the Contrarians: no longer available for bookings, CDs/mp3's/streaming available
John Longwell: mandolin, saxophone, tenor banjo, fiddle
A four piece contradance band, the Contrarians of West Virginia play contradance and square dance music on fiddles, mandolin, electric and acoustic guitars, stick bass, soulful sax, tenor banjo and foot percussion!
A Contrarians event delivers dazzling melody - including some great original tunes - along with a solid yet imaginative approach to rhythm. The band has consistently "wowed the crowd" at dances and dance weekends throughout Ohio-Kentucky-West Virginia and beyond. Their self-titled CD, released in late 2007, shows "why the band is in great demand at Contradances from Washington DC to Cleveland...." according to Paul Gartner of the Charleston Gazette. In 2017 they released the CD, Balance and Shout!
The Contrarians evolved from the former Trusty House Band, local favorites of FOOTMAD's dance community in Charleston, WV in 1990's. Since their first dance weekend appearance at Pigtown Fling (Cincinnati) in 2001, their dance music has brought rave reviews. They've become in important part of the regional dance calendar and increasingly present at special dances and weekends, also performing in concert settings which showcase their wide ranging talents including singing and songwriting.
The Contrarians are comfortable in a variety of styles and traditions: Celtic, New England, swing, and of course, old-time (Appalachian). They also write original material. With rhythmic variety, occasional glimpses of ethnic music, and unique improvisations, dancers let loose and never lose interest in the music.
Venues and Gigs played
Looking Glass Music and Dance Festival (2017) Lansing, MI
Whitewater Whirl: Fayetteville, WV (2017 and every year since it started in 2005)-- a dance weekend
the first weekend in May in the heart of the New River Gorge with opportunities for whitewater rafting,
rock climbing, a beautiful camp setting, wood dance floor, top notch music and calling. This dance was started by Gary Reynolds (formerly of the Contrarians) and is now sponsored by FOOTMAD
New Year's Eve Dance (2016), Louisville, KY
Culture Fest: Appalachian Folk Life Center, Pipestem, WV (2014)
New Year's Eve Dance (2015), Carrboro Century Center, NC
June Moon Dance Weekend, Morgantown, WV (2009-2016), annual event on a beautiful farm dance pavilion, camping, community. Unfortunately, 2016 may have been its last year.
ValleyCopia and ContraCopia (2014) Officially two separate events, but call them twin sisters. ValleyCopia is the day after Thanksgiving in Bethlehem, PA: 2 bands/callers 6 hrs. of contra; Contracopia the following day in Philadelphia: 3 bands/callers 9 hrs. of contra.
Good RidDANCE 2012, Charleston, WV (2012) FOOTMAD's New Year's Eve Ball including a ball drop, contra, waltz, swing, lots of food, and a sparkling cider toast!
Hands Four Dance Weekend, Berea, KY (2012) A celebration of contra, squares, and other forms of folk dance at the Acton Folk Life Center.
Gypsy Meltdown near Charlotte, NC (Camp Thunderbird, SC) (2012) What fun! Great camp with a
beautiful lake, good food, nice cabins, great floor...http://www.charlottedancegypsies.org/
New Years Eve "On Broadway" Asheville, NC (2011) We were swinging and so were the dancers. Top hats and tails were in!
Atlanta Sole Fest, Atlanta, GA (2011, 2010), Doug Singleton started this event which has morphed into Catapult Contra Showcase. In 2011 we enjoyed swapping sets with Perpetual e-Motion
Appalachian Spring III, and IV Elk Park, NC (April 2011 and 2012) another of Warren Doyle's wonderful events!
Mountain Madness, Jonesborough, TN (October, 2009) this was a great weekend with Crowfoot, Beth Molaro and Bob Isaacs.
ContrAddiction, Maryville, TN (near Knoxville- 2010) 10 hours of contra, swing, and waltz on Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend. Unfortunately, the weekend has been discontinued.
Contrathon: Jonesborough, TN (though formerly held in other locations in NC (2014, 2010, 2008, 2007) -- a 10am-10pm dance on Sunday of Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends. Beautiful location at the Mountain Music Jamboree. This event has moved to Jonesborough, TN in recent years and was originally called Carolina Contrathon.
FOOTMAD Fall Fling, formerly called FOOTMAD JAMboree and Footmad Fall Festival, Fayetteville,
WV ('14, 13', '12, '10, '09, '05, '04, '01 and several previous years); small, more than just dancing--good jamming--worth a visit (this is our hometown folk and dance community) Inexpensive--a great bargain. (discontinued)
Salty Swirl: Wilmington, NC (2009) an annual February celebration for the Cape Fear Contra Dancers.
Contradancers Delight Holiday: Morgantown, WV (2009) an annual event that runs from Dec 26 through Dec 30 at a resort hotel. The event is put together by Warren Doyle and his wife Terri. Two bands and two callers provide 8 hrs of dancing each day (plus workshops and concerts!).
Dance in the Middle (2009, 2008): Grove City, PA a Friday/Saturday mini-weekend in Northwest PA
Swing Shift (2008): Lexington and Berea, KY. Contra in Lex Friday Night, Swing and Contra Saturday
in Berea to make a nice "mini-weekend".
Pigtown Fling, Cincinatti, OH (2006, 2001) A big, big dance weekend, and a big, big time
Potato Run: near Louisville, KY (2004)-- an intimate dance wknd in a lovely state park (discontinued)
Cleveland New Year's Eve Dance at Rocky River (2013, 2005, 2003) -- what better way to ring in a new year?
AACTMAD Halloween Weekend, Ann Arbor, MI (2003) -- Spooky, but fun
Dandelion Romp, Oberlin, OH (2002) An energetic dance weekend on a small campus
Balance and Spin, Clifftop, WV (2001) It spun out...fun, but no longer happening.
Wild Wonderful Weekend, Elkins, WV (2002, 2001, 2000) This used to be held on MLK weekend, but unfortunately I think winter weather in Elkins in January made it too hard.
Regional Dances Played:
The Contrarians have been to over 1/4 of U.S. states:
D.C. (Glen Echo, MD): Friday Night Dance, and FSGW
IN: Indianapolis, Bloomington
KY: Lexington, Louisville, Berea
MI: Ann Arbor , Clawson,
MO: St. Louis
NC: Triangle; Asheville;
NY: NYC; NYC
OH: Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland, Athens, Dayton
PA: Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh CMU, Glenside (Philadelphia)
SC: Greenville, River Falls, Charleston, Columbia
TN: Jonesborough, Nashville,
VA: Blacksburg, Charlottesville, Richmond, Floyd, Roanoke
WV: Charleston, Shepherdstown, Morgantown, Wheeling
Sep 11 (Sa) Charleston, WV FOOTMAD 40th Anniversary Celebration, Trinity Lutheran Church grounds
(this was our final gig--we played for some dancing in the parking lot and with Joe Mirenna and Becky Kimmons did some old Booger Hole Revival material (a band John and Paul were in in the late 1970's). You can find video on the FOOTMAD Facebook page.
Feb 21 (Sa) Charleston, WV FOOTMAD Contra dance, Bream Memorial Activity Bldg.-
(we played this gig--and then COVID hit)
May 1 (F) Beckwith, WV Whitewater Whirl Dance Weekend (playing Friday night only)
(this one got cancelled, of course
Mar 8 (F) Pittsburgh, PA
Mar 16 (Sa) Charleston, WV Empty Glass (St. Pat's Pub Crawl)
Apr 13 (Sa) Cincinnati Wyoming Fine Arts Center
Aug 14 Charleston, WV Retirement Party (by invitation)
Oct 5 (Sa) private wedding Meadow Bridge, WV
Nov 16 (Sa) Columbus, OH, Big Sciota Contra dance
Feb 3 (Sa) Lexington, KY
Feb 17 (Sa) Blacksburg, VA
March 17 (Sa) Pub Crawl, Charleston
May 4-5 (F-Sa) Beckwith, WV Whitewater Whirl
May 11 (F) Carrboro, NC
June 2 (Sa) Cincinnati, OH
August 19 (Sa) Louisville, KY
Sep 15 (Sa) Charleston, WV
Nov 17 (Sa) Columbus, OH
May 5-6 (F-Sa) Whitewater Whirl, Beckwith WV with Party of Three, Gaye Fifer and Darlene Underwood;
May 19 (F), Charleston, SC contra dance
May 20 (S), Columbia, SC contra dance
Oct 7-8 (S-Su) Looking Glass Contra Dance Weekend, Lansing, MI w/ Pete's Posse, Bev Bernbaum, Will Mentor
Oct 14 (S) Athens, OH contra dance
Nov 18 (S) Columbus, OH contra dance
Dec 8 (F) Carrboro, NC contra dance
Feb 5 (F) Friday Night Dance, Glen Echo Park, MD
Feb 6 (S) Shepherdstown, WV - contra dance
Feb 7 (Su) Folk Society Greater Washington Dance, Glen Echo Park, MD
Mar 5 (Sa) Roanoke contra dance
Mar 12 (Sa) FOOTMAD contra dance, Charleston, WV
Mar 19 (Sa) The Empty Glass, Charleston, WV 7-9:30 pm as part of East End St. Patrick's Day Pub Crawl
Apr 2 (S) Big Scioty, Columbus, OH - contra dance
May 6-8 (F-Sa) Whitewater Whirl, Fayette County Park, Beckwith, WV with Maivish, Gaye Fifer and Tom Hinds.
Contrarians play Fri/Sat., Maivish all weekend.
May 20 (F) Pittsburgh contra dance
May 21 (Sa) Pittsburgh house concert
May 22 (Su) Pittsburgh waltz (1 pm Carnegie Mellon U.) contra (5:30 pm, CMU)
June 24-26 (F-Sa) June Moon Dance Weekend, Morgantown WV, with Hotpoint Stringband, Gaye Fifer, Sarah VanNorstrand and Ron Buchanan! Contrarians Friday/Saturday only.
Aug 13 (Sa) Cincinnati - contra dance
Oct 15 (Sa) Columbus, OH - contra dance
Nov 3 (Th) Asheville, NC - Old Farmers Ball contra dance
Nov 4 (F) Greenville, SC - contra dance
Nov 5 (Sa) Gainesville, GA - contra dance
Dec 17 (Sa) Blacksburg VA - contra dance
Dec 31 (Sa) New Year's Eve Dance - Louisville, KY
Jan 25 (W) Copper Pint Pub, Charleston, WV 7-9 pm
March 4 (W) Copper Pint Pub, Charleston, WV 7-9 pm
March 14 (S) Fireside Bar (above Little India), Charleston, WV 8:30-9:30 pm. This is part of the East End Pubcrawl, a St. Patrick's Weekend celebration and benefits FOOTMAD.
March 27 (Fr) Greenville, SC contra dance
March 28 (Sa) River Falls, SC contra dance
April 1 (W) Copper Pint Pub, Charleston, WV 7-9 pm
May 1-3 (F-Su) Whitewater Whirl, Beckwith, WV Bands: Contrarians (F-Sa), Coffee Zombies (Sa-Su), Callers: Gaye Fifer and Emily Abel, Sat late night techno: DJ Improper.
May 13 (W) Copper Pint Pub, Charleston, WV 7-9 pm
June 10 (W) Copper Pint Pub, Charleston, WV 7-9 pm
June 26-28 (F-Su) June Moon Dance Weekend, Morgantown, WV
Nov 19 (Th) Old Farmer's Ball, Asheville, NC contra dance
Nov 20 (F) Old Farmer's Ball Advanced Dance, Asheville, NC contra dance
Nov 21 (Sa) Jonesborough, TN contra dance
Dec 5 (Sa) Lexington, KY contra dance
Dec 18 (F) Berea, KY contra dance
Dec 19 (Sa) Louisville, KY contra dance
Dec. 31 (Th) New Year's Eve Dance, Carrboro, NC 8pm-midnight!
Jan 31 (Fr) All Soles, Columbus, OH - contra dance: make it a weekend in Columbus (see below)!
Feb 1 (Sa) Big Scioty, Columbus, OH - contra dance
Feb 2 (Su) Natalie's, Worthington, OH (northern Columbus suburb) - Sunday brunch (11-2 pm)
Feb 14 (Fr) Triangle Country Dancers, Carrboro, NC
Feb 15 (Sa) Fiddle and Bow Country Dancers, Greensboro, NC
May 2-4 (Fr-Sa) Whitewater Whirl, Fayette County Park, Beckwith, WV with Mean Lids, Gaye Fifer and
Shawn Brenneman! Contrarians play Friday and Saturday, Mean Lids Saturday and Sunday.
June 14 (Sa) Cincinnati Contra Dancers, Cincinnati, OH - contra dance
June 27-29 (Fr-Sa) June Moon Dance Weekend, Morgantown WV, with Hot Point, Sara VanNorstrand, Gaye
Fifer and Ron Buchanan!
August 23 (Sa) Roanoke, VA contra dance, George Segebade calling
August 30 (Sa) Jonesborough, TN contra dance
August 31 (Su) Contrathon XVI, Jonesborough, TN 10 am-11 pm with Emily Rush and Emily Abel calling,
Contrarians and Mountain Mayhem providing the dance music! On "Serenity Knoll", David Wiley's
extraordinary outdoor dance hall.
Sep 6 (Sa) Culturefest, Pipestem, WV: Appalachian South Folklife Center (Sept. 4-7) 1 hr. afternoon
Sep 20 (Sa) Morgantown contra and swing dance
Oct 24 (Fr) Pittsburgh, PA contra dance
Nov 28 (Fr) ValleyCopia on Friday, Bethlehem, PA - day after Thanksgiving Contrarians with Cis Hinkle for evening dance afternoon dance Sue Rosen with Bruce and George.
Nov 29 (Sa) ContraCopia, Philadelphia, PA Bands: Contrarians, Morrison Brothers, George Wilson and Bruce Rosen, Callers: Sue Rosen, Tom Hinds, Cis Hinkle, 9 hours of dancing
Dec 5 (Fr) Louisville, Ky contra dance
Dec 6 (Sa) Lexington, Ky contra dance
We apologize, but we did not start keeping online records until 2014!