BY ALISE CHAFFINS
The traditional 25th anniversary gift is silver, but at 123 Pleasant Street in downtown Morgantown, it’s rock.
Or punk. Or folk. Or just about any style of music you can imagine.
This weekend, the live music venue celebrates its 25th anniversary with a lineup of music for just about every taste.
Originally built as houses, the buildings on Pleasant Street became prime locations for businesses during the 1920s. Various stores came and went over the next 60 years, until 1982 when the Underground Railroad opened up, bringing live music to downtown Morgantown.
Combined with WVU’s radio station U92, the alternative music scene began to thrive with local artists having a place to perform.
In the early 1990s, it was renamed as The Nyabinghi Dance Hall. While it was still a great place to see local and touring musicians, the building began showing its age, with numerous problems making it structurally unsafe, leading to it being condemned in February 1998.
But Morgantown local LJ Giuliani purchased the building in June 1998, and began the process of repairing and restoring it. With the help of others who were involved with both the URR and the Nyabinghi, the venue was able to reopen in October 1998, under the new, simple name, 123 Pleasant Street.
Giuliani said, “I was probably at the right place at the right time. A lot of my friends were patrons or musicians, and it was very much a home for a subset of our community. So for me, it was important to hold onto that dynamic and do what we could to honor that ethos and build on it.
“We wanted to be an inclusive place, a place that would allow creativity, whether on stage or through other mediums.”
123 Pleasant Street has served not only as a place to see great music, but also as a place to help the community. It has offered the space for benefits for people to raise money for local nonprofits that benefit others in Morgantown and surrounding areas.
During the pandemic, 123 allowed local musicians to perform online concerts to help raise funds during a time when no one could participate in live music. As venues began to open up, 123 offered its rooftop as a space where artists could perform to help keep people safe. This generosity is one of the things that makes it a beloved space for local musicians and national touring acts alike.
“Our ability to survive COVID speaks more to our community than anything else. That’s part of the importance of 123. I tell people that 123 is just a series of walls and a space. It’s the patrons and the community that make it what it is,” Giuliani said.
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of 123 Pleasant Street, there is a busy lineup of local and regional bands through the weekend. Giuliani wanted to highlight musicians who have played in the space back before it was 123, as well as some newcomers to the venue. Musicians like Todd Burge, Owen Davis and James Marinelli have been playing at 123 for years and will be present to celebrate the 25th anniversary.
The weekend will close out with a Mountain Stage After Jam. With Mountain Stage celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, it felt like a great way to recognize the way that the two have been a part of each other’s stories.
“I can’t say if I’ll do this for another 25 years, but the important thing for me is that we just continue to be a place where people can gather, people can create, and at the same time where we want to deliver a message. Whether it’s a rainbow on a wall or what’s happening inside, we want to communicate that 123 is a place that people can feel at home being who they are as long as they walk through the door with respect for others.”
You can find more information and purchase tickets for this weekend’s events at 123PleasantStreet.com.