Bellwether – Landscapes of the rust belt
It’s a full July evening in the Twin Cities: The Smashing Pumpkins are hosting a free concert in the heart of downtown Minneapolis; Jack Logan and Bob Kimbell are opening for Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ at the 7th Street Entry; the Promise Keepers are going through their rants at the Metrodome. Meanwhile, over in St. Paul, in the back corner of the local Cheapo Discs music store, Bellwether takes the stage to a handful of fans for a free show.
The Minneapolis-based Bellwether have recently turned out their laid-back debut Turnstiles on Rustbelt Records, produced by noted local producer Tom Herbers (Gear Daddies, Martin Zellar). Turnstiles could be described as a collection of songs running in the vein of easygoing country rock, but take a step closer and it’s clear they poke deeper than what that description might infer. On “Frontyard”, for instance, guitarist Eric Luoma sings, “There you go now dragging down the sidewalk with your pride barley stumbling behind…Don’t we all have a default of self-deprecation we cling to when the trouble has us bound.”
Luoma is a folk-fueled lead singer and songwriter whose previous experience in the music world included a few stints in high school bands and half of an acoustic duo with fellow Bellwether bandmate and blues fan Jimmy Peterson, who shares songwriting duties and plays lead guitar. Before Bellwether, Luoma and Peterson played coffeehouses around the Twin Cities and once opened for Midwestern supergroup Golden Smog.
Bassist Phil Tippin and drummer John Crist make up Bellwether’s rhythm section. Peterson had to talk veteran rocker and former funk band member Tippin off the edge of retirement. Crist, a former member of Athens, Georgia, band the Dashboard Saviors, was so impressed by a demo tape Peterson and Luoma gave him that he quickly took the drummer slot.
“I liked the landscapes that they made,” Crist says. “The thing that really struck me about Jimmy and Eric’s songwriting is that it was a different, more mysterious landscape than what I was used to from the Dashboard Saviors. Maybe the music wasn’t mysterious to someone who is from up here, but it was just a different emotional backdrop to the music that we were playing.”
The in-store performance at Cheapo wasn’t exactly packed, but no matter; it’s highly unlikely that anyone else in the Twin Cities would have enjoyed 30 seconds of an acoustic version of Quiet Riot’s “Cum On Feel The Noize.”