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Green musicians cycle between tour stops

Chris Bell and Ben Sollee on the road

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Green musicians cycle between tour stops


Some musicians cram into a rusted van with some bandmates, some rent a massive touring bus and select others are fortunate enough to fly across the country. But what about riding a bicycle about 700 miles over the span of 18 days?

That's exactly what Chris Bell, an indie folk multi-instrumentalist, will do this July. Starting in his hometown of Jamestown, N.Y., on July 1, Bell will wind his way through the Midwest, ending his tour in Chicago on July 18.

On July 11, Bell will visit the Indy Hostel at 8 p.m. for the fifth of seven shows planned mostly around the Midwest. For just $5, guests who visit the Indy Hostel will be able to hear an artist who makes music that sounds much like the eclectic, indie folk of the Arcade Fire or the Decemberists. Bell will use a Casio keyboard, a ukulele and a looping pedal.

When he talks about how he sounds on this solo tour compared to when he travels with other musicians, Bell says, "Everything's really, really calm this tour because you cannot be very angry with a ukulele. You can try, but it doesn't work."

Ben Sollee, another indie folk musician, biked south through his home state of Kentucky this year to his gig at Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tenn. Sollee took the trip under the auspices of Peddling Against Poverty, a campaign raising money and support for Oxfam America.

"It's such a nice change of pace to get on a bike and ride six, seven, eight hours to a gig," Sollee says.

It took Sollee eight days to get to Bonnaroo with his crew, where he performed as a solo act, accompanying himself on cello. He says that touring by bike isn't for everyone, but if smaller acts can find a way, he encourages them to try it.

Bell says he got sick of conventional touring, that being in a car all day was "even worse than being in an office building" because someone driving in a car can see all that he is missing. So he sought out alternate ways to travel, beginning with a tour by canoe last year down the Erie Canal.

"It really helps me realize that there's just a lot of interesting places and cool people to meet," Bell says. "It keeps me optimistic, even on days like today when my legs are hurting a bit more than they should be."

Excerpts from Ben Sollee's Pedaling Against Poverty Blog:

Today was challenging and exhilarating. As you might imagine, the learning curve for someone that has been on the road only in planes, trains and automobiles transitioning to a bicycle was not very steep. But we did get everything strapped on to the Xtracycles, including Marty's homemade camera mounts (he's really proud of them), and hit the road into a fine, Kentucky veil of rain ...

Unfortunately, I left my riding shorts in a dryer in Frankfort (yikes). However, the weather was a big improvement over yesterday's drizzle. It's a bit of give and take I guess. I'm getting a better handle for what it means to ride this Xtracycle with all the gear. You can't approach the terrain with the same intention as you would on a regular road bike. It's more akin to driving a truck and letting the load push you up the hills when it's possible. But some of these steeper hills I had no option but to walk the bike up. Our bell competition is heating up. I nabbed Marty's bell earlier but then I crashed and took a huge dive over the embankment ... it's so important to know how to fall.

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