One 'phat' blues bash

Kelly Bell Band to perform at Cabin Fever Blues Bash

Kelly Bell Band to perform at Cabin Fever Blues Bash

February 26, 2009|By JULIE E. GREENE

Sometimes the Kelly Bell Band will veer off from performing its "phat" blues and play some classic rock for the crowd.

Then just as the audience gets into it, hitting the dance floor, the band puts a stopper on the rock and pulls out its version of a Bo Diddley or Muddy Waters tune.

One of the band's joys is when listeners come back and say how they "dug" the band's version of a Muddy Waters' tune so much, they went back and listened to the original Waters' version and became a Waters fan, Bell said.

"That's just as big a victory as buying our CD," said Bell, who is the lead singer in his band and plays percussion. The band isn't just out to sell music and tickets, but expand the audience for blues, he said.


The band will get that chance next Thursday, March 5, at The Maryland Theatre as it performs at the Cabin Fever Blues Bash.

The Blues Bash began as a fundraiser for the Western Maryland Blues Fest, said Carl Disque, Blues Fest founder and event chairman. This year's Blues Fest will be held from Thursday, May 28, to Sunday, May 31, in Hagerstown.

The bash usually features an artist who has performed or will be performing at the Blues Fest. In Bell's case, both are true. His band is returning to kick off the Downtown House Party lineup on Saturday, May 30.

The Kelly Bell Band performs "phat" blues, which Bell said there are two ways to describe.

"If you could imagine music being a circle and gospel being the center, phat steps out with one foot into other genres ... It's just good music," he said. "Today's listener has a much more eclectic ear and intelligence. There are not too many people who listen to just one specific kind of music anymore."

And the other way to describe it?

"If you could imagine Muddy Waters wearing a Bob Marley T-shirt, riding on Black Sabbath's tour bus on their way to a Parliament Funkadelic concert, listening to a James Brown eight-track tape humming a Run-DMC song wearing a Nighthawks ball cap all in the glory of Bo Diddley, that would be close to what we do," Bell said.

Bell's switcheroo to occasional rock music is a technique he learned from wrestling. That's right. Kelly Bell, aka Phat Blues Kelly Bell, is a professional wrestler.

"Honestly, most of the time in wrestling I've been the heel, which is the bad guy. It's more challenging, honestly, to be a heel than to be onstage and be Kelly Bell," said Bell, who also does comedy on radio shows and works with special-needs children.

"In wrestling, booing and cheering is the same thing," the Baltimore resident said.

"Getting people to boo, I've found a way to do that in the music show where most people would think that's insane," he said.

The band plays about 30 seconds of pop rock or wedding band music before yanking the carpet out from under the crowd and switching to original Kelly Bell Band music or the band's version of a blues classic, Bell said.

"It will cross over if you present it in a humorous fashion. People don't mind laughing at themselves. They get it," he said.

If you go ...

WHAT: Cabin Fever Blues Bash with Kelly Bell Band

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 5

WHERE: The Maryland Theatre, 21 S. Potomac St., downtown Hagerstown

COST: $10 general admission

CONTACT: For tickets, call 301-790-2000, go to, or stop by the theater box office, at 21 S. Potomac St. in downtown Hagerstown, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays.

MORE: To learn more about the Kelly Bell Band, go to or

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