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On Wednesday night I was in desperate need of a positive distraction, so I went to the Baked Potato to check out a couple of bands featuring musicians from the Mike Keneally band.

The first one was Smug, a band with Rick Mussalam on guitar. Rick is Mike Keneally's guitarist. I had seen them open for Mike a few months ago, and they were pretty cool. This time they had a longer set, almost an hour long, and played quite a few songs. The trio plays some fairly straightforward rock, with their bassist Bret on lead vocals and general extravagance. Their set was very enjoyable and they all did a great job.

The second band, and the main act, was the Bryan Beller band. Bryan is Mike's bassist in MKB, and pretty much follows him around all the time like Rick. His band also included Mike himself, Rick, and Joe Travers, who is also Mike's current drummer. So I quickly realized that this band was actually a superset of the current Mike Keneally band, as it included all of its members, and then some more ! Chris Golden on secondary bass, and Griff Peters on guitar. There were also a couple of guest vocalists on a couple of songs : Colin Keenan and Kira Small.

I was very pleasantly surprised by Bryan's songwriting. His material was actually very solid, mostly instrumental, very often technically challenging yet accessible. All musicians being the semi-god prog-heads they were, it was quite the display of musicianship. Bryan himself took quite the lead role, playing not only bass, but also keyboards, and even a bit of singing. Not to mention general wise-cracking. The bit about audience participation was hilarious. He basically asked for a volunteer, and later just ended up needing to steal his chair for an acoustic bass solo. :)

Mike Keneally was relegated to that of a keyboard player for most of the show, though they did play one of the songs from his album Dog, where he took the lead on guitar. He also played a weird baritone guitar at one point, though to be honest I am not quite sure what the difference is with a regular guitar. It seemed to have more frets, but I could be wrong.

The band played until about midnight, covering a lot of his own material, as well as some other stuff from Mike, Kira and even some jazz classics. I left the venue very impressed, and intended to buy his CD. I didn't get to it there as he got caught up with all his friends and I wanted to go home, but I'm ordering it right now. Very good stuff.
This was also Bryan's only second solo show ever. He had played there a few months back but I couldn't make it back then. Now I will be sure not to miss him next time around.

Having gotten there early enough on a Wednesday night, I had a decent seat at a second-row table, so I got some good pictures of the show. The atmosphere was joyful and relaxed, and the music kicked ass. Definitely something I needed, along with the Guinness. I want to go back to the Baked Potato this week-end to check out one of the shows with Frank Gambale, who is a great guitarist I saw there a pretty long time ago.