James Haney, left, and Jeff Martyn of NailMary find too few venues in Medford for live performances. Mail Tribune Photo / Jamie Lusch - Jamie Lusch

NailMary is keepin' the faith

Original live rock 'n' roll seems to be slumbering underground these days in Southern Oregon, forcing local and regional bands to fight to get gigs and stay visible in a climate of dance-oriented, Top 40 venues.

NailMary is no exception, but the band's attempt to keep the hard rock scene alive is aided by its members' boundless enthusiasm, dedication and creativity.

"All the clubs around Southern Oregon are focused on cover bands," says James Haney, guitarist and founding member of NailMary. Noting that many venues in the past had success booking rock bands, Haney wrestles with the lack of club owner interest in the genre, but he also sees hope for the future. "The interest in metal is here, we just need the clubs to be open to try it again," he says.

NailMary and other regional rock/metal bands used to fill local venues to near capacity levels of attendance, he says, with many now defunct clubs such as Highwaters and Time Out teeming with patrons.

These days it's down to one club, Johnny B's, and local bands including NailMary are taking advantage of their remaining opportunity to play live. Johnny Bach, owner of Johnny B's and member of several local bands, is a steadfast supporter of local music and is promoting bands in an attempt to revitalize the Southern Oregon scene.

NailMary will be performing in the Rogue Valley for the first time in six months at 10 p.m. Friday, Dec. 21, at Johnny B's, 35 S. Bartlett St. in downtown Medford.

Founded in 1997 by Haney and bassist Chris Benavente, NailMary has been through a number of changes and ultimately evolved into its current four-man incarnation. In 2000 the band added front-man Jeff Martyn and drummer Ryan Bierly and began crafting a sound that is unique, oddly danceable and groove-oriented for what is perceived as a "metal" band.

NailMary is a mixture of the hard, droning beats of metal rock and an eclectic, bouncy dance rhythm bordering on funky. Members are conscious of the pitfalls of genre music and are eager not to be just another "metal" band. As Martyn says, "It's an energy."

Their lyrics are thoughtful and accessible, not just doom and negativity. "I'm not trying to get a message out, I just want the audience to feel the energy," Martyn says.

All their work and dedication has paid off with a number of shows with highly visible, commercially successful groups (Jackyl and Quiet Riot) and an increasing fan base in Eugene, Medford and Redding, Calif. NailMary also has garnered some media attention across the country, including airplay in New England and Southern California. Its music has been showcased on an extreme sports video series called "Brappp" with other highly successful bands such as Pennywise and Bouncing Souls.

The band comes across well in the recorded format, but as the singer and co-songwriter Martyn says, "Playing live captures our sound better. The live act captures the energy of the music better as well."

NailMary thrives on audience response. Playing live throughout the Pacific Northwest, members have honed their skills and have become a powerful, enchanting live act. "I want people to swell, surge when they hear our music," Haney says.

Cover for the show at Johnny B's costs $4. Call 773-1900.

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