A Quarter Century Q and A with Greg Bell

Greg Bell has been promoting and putting on shows in the Capital Region now for 25 years. All month long in April, he will be celebrating that milestone with shows each weekend at the Hollow Bar and Kitchen in Albany.

In late march 1992, Bell formed a partnership with his friend Dale Metzger called Two Fools Present. They proceeded to put on what turned out to be the first of many shows promoted by Greg. It was held on April Fools Day at the Masonic Hall on lower Madison Avenue. The bands who played were the Sharks, Hard Times, Motherjudge and Brian Kenny and Friends. Two Fools worked together for an outdoor festival and two or three more club shows and parted ways. In 1993 Bell teamed up with Jeff Guthrie to form Guthrie/Bell Productions. Jeff left the business a few years later but Bell continues to work under that name today.

NYSMusic caught up with Bell to talk about his career and how he’s made it this far while staying so successful.

Neil Benjamin: You’ve been putting on shows locally for a while, and now you’re celebrating a big anniversary. What’s it been like to be such a huge part of the Albany music scene?

Greg Bell: I had always been a part of the local music scene .I had many friends in local bands and I probably went to at least one show per week from my college days until  I started promoting on my own. One of the reasons that I started putting on shows was to give local musicians  and the audience a situation to be in that treated them with respect instead of being treated as a product. I was always involved with the local music scene . One night , out drinking with a friend , we decided to throw a party with some friends’ bands just for fun . It was sort of like Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland saying “lets put on a show” in an Andy Hardy movie. The first show went well , so we did another . then another and it just sort of snowballed

NB:Do you know how many shows you’re promoted?

GB: Probably around 2,000.

NB:What was your favorite show to put on? Can you share a memory or two?

GB:Probably a tie between the first time that i had moe. play the Palace and the Phil and Friends show at the Glens Falls Civic Center when Trey Anastasio showed up and sat in for the entire show. the moe. show was exciting for me as they were the first band that I had taken from a small club situation to a big theater show . The Phil show is a given. I first saw the Dead in 1970 and here I was promoting a show with a member of the Dead and a member of Phish on stage. It was an amazing feeling.

NB: How long do you plan  to do this?

GB: According to my wife, until I die.

NB: What’s the most difficult aspect of promoting shows around here?

GB:The hardest thing for me is putting on an amazing band to a small crowd. I try to promote bands that I think people should see and I feel like I let some bands down when the turnout sucks. Only do this if you love music. If you do it for money, find something else.

NB: How many concerts do you think you’ve attended and who is your favorite band?

GB:My favorite band has been the Grateful Dead for 47 years . I couldn’t even guess how many shows that I have attended, but it’s a lot.

NB:You attend most of the shows you put on. Is your family supportive of what you do and why?

GB:My family is very supportive . My wife designs all of my flyers and posters as well as Bellstock tee shirts and loves coming to shows . My kids have been attending my shows since they were born and are proud of what I accomplished. They also like the fact that I can get them into concerts that they want to see.. One thing that I made sure of is that putting on shows was secondary to my family . I never missed a school concert or function  . I never missed their soccer games or track meets .I was a teacher , so I was able to spend all summer with my kids.

NB:How has your approached changed over time as society and technology change? Is it easier or harder to promote in the social media age?

GB:My approach hasn’t changed. Word of mouth is the way to go. Technology has made things easier, but handing out a flier is the best way to get people in the door.  The danger with technology is that it makes promoters lazy. It is so easy to just to think that you just need to send out a Facebook post or a text to get the word out. I truly believe that the personal touch of talking to people at shows and handing out flyers to people while explaining why they should come to a show is the best way to promote. I am at almost every show that I put on and I am constantly in contact with the people who attend my shows. They know that I only put on shows that I want to see and I think that gives my shows some credibility.

Catch Guthrie/Bell’s 25th anniversary shows at The Hollow Bar and Kitchen in Albany:

April 1 Wreckloose w/ School Bus Yellow and Hartley’s Encore
April 15 Eastbound Jesus w/ Elrod & Motherjudge and the Grassroots Rebels [featuring members of Jerkwater Ruckus ]
April 28 Dr. Jah and the Love Prophets w/ Lynch [featuring members of Conehead Buddha and Schleigho] and the Eastern Highs [featuring members of Free Beer & Chicken]

All shows are 18+, tickets $12 in advance, $15 day of show. Doors at 7:30, show at 8pm