After seven years of hiatus, Fredericton legends The Belle Comedians returned to the stage one last time with a pair of sold-out shows on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1. Their shows were one of the highlights of the 10th anniversary of Fredericton’s Shivering Songs festival.
Their performances also reflect this year’s festival theme, Homecoming. The members travelled from various parts of the country to reunite, play songs and have another chance at a proper ending to the band’s history.
Belle Comedians drummer Adam Guidry thought a reunion would never take place.
When Shivering Songs contacted the band asking about a final performance, they were interested.
“We thought ‘You know, if we’re going to do something special, like a reunion thing, this would be the place to do it, where it started for us.”
The band was originally active from 2008 to 2013, releasing three EPs in that time.
Their vocalist Benjamin Ross and keyboardist Dan Tweedie collaborated together before expanding to a full band. They recruited some of the connections they had made in the Fredericton music scene.
Successful tours and the success of their first two EPs, Without A Sound and Autumn Ought To …, drew the attention of Vancouver-based major label Network Records.
Guidry said some of his fondest memories from that time were playing with acts such as Coyote and Deer Tick and getting signed to the Vancouver label, which they released what turned out to be their final EP Charlotte.
“That was really exciting, the opportunity for the band to go on to the next page and become a professional touring band … Getting signed to that label was pretty cool,” said Guidry.
He said that after Charlotte, the label was going to sign the band to a three-album contract, a proposal that put an immense amount of pressure on the band.
“Just the pressure of writing the record caused tension with the band, and unfortunately everyone just decided to go their separate way … which was unreal, unfortunately, because we had a really great opportunity,” said Guidry.
Since they broke up, Guidry said the group has been asked multiple times to come back and do a reunion show, but turned them down because the band was still too sensitive of a subject among its members.
“I feel fine about it now, but there was a while that it was rough for sure. I personally went through a lot of hard, hard times because of it,” said Guidry.
“I thought that it was my future. It was my life. I thought that I was going to be writing records and then touring them and then writing records, like that was going to be the cycle.”
He added this time was no different.
They thought and discussed the Shivering Songs show for a while and made sure everyone was comfortable with reuniting for the show.
However, Guidry said that the group has been taken back by the response to their reunion announcement.
“The first one sold out super fast, which we didn’t expect whatsoever,” said Guidry.
“We’re just really blown away by it, that people still care about it, and it’s sort of reassures me how special that project was.”
After selling out The Capital Complex for an intimate return to the stage, the band played their final show the following night at the Boyce Farmers Market, opening for Les Hay Babies and fellow Fredericton superstars The Hypochondriacs.
They began their set with vocalist Benjamin Ross serenading the crowd on his own and testing his voice before bringing the rest of the band up.
Even if you did not see a show from the group during their original existence, it was pretty obvious how special the atmosphere is with this quintet on stage.
Each member shined in a balanced and cohesive way that never took your attention away from the group as a whole.
Lead guitarist Scott Mallory pitched every note he played on his guitar and pedal steel in a way that harmonized with and extended the reach of Ross’ voice.
Bassist Willow Bell and keyboardist Dan Tweedie were locked in from start to finish, forming a solid bedrock for each song to build on.
Adding the punch to each song was the simple, yet always well-placed drumming of Guidry that scratched the rhythmic itch of each song in the perfect spots.
While there were many mixed emotions from the band on stage, shown in the web of unique glances the group exchanged with each other throughout the set, it was an ending that brought peace to the audience and hopefully the band as well.