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1 week ago

Bryan Beller

YOU JUST NEVER KNOW: 10 YEARS OF THE ARISTOCRATS

Today, exactly 10 years ago, I played a gig at the Anaheim Bass Bash with Guthrie Govan and Marco Minnemann. It ended up being The Aristocrats’ very first live gig. 10 years later, we’re celebrating appropriately by announcing the upcoming release of our live album “FREEZE! Live In Europe 2020”. I think (and hope!) it shows we’ve come a long way, while at the same time staying true to what made our “rowdy musical democracy” work in the first place.

And yet, that first gig almost didn’t happen in about 6 different ways. Some of you know this story, some of you may not. I thought today was a good time to (re)tell it as any.

The annual Bass Bash event was designed as a bassist feature (kind of obvious, I know) and I was kindly asked by the event’s organizer, Pete Decuir, if I wanted to participate. Slightly uncomfortable, as always, with the idea of me being featured as anything other than the bassist in (hopefully) a really good band playing good music, I thought, “Hey, I just played a gig with Marco Minnemann and Greg Howe in Russia, we’ve got a set ready to go, how about that?” Marco had organized it, and we all had a lot of fun. So we talked it through and booked it for January 14, 2011. The bill was:

* Steve Lawson (solo)
* Norm Stockton (with band)
* Brian Bromberg (solo)
* “Nameless Pre-Aristocrats Trio”
* Scott Ambush (of Spyro Gyra, with band)

I’m pretty sure we had it confirmed by late September 2010. But then, in early December, something came up for Greg and he could no longer do the gig. Marco and I went back and forth a bit on what to do.

Then I remembered that, on October 15, a guy from Texas I’d met at a show named Colin Green had been messaging me on Facebook about a guitarist named Guthrie Govan, who I’d never heard of. Colin reminded me on November 3 to watch the Guthrie videos because I hadn’t yet responded. On November 8, I finally watched them, and wrote back to Colin about how amazing Guthrie was. I hadn’t thought much of it beyond that.

And now Marco and I needed a guitarist.

Marco had also been hearing good things on his own about Guthrie, and liked the videos, but he didn’t know him either. So I went looking online. Guthrie had no social media presence *at all*. There was an old MySpace page, no longer monitored. He had a personal website that consisted of a front page with a picture of him…and *no links* on it. I mean, who did that, even in 2010?! I ended up going back to Greg Howe himself, who happened to have Guthrie’s e-mail address.

The original e-mail exchange between Guthrie and me/Marco is on an old computer somewhere, but I remember that it took a few days for Guthrie to respond. When he did, it was in prose befitting of an English professor from the mid-20th century. I felt like I was reading a letter from a Cold War-era head of state or something. I can only imagine what Marco thought of it, with English being his second language. Anyway, we were able to nail down the particulars inside of a week. We would do a six-song set consisting of two songs from each of our solo catalogs.

I remember when we announced the gig that there was an unusual amount of online buzz about it. It’s hard to describe, but I remember it. Then the holidays came, and everything seemed pretty much on track for a fun NAMM gig.

And then it all went crazy.

A little over a week before the gig, the event’s longtime organizer, Pete Decuir, called me and told me that he had just been diagnosed with leukemia. An emergency surgery was scheduled for just days later. He wanted to cancel the whole show. We went through a couple of different scenarios, but he was pretty clear about not wanting the gig to go forward without him. Of course, I understood - it was his production, and with that kind of health issue, I didn’t want to question his wishes. I gave him my best vibes for the difficult journey ahead, and thought the gig was probably gone.

But I get stubborn about things sometimes. People were buzzing pretty hard about it, and I just…I can’t describe it, but I had a feeling it should go forward somehow. Guthrie and Marco agreed to let me take a shot at it. So I scrambled to find another venue in Anaheim that wasn’t booked, one week ahead of the NAMM show. Not an easy task, but I did find one. The owner was skeptical we could pull off a successful show on only 3-4 days’ notice. I insisted it was possible. We figured it out, Guthrie and Marco signed on, and I announced it through my e-mail newsletter, BellerBytes. I also announced *why* the venue was changing.

As it turns out, there was a miscommunication of some kind, and I was the only one outside of Pete Decuir’s very close circle who knew the whole Anaheim Bass Bash show was being cancelled - and more importantly, about Pete’s health emergency. That was, until I sent that mailing list e-mail.

My phone and e-mail inbox instantly erupted with “WTF?!” responses, including longtime friends of Pete and fellow organizers of the show. I explained the conversation I’d had with Pete as best I could, and how he’d wanted the show cancelled. But his friends weren’t taking no for an answer. Within *hours*, they had re-booked the show at the same venue (JT Schmid’s) and wanted to turn it into a benefit concert for Pete. By the next day, it was official. It was Monday of NAMM week and lots of industry folk were already on the scene. Word travelled quickly.

And there we were, booked to play at a different venue.

The organizers of the benefit concert then reached back out to me, and invited our group to rejoin the lineup. Actually, they implored us to do so, for the cause. I told them of our dilemma - we’d already rebooked and I had twisted someone’s arm to make it happen at all - but I quickly realized it was an untenable position, both practically and morally. Poor Guthrie and Marco were now receiving e-mails from me once an hour, keeping them posted.

I called the owner of the venue I’d rebooked and told him we needed to cancel and move back to the original venue. He was absolutely livid, screaming into the phone. Frankly, I couldn’t blame him. I asked him what I could do to make it right. He gave me a number. I agreed. And that was that.

If you were subscribing to BellerBytes back then, you saw all of this play out in real time. I had to send three or four messages within a couple of days explaining everything and apologizing for blowing up everyone’s inboxes. I’m sure some people missed the show due to all of the conflicting information.

By the time Guthrie, Marco and I met in a rehearsal space in Anaheim the night before the show, there was already a general feeling of, “Wow, interesting gig we got ourselves here.”

Then Guthrie turned on his amp and played a single power chord. VERY loudly. Marco and I were jolted. Our necks snapped and we caught each other’s wide eyes for a half a second before snapping back in place. We were going to be a rock band, and an impolitely volumed one at that.

A little small talk ensued, and then…we played Guthrie’s song “Waves”.

I don’t know what else to say about it, other than, we all knew right away that it felt really, really good.

That’s how the story began. From that point forward, the unique musical chemistry of the three of us carried us forward and told the story better than any longwinded essay could ever hope to do. Yes, the gig happened. (I could do another 1000 words on the night of the gig, which was its own hot batch of crazy, but this is long enough.) Yes, people kind of freaked out. And yes, we decided to keep doing it, and keep doing it, and keep doing it.

Now here we are, ten years later, and we have a new collection of musical evidence of that same chemistry - refined, but hopefully not too refined - that flowed through the room of that very first rehearsal. And I dig that it’s an actual live recording from 2020, which memorializes the fact that we were playing live literally right up until the very first COVID-related shutdowns.

All I can say is, thank you to everyone on our amazing indie-powered team that made it happen behind the scenes all these years; thank you to the incredible fans who have supported our musical mayhem over and over again; and thanks to Guthrie and Marco, for the musical ride of a lifetime. I’m grateful for it all.

And to you, dear reader, I’ll say this: Even in the craziest of times, you just never know what good a day will bring.

You just never know.

-BB

P.S. Pete Decuir went on to a complete recovery! Also, Colin Green still comes to shows, and I’m careful to watch the videos he sends me in a timely fashion. 🙂

P.P.S. The picture is a never-before-released outtake from the photo shoot for the very first Aristocrats studio album, taken by Alex Solca.
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2 weeks ago

Bryan Beller

AND NOW A WORD FROM ARCHIBALD TWATTY BOLLOX: I have next to no experience in dealing with being included in a “Top 10 Bassists Of The Year!” magazine poll, and I didn’t even know it was a thing that was going on. So when this was first brought to my attention I was like, “Oh, that’s pretty cool, but I can’t post that, that’s just way too self-serving and weird.” But then I realized that ignoring it wasn’t really the best way to thank both the Prog Magazine and the people who voted for me, now, was it? So even though I have no hope in topping the reaction of perennial poll winner Nick “Archibald Twatty Bollox” Beggs (be sure to read his caption; you won’t regret it), I would simply like to say thank you to the kind people who thought to associate me with these other great musicians.

P.S. Where’s Tony Levin on this list? I mean…?

P.P.S. Yes, I know, there’s an elephant in the room on social media right now. I expressed my thoughts about The Current Situation months ago in great detail, and I still stand behind every word. It’s there if you want to find it, and I don’t blame you if you don’t. Just saying, yeah, it’s weird out there, and hopefully music still has a place in all of this somehow once the dust settles.

Nick Beggs Prog
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1 month ago

Bryan Beller

ARISTO-TEASE: This might or might not have been the view from my desk over the past couple of months. 😎 🤐What in the Dickens is going on here? Santa’s Elves may look a little different this year, but they’re working on a very Aristocratic post-holiday surprise. For now, let’s kiss 2020 a well deserved goodbye and look forward to a considerably more excellent 2021!

Bryan Beller Marco Minnemann Guthrie Govan (Official)
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SUNDAY READING: Thanks to Metalpit from Italy for this interview, which touches on the topic of The Aristocrats doing a G3 Tour with Vai and Satriani back in 2016, which was a totally surreal experience, as well as more current events. https://t.co/5gQm1LdrTy

Congratulations, America. That was, indeed, some weird shit. But we got this far. Not a given.

Hey Europe and Asia and South America and Australia: We'll figure this out and get back to playing live and loud as soon as possible.

Also: Gotta take the laughs where you can.

✨🏴‍☠️Immaculate🕯Loo😈🏴‍☠️✨@ImmaculateLoo

I think it’s really nice of Bill Barr keeping everyone safe by wiping down the podium.

YOU JUST NEVER KNOW - 10 YEARS OF THE ARISTOCRATS: A decade ago today, the band that would be come @acratsband played its first ever show. We're celebrating by announcing a new live album. I wrote an essay on the months leading up to that crazy first gig: https://t.co/IH0rQ74XJN

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