QUARANTINED: Greg Bell
Things have been tough for everyone in the music industry due to the effect from COVID-19. With everyone doing their part on staying home, we have decided to reach out to musicians, promoters and people in the industry to see how they have been dealing with COVID-19. The first person we wanted to talk to was legendary Promoter Greg Bell of Guthrie Bell Productions. Bell has been bringing music to the Capital Region and all of Upstate, NY for over 30 years. If you have been to a concert at The Hollow, Palace Theatre, Putnam Place or many of the other wonderful venues in Albany, NY, theres a good chance that him and his team were responsible for bringing the music.
How are things going since the impact of the COVID-19?
It’s been pretty hectic. I had a ton of shows scheduled throughout the Spring and have had to cancel most of March and all of April. At this point I am getting ready to cancel May. I am also becoming nervous about shows scheduled in June and the rest of the summer.
What things have you been doing to keep yourself busy?
Canceling , rescheduling and booking stuff for the Fall. Also doing a lot of reading, binging shows, organizing the house and cooking .
How has COVID-19’s impact on the live music/entertainment industry effected you?
Financially, without live shows, I have nothing coming in at all. Luckily I do have much overhead. I have a couple of staff who I will continue to pay but I don’t rent office space and do not have a ton of monthly bills to pay. I am luckier than most.
Do you have any advice for musicians struggling?
Use this time to write, rehearse, put stuff out over the internet, stat in contact with your fan base, etc. This will end at some point and people will be ready for shows again.
Due to the ban on big gatherings, What are some of the things you miss about promoting shows?
Obviously the music but I would say that I miss most is hanging out with people who love music as much as I do. I miss the smiles on peoples faces when the band is on fire , I miss seeing people singing along to their favorite songs. I miss the community aspect the most.
What are some of your favorite up and coming bands?
If you see a band on one of my shows, then they are among my favorite up and coming bands. I only book bands that I like and believe in.
(Photo: Frankie Cavone)
Do you have any favorite concerts you have promoted over the years?
There are too many to list but one was when I had Robert Fripp , Adrian Belew and Trey Gunn [ all from King Crimson ] at Valentines. Another would be Phil and Friends at Glens Falls Civic Center when Trey(Anastasio) sat in for the night. My first moe. show that I promoted at the Palace Theatre was a big highlight for me.
Do you have any favorite meals that you like to make during this time?
A lot of comfort food . In the past couple of weeks I made meatloaf, beef stew, corned beff and cabbage, sauce and meatballs, roasted chicken dinner, and shrimp Fra Diablo. I also made Risotto for the first time and it came out great.
What is the craziest Bellstock story you have to share?
There are some that can’t be discussed but one that comes to mind is the night that Drum Circles were banned from Bellstock. For about 3 hours, a bunch of white kids on acid [with zero rhythm skills ] beat drums and sang the same Sublime verse over and over again. I finally went out and told them to shut the fuck up and put the drums away. When someone said “what will happen if we keep playing ?’ I said “hit that drum and I will burn it.” From then on the rule at Bellstock was “see a drum, burn a drum.” We never had a drumming problem from then on.
What makes the Capital Region music scene special?
The fact that it is so eclectic. There are so many talented musicians in the Capital District and very few of them sound alike. Variety has always been the best part of the scene. Unfortunately, that is also a problem with the scene. Too many different scenes going on at once. I would love to see more cohesiveness in the scene then there is currently.
What was coming up for you in the coming months prior to the impact of COVID-19?
We are supposed to be starting an outdoor Summer music series at Frog Alley this summer but am not sure what is happening with that . We have some shows booked but everything in the music business is on hold right now. Also we have the Eastbound Throwdown scheduled for September and are hoping that things will ease up by then.
What things do you miss the most with having to social distance?
Not seeing my friends and family.
What music has been getting you through these stressful times?
I am also checking out a lot of streaming online. Nothing in particular. Of course a lot of Grateful Dead.
When going out and about, what precautions are you taking with social distancing?
Trying to only go out for groceries or prescriptions. Just staying as far away from people as possible, washing hands a lot, wiping stuff dow when we get it home. Pretty much the same as everyone else.
What are you most looking forward to once we can all live our lives again?
Seeing live music, hanging with friends , eating food that someone else cooks, serves and cleans up after .
How can fans support bands during this time?
Donate online , buy merch and once the quarantine is over, hit every fucking show that you can.