The town of West Chester offers many places for students and community members alike to perform their original music, poetry, and stand-up comedy. From the busy bar scene to smaller coffeehouses, every weekend features an influx of young kids with acoustic guitars and crumpled-up poetry finding its way out of someone’s pocket onto a stage. This week for Jeffrey’s Jams, 91.7 WCUR DJ Nick Sortino and I sat down with West Chester University student Casey Homa to discuss the VFW Post 106, a brand new venue that he opened up to welcome some fresh, new talent and give local musicians a place to shine. Speaking as both veteran performers and concertgoers of the local music scene in West Chester, Nick and I are nothing short of proud of Casey’s hard work and amazed by his results.
1) Why do you feel like the local music scene at West Chester needed a new venue?
Over the last 5 or 6 years, I’ve met a lot of awesome people through hardcore / punk / metal / indie shows. I’m not originally from West Chester, so most of the people that I have met are from Bucks County and Philly. When I first arrived here, I immediately did my research and found out that the New Button (the last consistent house that still hosted local shows) was the best spot in town at the time. I could go into a long, lengthy description of all the people I met, but I’ll just leave it at this: West Chester’s underground music scene is very welcoming to all newcomers. Since most of the dudes who lived there have moved away, we’ve been without a consistent venue for a few months. We still have Fennario’s in town which occasionally has some pretty cool shows, but the heavier and crazier shows are difficult to host there, as they take place in the attic of a fully functioning coffee shop.
After talking to a lot of friends since the New Button closed several months ago, we decided that it would be important to look for a solid DIY venue that we’d be able to host shows at for the foreseeable future. Luckily, the VFW on the outskirts of town is letting us rent it out for shows. Outside of the hipster vermin who seem to flood the streets in growing numbers every day, there are a lot of kids who are actually interested in rebuilding what was once a pretty cool escape from the totally diarrhea culture we are subjected to whether we like it or not. This new venue will be the perfect place to start hosting bigger shows for kids into hardcore, punk and metal. It’s got tons of space and plenty of parking, so it’ll be nice to have a crowd of younger kids from the area mixed with everyone from the surrounding areas who are able to drive.
2) Can you detail the process you went through in order to open this venue?
At first, I had actually tried to turn the basement of Fairman’s Skate Shop into a temporary venue. It almost worked, but they had plans for the unused space underneath the store that would completely get in the way of trying to host shows there. After that failed, my friend Mike and I took a drive out to the VFW on Lincoln Ave. to meet up with one of their staff members to discuss the possibility of hosting several shows there. They were open to the idea, and just like that we’re doing our first show on November 21st. Usually when places that are open to hall rentals hear that you want to put shows together, they will give you the runaround until you lose interest, but we could tell that this spot is truly interested in working with us.
3) Is there a genre focus for these concerts? Are there any specific bands you could talk about?
Generally, they will be hardcore / punk / metal shows. November 21st, we’ve got Steel Nation, Pillars of Villainy, Eternal Sleep, Good Times, Afterparty, Rollin’ Loaded, and Bandit. It’s a nice mixed-genre show to kick off the opening of this new spot. That’s the only complete show we have so far, and I can’t give out any clues as to what else is in the works (even though I’m getting asked about it constantly).
There are tons of local bands that are either just starting out or already have a decent following, and I couldn’t even begin to list them here. What I can tell you is that if you’re interested in finding out more about hardcore / punk / metal bands, then start coming to shows, meeting new people, and you’ll be on the right path.
4) Do you believe that this will draw out more university students to go to shows or perform in them?
We can only hope so! West Chester is a very diverse place and many students come from different areas all around Pennsylvania and other surrounding states. I know for a fact that there are several kids into punk and hardcore that feel as if there aren’t many others locally that share similar interests, and thus they feel as if their local scene is nonexistent. We’re throwing flyers for this upcoming show EVERYWHERE, and we’ve already had a great response from many people, including several that we have just recently met. It’s inevitable that we can’t make anyone come out to these, so that’s why we try to put shows together that appeal to anyone who is into underground music. Even if very few students decide not to come out and would rather sit at home on tumblr posting pictures of cats and “inspirational” lyrics from mall-metal bands all day, West Chester is geographically in a perfect location for people in the surrounding areas who actually care about underground music to come out. I feel very optimistic about the future of local shows in West Chester and we all look forward to seeing a noticeable change for the best. Before I go, Big shoutouts to Kenny Miller and Justin Wilson for working side-by-side with us, and the best of luck to them in their ongoing project to turn Fennario’s into an even better venue.
Jeffrey Holmes is a third-year student double majoring in English and philosophy. He can be reached JH791223@wcupa.edu. Nick Sortino is a third year student majoring in history. He can be reached at NS790101@wcupa.edu.