2nd annual Coal River Songwriters’ Festival finishes strong with night of local music at the Alban Arts Center

By Matthew Young, RealWV

SAINT ALBANS, W.Va. – The Coal River Songwriters’ Festival capped off its three-day event Saturday, with a packed house at the Alban Arts Center. Abby Blackner, Travis Vandall, Megan Wooten Lerose, Spencer Elliot, Anne Melton, Sam Eplin, Makenna Hope, and many others delivered inspired original performances, while Buzz Browning with Oldies 96.9 FM served as the evening’s emcee. 

“It’s called the ‘songwriters’ festival,’” Browning told the crowd in attendance. “This is all original material, and all these artists performing – these are songs that they have written. Take that to heart.” 

“They wrote the music, they wrote the lyrics, and it’s all their music,” Browning added. 

Makenna Hope performs at the Alban Arts Center during night three of the Coal River Songwriters’ Festival, on May 4. Video by Matthew Young, RealWV.

Born from the popularity of the Coal River Coffee Company’s weekly Thursday night open mic, the Songwriters’ Festival marked its second anniversary in 2024. The passion project of Saint Albans-based musicians James Townsend and Chris Sutton, 2024’s festival served as both a celebration of, and a ‘coming out party’ introducing all of West Virginia to the depth of Saint Albans’ music scene. 

“Before Coal River Coffee came to Olde Main (Street), this area of Saint Albans was kind of like a ghost town as far as the arts were concerned,” Townsend told RealWV during a rehearsal last Saturday. “Just one small coffee shop opening up simply provided a space for artists and creatives to gather. That alone planted the seed of a scene.”

Sam Eplin performs at the Alban Arts Center during night three of the Coal River Songwriters’ Festival, on May 4. Video by Matthew Young, RealWV.

The festival kicked off on Thursday with open mic night at the Coal River Coffee Company, and continued Friday with a live radio broadcast accompanied by a block party. Saturday night’s finale saw 18 local musicians grace the Alban Theatre stage.

“What makes this festival unique, I think, is that it’s really people who are part of this movement of music and art in Saint Albans,” Sutton said, while speaking with RealWV two weeks ago. “We’re encouraging people to come to the show, but we’re here every week. We want it to be very Saint Albans local-driven.”

Saturday night’s performances from the Alban Arts Center are available to watch on the Coal River Renaissance Facebook page, or by clicking the links below:

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