Gail talks to the Boston Herald about music, fighting cancer and more!
Dear Belly family,
Unfortunately, as far too many of us know, cancer never comes at a
good time. Last April, in the middle of rehearsals for Belly’s 2016
reunion tour, I was diagnosed with endometrial cancer. Shows had been
booked, advance tickets sold, and complicated travel and logistical
arrangements were already in place–not just for the band, but for all
of you making plans to travel to see us. As you can imagine, it was a
huge “oh, shit…” moment.
I am blessed to be working with the dearest of friends in Belly, and
my bandmates fully supported me in weighing every option and in every
decision I had to make, including serious consideration of cancelling
and rescheduling tour dates. My oncology team at Women & Infants
Hospital (Belly fans!) actually encouraged me to go on tour and
continue life as normally as possible, and worked my treatment
schedule around each leg of the tour. I had surgery six weeks before
we kicked things off with our ‘secret’ gig in Newport and then headed
to the UK. I had my first chemotherapy treatment ten hours after
flying back from our show in Dublin. Throughout chemo, my Belly
compatriots patiently awaited my word on how I was feeling after each
round and to see if the next leg of the tour would proceed, putting my
health and my needs above all else. They have been incredible. And we
did it–not a single cancelled or rescheduled show! LOVE to you, Tom,
Chris and Tanya.
Though I prefer to keep health issues private, with the impending
threat of repeal of the ACA (Affordable Care Act, or ‘Obamacare’), I
feel I cannot remain silent. Thanks to the ACA, many independent
artists, musicians, freelancers and small business owners, such as my
partner, Chil, and myself, and millions of low-income Americans have
access to health insurance and medical care. Chil and I have been with
the program since its inception, buying our health insurance through
Rhode Island’s excellent exchange. This is not my first ride at the
cancer rodeo, and without the provisions of the ACA (such as
prohibiting the denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions and
outlawing yearly and lifetime caps) I would’ve had a very difficult
time getting the treatment I needed. I can literally say that
Obamacare has saved my life twice (so far….)!
Now, as a recent graduate of ‘Team Chemo’, I want to personally thank
all of you for helping me get through the summer and fall portion of
my treatment. Even though you may not have known all that was going on
(or at least had the grace not to call me out on the suspicious
assorted vegan-roadkill strapped on my head while on stage!), the joy
you shared with the four of us on stage was pure unicorn dust, with a
healing power no FDA-approved medicine can touch! You all helped me
get through this and I can’t wait to see you again in 2017!
PS: Special thanks to next-generation Belly-baby bass-player Indi Rose! Hearing that I inspired you to go for the bass inspired me and gave me an extra potent shot-in-the-arm when I needed it!
In spite of 2016’s overall tenor on many fronts being sad, frustrating, ominous and depressing, the Belly reunion tour was an unqualified success, and we sincerely and gratefully thank everyone who came out for making the shows very, very special events (…not to mention some of the most fun we’ve ever had)! We truly didn’t know what to expect- from initially getting together in a room to relearn and rehearse, to stepping on stage and playing live as a band for the first time in twenty-plus years- but from the start it was a near blinding-bright, joyous light in what otherwise feels like rather dark times. The power of music and art to generate happiness and connection was, and is, undeniable, and it was a beautiful thing to be a part of with all of you. So…. goodbye to 2016 and thank you for being there with us, and welcome to 2017, which we aim to do our part in making a better year. Maybe we’ll be fiddling while Rome burns….. or maybe we’ll be providing a little bit of the soundtrack to a revolution!
No, we didn’t forget about those of you in the UK/Europe, it just took a while to get things together. New patches, stickers, buttons, and a limited number of vintage special-packaging King CDs and Belly/King ‘loaded dice’ have just been added to our UK merch store! The last few remaining 2016 tour shirts are available there, too, as well as a fresh batch of the black ‘tree logo’ shirts and the grey ‘bird circle’ shirts.
And these lovely new patches have also been added to the US merch store, where there are still a few of the King special-packaging CDs and Belly/King ‘loaded dice’ available!
Friends- bandsintown.com and other concert aggregation sites continue to use our photo when announcing shows for the rapper who also goes under the name Belly. We have NO SHOWS SCHEDULED at this time. If/when we do book anything, the first place we’ll announce it will be here and on our Facebook page and Twitter account.
From the first note of the first rehearsal, to the last note of the last song of the final show in Minneapolis on Sunday, the 2016 Belly Reunion Tour was an absolute blast, far, far exceeding our hopes and expectations. Every single show was fantastic, and at every step, in every way, we got back every bit of what we gave, and more.
A gigantic ‘thank you’ to everyone who came out to a show- this tour really, truly was something special, and sharing it with such enthusiastic, devoted and wonderful people was beyond words. We were regularly rendered speechless and teary-eyed by it all, realizing how much Belly’s music has meant to so many of you, while rediscovering how much playing this music together meant to each of us.
Very special thanks to everyone ‘behind the scenes’ who helped make it happen: Sergio Maschetzko, who did sound in the UK/IRL; John Overstreet and Brian Brown who did sound in the US; Petr Hlavacek who drove and handled merch in the UK/IRL; Chil Mott who helped with everything in the UK/IRL; Concerted Efforts (US booking) and X-Ray Touring (UK/IRL booking); Chris Bigg and 4AD; the staff and crew at all the great venues where we performed; the promoters in each city we played; Nomads of Prague for tour vehicle and backline in the UK/IRL; SIR and Total Music Services for US backline rentals; DW for drum support: Jay Walsh (of The Douglas Fir), Adam Hanson (Patriarch Guitars) and Matt Pynn for lending us acoustic and back-up guitars at various points on the tour; the crews at Kontraband and JSR for t-shirts and merch; Kayrock for poster printing; our spouses/partners, kids, and the rest of our families for allowing us to hit the road and for all their love and support along the way (especially Richard Donelly for spending some time behind the wheel!), and, of course, Bear Bear and Maurice…..
And finally, an extra ‘thank you’ to all the loveably obsessive, gluttons-for-awesome nut-cases that inhabit the Shimmer Facebook group!
Love & Gratitude,
photo: vinh le
Thank you San Francisco for an amazing night in a gorgeous venue in a beautiful city! These shows are all just so, sooo much fun! Extra thanks to Matt and the rest at the Great American Music Hall- what a place!
photo: susan kaup
Thank you LA, for such a warm, Southern-California welcome last night at the Teragram Ballroom! Fantastic crowd, great venue- we had a blast (could you tell…?)! See you tonight- same time, same place- when we do it all again!