Landing on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine was once considered a crowning achievement for a rock and roll band. There was nothing as career-affirming as “the thrill that’ll get ya when you get your picture on the cover of the Rolling Stone,” as the memorable lyric by Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show goes. Since the magazine began publishing in the late 1960s, only one Rhode Island band has ever made the cover – Newport’s own Belly –who will be playing a rare hometown show at Fort Adams State Park on October 1 at 6pm.
The alt-rock quartet includes Gail Greenwood, who replaced original bassist Fred Abong; Tanya Donelly of Throwing Muses and Breeders fame; and brothers Chris and Tom Gorman. In 1993, the song “Feed the Tree” from their debut album Star hit number one on the Billboard Modern Rock chart, a rare feat for a local band. “We had a fabulous publicist at Warner Brothers Records at the time,” says Greenwood. “Deb Bernardini was a real powerhouse in the industry, very kind to work with, and dogged about getting us this kind of attention. I tell people now, ‘Hey, your Auntie Gail was on the cover of Rolling Stone’ and nobody has any idea of what I’m talking about. I’m super proud of it; we all are, it was a great time.”
The band had its heyday in the mid-1990s, playing sold-out shows coast to coast and around the world, reuniting several times since to tour and record new music. But they have never played Fort Adams, so the upcoming concert is especially meaningful. “The show is a nice way to say thank you to family and friends in the area,” says Greenwood. “I’m a maritime naval war buff so for me it’ll be super fun to be playing in a 19th century fort. There’s going to be fire pits, s’mores, video projections on the walls of the fort… and we’ll be joined by our friends, the Parkington Sisters.” A portion of ticket sales for the show will benefit the Fort Adams Trust.
Belly rose to fame in an industry that, to this day, is still heavily male-dominated. Greenwood recalls mainly positive experiences. “Unless I was oblivious and didn’t notice, I never really faced any sexism,” she says. “I always felt accepted when I played in hardcore bands on the Providence scene. I have always been treated as a musician in a band, which has been really great. The [Throwing] Muses – I have to give them credit, they were always in charge of their own career. They knew what they wanted to do from the early days, and were not marketed or pimped out in any way.” Acknowledging that many women in the industry faced discrimination, harassment, and assault, Greenwood adds, “I can totally understand somebody else’s position and I sympathize with them for sure.”
The band is planning a short tour following the Newport gig, with sold-out shows in Boston and New York City, followed by a west coast swing later in October where they will be joined by The Breeders, Donnelly’s other band. Of course, going out on the road is a little different these days; all members have regular day jobs, and they can’t pile into a van like they did 30 years ago, which means skipping smaller cities. “It’s fun to go to the small towns, but at this point, we kind of do hit and runs in the big cities,” says Greenwood.
Headquarters on Aquidneck Island is Greenwood’s home studio. “We practice at the rock and roll control center, as we call it,” says the bassist. They’ll be rehearing with the Parkington Sisters, who will join the band on their east coast dates. Belly is also working on a new album, expected to be released in 2024. Find tickets at FortAdams.org; BellyOfficial.com
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