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Local band with Shepherd roots performs at SXSW

If you ask the members of Demon Beat what brought them together, they'll tell you it was a benefit concert held at Shepherd University in 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Today, they're making waves on their own, recently taking the stage at South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas.

The trio, made up of two Shepherd alumni Jordan Hudkins '08, from Cowen, and Tucker Riggleman '09, from Moorefield, and 24-year-old group front man Adam Meisterhans, of Parkersburg, is a hurricane in the sense that in a performance, the Demon Beat's energy and sound create the perfect storm.

In 2009, the group was hailed by the Boston Phoenix, a weekly music publication based in Massachusetts, as one of the best new bands in West Virginia. The rock-soul trio released their third full-length album in October 2009, and is releasing their newest project within the coming year.

SXSW, an annual interactive film and music festival, attracts more than 2,000 performers over the four-day event. The invitation to the event came about when Gene Griffin, owner and operator of the Austin-based promotional company Versatile Syndicate, saw the band's write-up in the Boston Phoenix. Griffin was impressed by their talent and invited them to attend the festival in early March. "We showed up in Austin with two (performances) and nowhere to stay, and he (Griffin) let us stay with him the entire week," Tucker said. "We ended up playing three shows and a house party."

One benefit of playing a major venue like SXSW is the networking that comes along with it. "We met a lot of cool people," Tucker said. "It's all networking." He said that a friend of their Austin-based promoter works with studios in Memphis and Nashville and plans to help them make contacts.

The Demon Beat originated in 2005 when then-sophomores Jordan and Adam, who knew each other prior to coming to Shepherd, decided to start a band. "Tucker showed up on our doorstep and the rest is history," Adam said. Jordan learned to play the drums specifically to start the band with Adam. "We had our first practice in Miller Hall, which at the time was the Honors dorm," Adam said. "I would practice with my electric guitar unplugged, and Jordan would practice the drums using textbooks."

The band attributes Hurricane Katrina for putting them together. In 2005, Tucker, then a freshman, was also the vice president of the Shepherd University 4-H. He was coordinating a benefit concert on campus with local talent to help his cousin, who was attending school in New Orleans and lost everything as a result of the disaster. "I had heard their recordings, and I booked their band, my band, and some other groups," Tucker said. "We did this benefit show, and they were awesome."

Tucker said he liked what Jordan and Adam were doing. "I wasn't used to that kind of music," Tucker said. "I was the only one who was in bands back in my hometown, but it was the kind of band I always wanted to be in." Adam taught Tucker some bass lines, and Tucker went on to join the duo and perform at shows around the area.

The Demon Beat played local venues and various shows on campus including the Ram's Den, Daily Grind in Martinsburg, Stonewall's Pub, and the War Memorial Building. During 2006, the band members were a part of three other bands, in addition to devoting themselves to the Demon Beat, all of which performed at the Battle for ShepFest in 2006.

The band members say they attempt to work under the mantra of keeping it real. "We don't take ourselves too seriously, but don't make it a huge joke either," Jordan said.

"We respect what we're doing and the traditions of it," Adam said. "Anytime you do something that's blues based, it's important to know where it came from--it's something we've always respected. I don't think that has anything to do with our success, but I think it's really important. I guess we care more about doing our thing than being famous."

Tucker, who runs the booking and promotion aspect of the group, says he doesn't expect people to hand them opportunities, but that success comes from going after their goals. "No one is going to hand you anything, and we don't expect that," he said. "I feel like a lot of bands get a few songs together and play a few shows and sit around and wait. We wanted to play in New York a year and a half ago, so we played in New York and now we have a decent following (there). We said last year we wanted to go to Austin and play at South West, and we played every single day."

Tucker said that the band's philosophy has been to do the work for themselves. "When you do it yourself, you don't owe anyone anything," he said. "Any good thing that has happened is because the three of us have put in the work and put on good performances."

Adam said that another defining factor is the work ethic that comes with being from West Virginia. While each of them comes from different parts of the state, all have the same thing in common: work hard until you retire, he said.

Tucker currently works at two local Shepherdstown establishments, serving as the bar manager at Blue Moon and working and promoting shows, and working at Maria's Taqueria. But his primary focus is Big Bullet Records, which is run out of the house the band mates share.

Big Bullet Records began in spring 2008 as a means to motivate and unify musicians in the Shepherdstown area. Since it started, it quickly developed into a vast network of passionate musicians and artists. Each of the three members of the Demon Beat has a role with Big Bullet Records. Tucker helps with promotions and booking; Jordan designs logos and album art; and Adam, until recently, donated recording services.

"The more you do it, the better you get, and more contacts you make," Tucker said. "The more bands you meet, the more ins you get. If you can share those with your friends' bands, and they're out touring and meeting new people, it's exponential growth." Adam defines it as "a big family of independent music."

Jordan, who graduated from Shepherd with a degree in graphic design, currently works at DALB, a manufacturer of printed signage and parts for vending equipment and specialized products in Kearneysville.

In the past, Adam provided recording sessions at no cost to the artists who came through Big Bullet Records. His goal is to record full time. Currently, he works at Food Lion and also gives guitar lessons.

The group plans to continue recording and shares one common goal--to continue making music while they're still having fun. "We're just playing it by ear. That's always been our thing," Adam said. "Our big plan is to just go until we're not having fun anymore."

"Whenever a normal job is more fun then this, then I'll stop," Tucker said. "But I don't really see that happening."

"If someone points us in the right direction, we rock and roll," Jordan said.

* Jillian Kesner


v i d e o

p h o t o s

Pictured (l. to r.) are Tucker Riggleman, Adam Meisterhans, and Jordan Hudkins.

The Demon Beat performing in Brooklyn, New York.

The Demon Beat performing at South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas.

w e b s i t e s

The Demon Beat on MySpace

The Demon Beat on Facebook

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