Thursday, September 10, 2009
Bell Brothers on Tour: Living the Rock & Roll Lifestyle
The Bell Brothers - The Bellabaster Tour (2000 WDYO)
1. Chris With Guns
2. Live 6.22.97
3. Sunny Acres Plaza
4. Spandex & Trumpet Playing Elvis . 11th Annual Fly-In & Thresher's Reunion . Starchy Chaps In Bloom
5. Night Of Conviction
7. Moisture Supply
8. Star Pap
11. Underwater . Computer Games, Tobacco, Nose Bleeds
15. Crippled Conversation
Chris Leiser - bass (keys, sitar, drums, tone generator)
Brian Doub - guitar, pedal steel (banjo, bass, drums, tone generator)
Eric Jackson - guitar (keys, bass, drums, tone generator)
Will Dyar - drums (banjo, tone generator)
John Bryan - vocals, coral firefly vincent bell siganture guitar (#2,4,6)
Susan Aikins - viola (#9)
#1,2,4,5,6,9: originally released as CACTI JIVE Ep
#10-16: originally released as CANADIAN BREATHING GAME
The material; on this disc was compiled by Eric Jackson and Brian Doub specifically for the Bell Brothers and Malabaster tour of 2000. Nearly half the songs were on their CACTI JIVE Ep cassette on WDYO and most of the other half from their CANDIAN BREATHING GAME cassette on the same label. This disc was sold at shows throughout the tour, and afterward was picked up for distribution by Mass Dist Records. Of the songs that are not from one of the two cassettes; "Star Pap" was actually an old Pop Equations song from before the Bell Brothers existed, and always had a 'Malabaster' sound to it. "Moisture Supply" is from the CACTI JIVE session and was actually put on certain copies, depending on the run of cassettes, while "Sunny Acres Plaza" was a new song since the release of the two cassettes; which was recorded and added to the disc. This CD leaves off a few tracks from each cassette, and is not a complete compiling of all the Bell Brothers officially released material; but it's the only digital release of any of their material during the band's existence. Several songs were recorded with Jeff Schmidtt's mixer, that never sounded right through any other mixer, and were never finished or released. Another batch were recorded on a Reel to Reel machine that crapped out, and so they've never been mixed or released either.
The main group consisted of Chris on bass, Brian on guitar, Eric on guitar and Willie D on drums. An early lineup had Phou on guitar and mandolin, who wrote a couple tunes with Willie D, but had to have a hip surgery and moved back home to Sylva. John Bryan joined as a permanent fill-in member on guitar and vocals. Other guests joined the group for periods of time, mainly; Mark Linga on shortwave and Jack Herndon on trumpet. The Bell Brothers formed out of a need to have an in house band for Wherehouse parties; or was it that the Wherehouse was found in order to have a place for this nameless band to practice? In any case, the nameless band performed at all the 'house' parties in the old packing plant, once in a while going by a one-time-only name like; The Barking Spiders or GG Carlyle. There were many late night sessions in the room called the America Suite, brainstorming on names, but none were ever solid enough to stick. Housemate Jon Courtney suggested Bell Brothers one day (the name of a Southern style Cafeteria out past Smith Reynolds Airport, where they'd eaten) and it stuck. As is obvious from the list of instruments played by the Bell Brothers, certain compositions involved radical shuffling of instruments (like, drummer Willie D's earliest guitar playing). The Bell Brothers also had a constantly evolving style that would drift into free improvs for a while and then back into songwriting jaunts. There were three definite songwriting phases, which resulted in the CACTI JIVE session, the CANADIAN BREATHING GAME session and the DIAMONDS R 4EVER material, which was never recorded. Some members felt the project really produced it's best results in a studio setting, rather than live. The group usually favored explorations of a theme that produced a single song, who's usefulness was accomplished once captured on tape. This meant that one never saw anything remotely like the same show twice, and might not hear anything recognizable even if you owned their cassettes. This is particularly highlighted by the fact that they might have only played two or three pre-planned songs, during the entire Bellabaster Tour.
Previous to the Bellabaster Tour, the Bell Brothers had made 2 trips to NYC for shows. The first was set up by Jane Marianny in 1998 for a club called The Cooler, opening for Racer 17 and Wisdom Tooth. This show hooked them up with a group of bands that later made trips to Winston to play the Wherehouse. The next time was in 1999 opening for Oneida in the basement of the Knitting Factory. The Bellabaster Tour happened in the first 2 weeks of May 2000 when a once in a lifetime planetary alignment occured with all the major planets moving into a singular straight line. The Bell Brothers weren't very motivated to tour, so Kemp Stroble from Malabaster set up the whole thing. Both bands crammed into a van and played the Pud House in Charlottesville, VA; The Living Room in Providence, RI; a waterfront wherehouse in Brooklyn, NYC (where Willie D would later set up a studio); The Bug Jar in Rochester NY (Bell Brothers only); a cancelled house show in Colombus, OH; a Malabaster only show opening for The Thrones and Pig Destroyer in Wilkesbury, PA; and a Philadelphia, PA gig opening for Sonora Pine near the University of Pennsylvania. John Bryan didn't take part in the tour, but came up to the Brooklyn show to join in, and several other Wherehouse residents (John Courtney, Mark Linga) also made the trip.
The Pudhouse show was a rousing success, where they met Tom & Colin who were in Raw Dawg Rex & The Family Nadz, and in the process of forming a project called USAisAmonster. They crashed at Chuck Sammon's place awaking the next morning to Colin covered in poison ivy, listening to Lightning Bolt and slaving over a hot stove making an egg, potato and oatmeal breakfast; which everyone gratefully ate knowing full well it was seasoned with posion ivy sweat. The Living Room was a massive and completely black painted dungeon of a club, where the performance never seemed to gel on stage. The Brooklyn gig was with Oneida was broadcast live on Free 103. By all accounts the Bug Jar show was one of the top 3 favorite performances of the band members, in which everyone played guitars; including Willie D, who also played drums simultaneously. (A totally improv performance outside the Seed Gallery in Winston and their final show with Chris, are the other two). The entire tour took a downward detour after driving all the way across the state to Columbus Ohio. They found the house show cancelled and nearly abandoned, as the occupants were all enjoying a different show elsewhere in town. A strange evening of walking the area surrounding the college past numerous end of the year parties, watching Twin Peaks and sitting on the porch unfolded. The Wilkesbury show at the other end of the state, was a bit of a downer, as the town appeared practically vacant and abandoned. After the gig in Philly the trip toward home turned worse when the van began acting up. After a night in a Delaware motel they limped back into Baltimore (where they had stopped over with Brandon & Gaby on the way up the coast). The AAA towtruck hauled them many miles out into the ghetto of West Baltimore. The garage had a basement with rooms full of aimless people hanging out and a non-functioning bathroom. Chris was accused of being a cop by a small gang of locals and most of the day was spent recouping lost sleep from the engine trouble throughout the night, by napping sitting up in the van, and smoking cigarettes (which several people had taken up again after having given them up before tour). A cab delivered them to Brandon & Gaby's, though everyone was nervous over having to leave all the gear in the van out in a rough part of town. It only cost $500 for the garage to replace the timing belt, which probably wasn't the problem as the van completely broke down in Woodbridge Virginia. Meantime they had to cancel a show scheduled in Richmond with The Oxes at The Hole In The Wall. Several days of waiting and eating every meal at Denny's, pushed everyone to one last ditch attempt at purchasing bus tickets home. The $60 fare was $10 more than Brian and Eric held, and took the last $20 Chris had to loan. Will stayed with the van until it was fixed and drove it home a few days later.
During their 1998-2000 lifespan, Bell Brothers played sveral dates in Charlotte with Rompecabezza and Midget Barmitzah, the Lizard & Snake in Chapel Hill with 67 Motors & Jackie O MF, Greensboro's Onion Celler with The Mercury Birds, several gigs at Triple B's in High Point with Midget Marmitzvah, a one-off show at The Horses Mouth in Winston creating the soundtrack to a silent film, a Chapel Hill house show at Brianna's, numerous shows at The Wherehouse (including opening for Godspeed You Black Emperor, and the final show with Mollases; Chris's last, in June of 2000), several at The Seed gallery in Winston, and a farewell to Bell Brothers and Malabaster show at the Onion Cellar without Chris, in the late Fall of 2000. It was farewell to both bands, as Willie D was moving to New York (see Crazee & Heaven fire inspection details below). Brian, Eric & Willie D milked every minute they could out of Malabaster before Will moved to New York, while Chris pursued his Red Leader solo project, Eric got further into the Choptsicks project, and JB took a break.
There is a discrepency in the length of almost every track from CANADIAN BREATHING GAME, in comparison to the BELLABASTER TOUR CD. Sometimes it's only a few seconds, other times as much as 20, but there is no significant difference between the songs. The only true difference is "Computer Games, Tobacco, Nose Bleeds" being tacked on the end of "Underwater" on the BELLABASTER TOUR disc, rather than starting "Champions" as happens on CANADIAN BREATHING GAME. "Fire Moves" from CANADIAN BREATHING GAME is not included on the BELLABASTER TOUR disc. THE CANADIAN BREATHING GAME cassette was mainly sold at shows in batches of 25; each decorated with handassembled covers pieced together from magazine pictures. The title track from the CACTI JIVE Ep, "Whexican Yoppie (Cacti Jive)" was also removed. There were actually two different versions of CACTI JIVE; with the other being the CACTI JIVE LP! Yeah it's confusing, but these guys had been playing together since highschool (IQ9, Pop Equations, etc.) and Bell Brothers was the first time they really felt the chemistry flow into something greater than themselves. I personally saw them at a Seed Gallery show, and was an instant lifelong fan. I hope once you hear these files, you'll feel the same.
From the original WDYO website:
"The Bell Brothers play some sort of backwoods-hillbilly, southern-superhero, alien-freeform, experimental, noise, tone-rock. Instrumentation includes: Tone Generators, Pedal Steel, Keyboards (Analog & Digital), Banjo, Sitar, Shitar, "The Bubble," Bass Guitar, Coral Firefly Vincent Bell Signature Guitar, and Drums of all shapes and sounds. The Bell Brothers also live and function at their own recording studio/converted Swift meat-packing plant/performance space hideaway...We'll Dick You Over Records/The Wherehouse. The Bell Brothers ooze entertainment."