WE THREE KINGS: Ben Sures, Paul Bellows and Mike McDonald
The teaming up of three of our top singer-songwriters inspires tantalizing visions of an Edmonton supergroup – Mike McDonald, Ben Sures and Paul Bellows – along the lines of Blackie and the Rodeo Kings.
They might even be convinced to wear some of those gay caballero costumes. Well, maybe not. The supergroup isn’t out of the question, though.
“I’m open to it. Hey, when you have kids, you’re open to all kinds of things,” says McDonald.
He says the “Big Three” gig on Saturday at the Haven Social Club came about because he wanted to see Ben Sures and Paul Bellows perform and never gets the chance because he doesn’t get out much because, well, he has kids. He hopes his peers want to see him, too. From all accounts, they do.
“We’ve all got our own things, but when everybody is in the same room, it all makes sense,” he says.
It’s a trio of trios. McDonald, who is co-owner of Permanent Records off Whyte Avenue, was the frontman for legendary local band Jr. Gone Wild. Now he’s doing “power pop” with a band called A Bunch of Marys. Sure’s trio, meanwhile, is called The Power Struggle, while Bellows – a big wheel web designer in the real world – appends “Plus Two” to make his trio. His music is more original than his band name. McDonald raves, “He started off folky, but I really like where he’s gone with his music. Tape Deck Classics was a great, great, great, great album. And Ben’s always been great. But this time I’m hoping they rock it up a bit.”
While the three plan to combine to rock up the Who’s “I Can’t Explain” late in the evening, they have never performed together before, having met at the Rosebowl Pizza open stage that McDonald used to host back in the day. He says he’s tried to collaborate on songwriting before with little success, but times have changed and he already said he’s open to trying new things. While their writing styles may differ, any local music fan will tell you that this is a solid bill – different enough not to get boring, not too different to cause audience stampedes and generally pretty smart all the way through.
McDonald explains, It’s tough to put into words, but when you listen to Paul’s material, it’s thoughtful. He puts his songs together with some thought. Same with Ben – and he’s got guitar skills so he has more options with his writing than Paul or I do. But it’s the similar artistic frame of mind: Trying to channel God, or whatever you want to call it, which is a place any artist gets to over time if they’re honest with themselves. When you’re playing and everything is working right, your personality isn’t actually involved at all. You’re sort of outside of yourself while you’re doing it. Read any new artist interview. All artists say the same thing because they read it in a fucking book. But I know it from experience and I think Ben and Paul know it, too.”
“Strength in numbers,” is how McDonald sums up the show, which is the same phrase one imagines went through the heads of Colin Linden, Stephen Fearing and Tom Wilson when they formed Blackie and the Rodeo Kings.
“We figure if the three of us play together we might get 15 people out,” McDonald says.
Man, it’s tough to be a musician these days.
“For a variety of reasons,” he goes on. “Part of it is that there’s too many fucking bands and too many bars and nobody’s got any money. That’s what it is.”
And that’s why you need to do something special to get attention – like form a supergroup. As the man said, “Ya need a gimmick, kid.” Now all they need is a cool name. The Big Three actually isn’t bad.