Have you ever watched Antiques Roadshow on PBS, it’s ok I won’t tell anyone I’m just using it to illustrate a point. They appraise items that people find in their garages or attics based on the current market and demand for them. One of things that really increases the value of an object is if it appeals to a wide range of potential buyers. A Bugs Bunny lighter for example is cool for Looney Tunes fans as well as collectors of lighters and animation…got that?
Enter bassist/composer/writer Bryan Beller. Bryan crosses over into all kinds of different musical territory each with its own set of potential listeners. He has played with Mike Keneally, Steve Vai, Dweezil Zappa and Wayne Kramer among others and as if that weren’t enough he also provided live bass for Dethklok on three sold out Nationwide tours. Dethklok is the fictional(?) band from Cartoon Network’s Metalocalypse and their music is a bit of a departure from what we normally hear Bryan playing. I had the pleasure of watching Bryan’s parents react to their first Dethklok gig a few years ago in New York City…I even think I saw them head bang…ok maybe not. Last but certainly not least is his most personal pairing, the one with his wife singer-songwriter Kira Small with whom he performs regularly. It should be noted that the photo below is actually his bass playing alter ego William Murderface and NOT his wife Kira…phew.
Bryan is probably most closely associated with guitarist, keyboard player and Zappa alum Mike Keneally. In fact my first run in with him was on Mike’s website in his gear section. Mike was going through all of his various guitars, amps etc. and listed Bryan Beller as a valuable piece of equipment with the note ‘Don’t Leave Home Without It’ and this picture:
In addition to his music Bryan is also well-known and highly regarded as a writer. He’s an editor at Bass Player Magazine where his columns and reviews are enjoyed by the likes of me who doesn’t even play bass. Elsewhere his other writings include his infamous account of the audition for Steve Vai’s band and the tale of his hike up Yosemite’s Half Dome. His writing style is funny, engaging and passionate just like his music.
In 2010 Mike and Bryan thought it might be a good idea to hit the road with one band and play two different sets, one of Mike’s music and one of Bryan’s. They dubbed it the ‘They’re Both The Same Band’ tour and had plans to take over the World. Well that proved a little too daunting, but they did play a memorable show at The Baked Potato in Los Angeles and as luck would have it the tape was rolling. The result is the intimate and energetic Wednesday Night Live shipping later this month and available for pre-order now.
Right off the bat we feel like part of the action as Bryan speaks to the crowd encouraging them to say hi and get involved in some brief audience participation. No pretension, no formal introductions just a few hellos then right into the music with ‘Greasy Wheel’ off his most recent studio album Thanks In Advance. If you’re worried about every song turning into a wanky bass solo let me allay your fears right now, none of the solos are technically ‘wanky.’ This record is more like the audio equivalent of one of those interactive DVDs that lets you select a camera angle to watch a specific band member. In this case the bass is front and center, but never over the top.
‘Life Story’ is an expanded (Now With Guitar!) version of the subtle and beautiful solo piece from Thanks In Advance and leads into the Vai tinged ‘Get Things Done’ (see video below) from his debut as a leader, View. As he introduces the band you may be thinking you’ve heard of all these guys before, like say on Mike Keneally’s 2006 opus Guitar Therapy Live and you’d be right. The notable difference being the addition of Griff Peters on guitar to let Mike handle more keyboards. But don’t worry Keneally fans, he takes a blistering turn on ‘Love Terror Adrenaline/Break Through’ playing “impossible guitar.”
Next up is a track that was also included on the aforementioned Guitar Therapy Live album, ‘Seven Percent Grade.’ These guys play with such ferocity and ease that you can almost HEAR the smiles on their faces while they melt yours into a puddle of goo. I took my shirt to the cleaners after listening to this and they asked what was all over the front of it, I told them it was indeed my face. Oddly enough they asked me politely to leave and never come back.
The record is rounded out by two additional Beller compositions recorded elsewhere. First the quiet and sublime ‘View’ (recorded live at WesFest 2…see link below for more info) that builds to a crescendo not unlike Stevie Ray Vaughan’s masterpiece ‘Riviera Paradise.’ Closing it out is a raw live to 2-track version of the slow burner ‘Cave Dweller.’
But don’t take MY word for it. Go check out samples from the album at Bryan’s site and pre-order a copy of the CD as well as the accompanying DVD. In fact I’ll throw in a clip from the DVD right here, free of charge:
Get Things Done
Thanks In Advance
Love Terror Adrenaline/Break Through
Seven Percent Grade
View (live at WesFest 2)
Cave Dweller (live from the Thanks In Advance release party)
Bryan Beller – Bass and Merriment
Mike Keneally – Keyboards and Impossible Guitar
Griff Peters – Guitar
Rick Musallam – Guitar
Joe Travers – Drums
WesFest – The WesFest concert series is an ongoing celebration of the life of Wes Wehmiller.