So many times, great song writers get stuck in their hometown or the city where they started performing. Many times, it’s because they don’t have the funds or support needed to showcase anywhere else. Some have day jobs. Others have families to support. But you always notice them when they open for a band you like, or catch them at your favorite venue. These artists always have dedication, animation, and passion to pull off a great performance with carefully crafted talents.
Liberty Bell Sessions is a project created to get Philadelphia artists out of their locality and in front of a wider audience. “I am constantly amazed by the quality and power of songs that come out of Philadelphia. I think it’s something in the water,” says creator of the project, Ross Bellenoit. “Even when I moved to Philadelphia back in 2003, I was in awe of how many great songwriters there were in this fair city of ours.”
The idea came naturally through a conversation with Club Passim’s (in Cambridge, MA) owner, Matt Smith. Originally Bellenoit was being asked to come back and play a set after being featured on one of Peter Mulvey’s Lamplighter Sessions last November. It was his suggestion to get other Philadelphia artists on the bill with him that got the wheels turning. “After being on the road for several years, I was always pining to bring these great contemporary songs out to the rest of the world.” Bellenoit ran with the idea after Smith coined the term “Liberty Bell Sessions”.
“We want to present each other’s songs in ways that are new to each of us. Since we all have our own projects and people that we play with, this new environment lends to more spontaneous and fresh collaborative ideas for each other’s songs.” The idea is to have a round of 4 songwriters that allows each artist to perform his/her song while the other three accompany and create harmonies. This will go on for about 5 rounds or so, balancing out the test-run performances of new material and presenting the songs we know and love from all these great songwriters. Bellenoit keeps an open mind saying, “Who knows, we very well may write a bunch of new songs as a group, but that’s reaching a little far for what I’m trying to accomplish.”
Having a history of allowing songwriters a place to showcase their craft, Club Passim seemed like the most logical venue to debut such a project. “Once we had the date booked, we figured why not try to build a little tour around it.” Bellenoit mentions. Starting tonight in Philadelphia’s Studio 34, the first session consisting of top-notch artists and fellow collaborators Ross Bellenoit, Birdie Busch, Chris Kasper, and Sonja Sofya, will play through Brooklyn, Montague, Burlington, and finally Boston.
The goal is to have the sessions be a bi-annual event, bringing, ideally, a whole new cast of artists each time. “If this first tour goes well enough, I’ll simply try to book the same route (maybe with some additions) for the late fall.” With the aim towards having variety, Bellenoit wants to make sure that each session can have a 4 piece band; someone on keys, another on guitar, someone on percussion, and a few on harmonies. “I’m trying to avoid the whole ‘four dudes with guitars’ aesthetic that can happen at in-the-rounds sometimes.”
All of this is done for you to get the chance to experience some of Philly’s finest without making the trip.