Wednesday, October 19, 2005



What is Rock and Roll for? I mean, I know what it IS, but what does it DO and why do we care? What, exactly, is this power it has over some of us? What's the point? All questions I asked myself last night while seated in another bar on another weeknight, alone and suffering through another tiresome opening act. "Aren't you getting a little old for this, Serry?" "Shouldn't you be in bed, catching up on the sleep debt, or helping the girlfriend through her mountain of work?" What is it about rock n' roll that keeps compelling us obsessives to hunt - often vainly and with no small amount of frustration - for a new way of breaking through the veil of the mundane? At it's core, I'd hazard that it's something communal, a continued search for that rare occasion where a band and an audience, a sound and a venue, can come together and create something extraordinary. Call it equal parts religion and collective hallucination; and call me overly dramatic if you want, but I'll tell you this, The BellRays have my back. "We have dedicated our lives to the art of rock and roll and take our chosen profession seriously," Lead singer Lisa Kekaula writes in the liner notes to the Riverside, California four-piece's most recent album, The Red White and Black. "Jazz is not the only great American art form, so is rock and roll. It has simply been neglected and abused by most of its practitioners until the masses expect the least from its beautiful enormous possibilities." "Music," she continues "is limitless with an open perspective." That is, what people in my elementary school used to so eloquently call, "a double-dog dare." When a band sets its standards that high, there is a long way to fall if they didn't practice what they preach. There is, however, no fear of hypocrisy at a BellRays show. Thirty seconds in, it's obvious that if rock's a religion, these people are the high acolytes of a church without borders. The BellRays live sound is battle-hardened, road-tested and tighter than a five-dollar face lift. "Be not afraid!" Kukula commanded while prowling the stage in four inch heels; equal parts revivalist preacher and punk rock drill sergeant. "Are you ready people? Be! Not! Afraid!" Come and join us! Drop your pretenses, forget your inhibitions! Shake, scream, clap your hands; for the love of Christ move your goddamn feet! Don't wait for the end of a song to scream; don't stop at the beginning of a new one; don't do what you've always been told to do; don't wait for permission. Feel good, feel this...For ninety minutes, feel alive! Forget your name. After the show had ended, but before the first bead of sweat on my brow had dried and long before my ears stopped ringing, I invited myself backstage to thank the band. I faced all four of them and, grinning ear to ear, my scream-ravaged voice and dance-drained body croaked "Thank you. Tonight, you made me happy." Kekaula smiled. With two self-assured strides, she crossed the room and embraced me. "That," she said, beaming "is what we came here to do." That is what this is for. The BellRays play Babylon in Ottawa tonight and Lee's Palace in Toronto tomorrow.
Well said! I was thinking along similar lines the other night as I stood alone in a crowd of strangers the other night: aren't I getting too old for this? But the band I was there to see, the Detroit Cobras, boosted my faith in the power of live music. Like the BellRays, the Cobras are driven by a powerhouse singer, but I discovered that night that their secret weapon is the rhythm guitarist, who rocks like a female Malcolm Young. She took songs like "Shout Bamalama" into overdrive. Long live bands like the BellRays and the Detroit Cobras! -- jonhope
outstanding review, FatCitizen! my palms sweat & my ears throb just thinking about that show - godDAMMIT I wish I could have been there (in a cane-liquor-fuelled frenzy) to experience the raw power and maximum rock n’soul that IS the BellRays! Long live the collective hallucination. Vive le BellRays! FUTURE NOW!!!

BTW, keep up the good work, FC. – el farko
Thanks Jon/Farko. It certainly was a sight to behold.
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