Belltower Records: Where music is sold and played
North Adams — Visitors of Belltower Records may find themselves in the middle of a band's tuning session the next time they pick up vinyls.
Since acquiring the entire music collection of the now defunct Toonerville Trolley CDs & Records in Williamstown, Belltower owners Wesley Nelson and Andrea Belair have not only been busy sorting through the thousands of records, CDs and tapes, but also creating a platform for Berkshire musicians.
"Having played music, having been involved in music, we know a lot of the community and we'll just ask people directly [to perform]," Nelson said. "Or, if we notice that a group/performer is going on tour, we'll ask them to stop by here."
This summer, Nelson and Belair will host three shows — one in June, July and August — in their record store, bringing a total of 17 musicians to the Norad Mill complex off of Route 2.
On Friday night, Stefan Christensen, Huevos ii, Parashi and Jen Gelineau will perform a "very casual, DIY" jam-out session in the record store's intimate, orange-walled shop, which can hold about 20 people. The summer sessions will culminate in the record store's second "Summer Jam," a much larger outdoor concert on Aug. 10, boasting a lineup of 10 performances.
So far, Belltower Records has hosted 10 live events since its grand opening last July. While partial to psychedelic, experimental music themselves, Nelson and Belair have hosted an entire spectrum of genres, including indie rock, folk guitar, electronic, free jazz and DJs.
"We're open to everything," Belair said. "A lot of [acts] started out with people we kind of knew, especially since we didn't know anyone here [coming from New Haven, Conn.], but as we get to know people locally, we're more inclined to have more local acts ... A lot of members will play in one band or come back solo or as side projects."
While hosting evening performances involves moving their collections around the store and staying late nights for clean up, the couple don't mind the work. "It's tiring, but we've been musicians," Nelson said. "We've played in bands, so we know how it is. We've been booking shows forever.
"When you book a show and it goes smoothly and people show up and all the acts are great, it feels really good," Nelson said. "And when you see people enjoying something that you helped bring, that's really satisfying."
Friday's event will feature a diverse mix of acts from the surrounding area. Gelineau brings her talents on the violin and experimental sound looping from Holyoke. Albany, N.Y.,-based Parashi immerses himself in an electronic soundscape. Huevos ii, from Western Massachusetts, plays a "kind of tender, almost pop-like music," according to Nelson. Finally, guitarist Christensen has been a veteran in the New Haven, Conn., rock scene, but will travel to perform his solo project.
While Belltower Records is one of the few dedicated record shops in the region, it doesn't see itself as a savior for vinyl shops and the live-music scene.
"We just like music," Nelson said. "The underground is thriving and the Berkshires has a lot of great acts. It seems quiet, but there's really a lot of stuff going on."
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