metal community, I have also noticed, due in part to those ties (I’m guessing), what a great “family” it is to be a part of when it comes to the generosity of Rockers in this world! One event that has become a staple for me is the Annual “Tunes for Toys” held in the Wheeling, West Virginia area. Now in its fourth year, it just keeps growing! More Bands, More Fans and More Children taken care of each year!
This event is multi-faceted in its presentation and delivery! First and foremost the main purpose is the charitable side! Sort of explained in the title of the event, “Tunes for Toys.” Just one of many of these type events that are orchestrated right around the holiday season each year, so I don’t want to take away from all the others who bust their back sides to put these shows together, but this show just happens to be in the area where I live! Also this show is an unbridled, unfiltered mesh of kick ass local talent cooking up some of the best Heavy Metal in the Upper Ohio Valley! And finally it is also a show of force from local Metal fans that are not only there for a great night of Metal, but also there to support the cause for which the annual event was born of in the first place! So let me tell you about all of it!
I have had the pleasure of attending this show for the last three years running and I can attest to the growing numbers each year and this year was no exception! The organizer for the event, dating back to the inaugural run is Big John Williams, Vocalist for not one, but two Metal Blade Records bands (Brimstone Coven and Necromancing the Stone). There seems to be some conflicting storylines involved here. When I sat down to talk with Williams about the event, he went on to name drop several people, for whom he accredited as integral players in the planning and execution of the event. Yet when I talked with several different employees of the host venue, Goodfellas Bar & Grill (https://www.facebook.com/goodfellasmcmechen), all fingers pointed right back to Williams as the one man machine responsible for the show! Whatever the case, it was a well put together event and as an outsider looking in, it appeared to be flawless in its execution!
I must give some kudos to the bands who volunteer their time each year to make this such an awesome event! This year I had the opportunity to see a few bands that I had yet to see live. And one band that I’ve been lucky enough to catch several times.
The night was kicked off with Plaugewielder. Though I really hate the one million and one sub-genre classifications that seem to be around in the Metal world these days, if I was to assign one, I would have to say Plaugewielder is melting pot of Blackened Doom with touches of Sludge and Death Metal. They brought the heavy fuzz early and often, setting the stage for a great night of music! (https://www.facebook.com/PlaguewielderOH … http://plaguewielderoh.bandcamp.com)
Not to be outdone, new comers to the scene Alpha Grey was pure explosive! Though pulling obvious influences from metalcore bands like Bullet for My Valentine, August Burns Red and As I Lay Dying there was an interesting injection of “groove” fitting of legendary bands such as Pantera and Soulfly! Not to forget what season it was, mid set, they broke out into a Christmas medley with that touch of metal darkness that would even make Trans-Siberian Orchestra proud! These guys are definitely one to watch as their existence progresses!
Up next, perennial face melters Curse the Wicked! As the only band I have had the pleasure of seeing live before, they were as usual on point! As a favorite among the local metal heads, Curse the Wicked brings forth a masterful and unique spin on metalcore. If I had to pull comparisons, it would most likely be right in line with the likes of Hatebreed and Chimaira. But that’s mere influence, as Curse the Wicked brings their own style to the table and when heard live….well you are kind of forced to feast upon that which they offer! Their set was, as always, phenomenal! No matter when and where this band performs they pour out their passion and you as a spectator can feel it! Ten people or Ten-thousand people, this band is amazing live!
Three bands into the night and the throttle was firmly jammed to the proverbial floor! The torch was passed to yet another up and coming local band. Female fronted, Defy The Tide was no less amped up than any of their predecessors this night! Bringing a fusion of metalcore style instrumentation with the vocal flair found in many power metal bands. Defy The Tide laid down a blistering set with high energy from start to finish. I look for this band to do wonderful things in the future! (https://www.facebook.com/DefyTheTide …. https://defythetide.bandcamp.com/ )
The final band of the evening, What Great Fangs, took the stage in full stride, though not exactly has I had expected. Based on the electrifying atmosphere that had continually grown throughout the night I expected them to blast out of the gate like a rocket ship. Not so much, however, not disappointing in the least! Their opening song was laden with endless amounts of funk and blues metal style riffs similar to bands like Clutch and Monster Magnet. As I had not seen this band before, I was not sure what to expect next! Well it was sort of like a roller coaster! No, not the one where you climb the hill then plummet into high G-Force thrills! Nope, not at all! It was like the one that slingshots you to 80 miles an hour in 1.3 seconds! Yep that one! Holy Cow! It was just into the second song that I realized that the first song was the waiting time as they got everyone buckled in for the ride! As they continued on it was apparent that not only did they pack that influence in their riffing to that of the aforementioned Clutch and Monster Magnet, but as they picked up the pace it was also apparent that they had constructed their musical stylings from the DNA from such bands as The Devil Wears Prada, Attila and Norma Jean! Though very diverse in their range of influence, there is no doubt that they are absolutely very unique! Great band!….’Nuff Said! (https://twitter.com/WhatGreatFangs … http://www.reverbnation.com/whatgreatfangs … https://www.facebook.com/WhatGreatFangs )
Now that I have told you about the amazing entertainment for the evening, allow me to tell you about the serious stuff! There is no doubt that the music moved me and just about everyone else in the building. But the biggest aura about the place this night was the sheer power of a brotherhood and sisterhood that we call Metal! When the “Call to Arms” is put out to help others there is no community that responds quite like the Metal community!
I had a chance to sit down with Willams and talk about the “Tunes for Toys” event, how it started, how it has grown over the past four years, where it stands now and what the future holds! Willams said that four years ago when he organized the first event “I never imagined that it would grow like it has. The premise was simple from the start. We just wanted to make some kids happy for the holidays who otherwise would have nothing, so Toys for Tots was perfect!” Those in attendance were simply asked to bring a new toy for admission, some bands would play, everyone would have a good time and some less fortunate
children would be able to get a few nice things for Christmas. There has been significant growth in attendance numbers since the first show. Williams said that the next step is to outgrow the current host venue. As the show entered its fourth year a problem arose. Willams’ contact in the Toys for Tots organization was no longer assigned to the Upper Ohio Valley area. The goose chase began! In the previous years after each show the toys were gathered from the show and delivered to Toys for Tots. Then the money raised was used to buy as many toys as possible and they were also delivered to Toys for Tots. This year’s event took a twist! With the lack of a Toys for Tots representative in the area the only option left was to deliver the toys to the Pittsburgh area location. Pittsburgh is located just over an hour to the north of the show site. Though the toys go to less fortunate children, they predominately service the immediate Pittsburgh area. Williams wanted to ensure the children in the local area was taken care of. At the close of the show, as always, the toys were gathered and prepared for delivery to Toys for Tots the next morning. Herein lies the twist: Williams and his festive minions raided a local retail store and cleared two entire “gift trees.” Several “gift trees” were placed by the local Social Service Department in area retail stores. The gift trees, in case you were wondering, are Christmas trees with hang tags with children’s names, who would most likely have done without, on them with. One simply can pull one of the tags from the tree and help out the child by buying and donating the requested items. The two trees were completely cleared so Williams’ and his crew went in search of the next tree they could find. Next stop was at a local shopping mall, with a big gift tree! No fear it was cleared as well. Williams’ said “Our shopping trip was not complete that day however!” Just four days later, after they gave Social Services a chance to replenish the “Christmas wishes” on the trees, they returned to the mall to clear the tree once again! As not to end this story there, Williams stated that when all the gift tags were fulfilled there was a total of $66 left. So as a parting gesture, the remaining money was dropped right into the “Red Kettle”, yeah you know the one I talking about, at the entrance to the mall.
There were many great side stories that came from this event that Williams shared with me during our chat, however, if I told them all to you I would be writing until mid-April. So I will leave you with this thought! This is not unlike many stories that I hear about year after year coming from the Metal Community that I am proud to call my family!
Stay metal and Have a very metal holiday season from all of us here at Adrenaline 101 Radio!