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Honky tonk with an edge



Bottom of the Barrel’s upcoming show is June 22

By Emily Stifler Managing Editor

BIG SKY – Bottom of the Barrel embodies a growing genre of modern cowboy country: honky tonk dance music with an edge.

“A lot of our backgrounds come from heavier, more rocking style of music,” said lead guitarist and vocalist Jeff Bellino, who cites Robert Earl Keen, Waylon Jennings, Hayes Carll, Johnny Cash, Ryan Adams and Led Zeppelin as influences.

“We throw a rowdier spin on it,” said Bellino, also owner of High Country Landscape and Earthworks in Big Sky. “What we do isn’t a lot like the classic country sound. We have more electric guitars, more distortion, more drumming.”

The drummer, Tom Casale, also a Big Sky ski patroller, has a rock background and previously played with the Big Sky group, the Politicians. “He likes to hit the drums pretty hard,” Bellino said. “It all adds to our sound.”

Lead singer and acoustic guitarist Lauren Regnier, whose powerful, bluesy-twang belies her quiet nature, is grocery manager at the Hungry Moose Market and Deli, and started singing at age 13 in her church and school choirs in Illinois.

“I grew up on strong female singers like Wynona [Judd], Lucinda Williams and Patty Loveless,” she says. “I used to sit on the swing set and just sing as loud as I could for hours at a time.”

Jon Parvin, bassist and occasional vocalist, drives a snowplow in winter and landscapes during the summer as his day jobs. With inspiration from the Grateful Dead, Neil Young and the influential jazz bass player Jaco Pastorius, Parvin’s style is “full of energy, classic country rhythms and a sharp wit,” Bellino says.

Parvin also plays guitar and has a solo career playing Americana folk.

“I like how there’s a lot of walking around on the bass [with country music], and that you can play it anywhere to any age group,” Parvin said.

When the group began playing in Big Sky, they were “begging everyone to let us play,” Bellino recalls. They’ve since gigged at the Eagles Club and Mixers in Bozeman, the Black Bear, Choppers and the Broken Spoke in Big Sky, the Big Sky Resort pond skim, and the Gravel Bar in Ennis.

“They were really entertaining,” recalls Warren Miller Performing Arts Center artistic director John Zirkle of the BOTB show he saw. “Lauren has a beautiful, buttery, sultry voice – sultry in the sense of local, homegrown, mountain rock. It’s pleasantly lyrical, something I might not expect in a bar environment.”
Photo by Meredith Gardiner

Bellino and Regnier first started playing together in 2010 at By Word of Mouth’s open mic night.

“The open mic nights started taking off, getting wild and crazy and really fun,” Regnier recalls.

Soon after, Bellino started playing with Parvin, who at the time had another band, the Stumblin’ Charlies. Casale ended up running open mic in 2011, and the rest is history.

“We seem to really jive when we hit the stage,” Bellino says. “I love the vibe we get from a crowd at a show.”

The group, which has gathered a solid local following, performs covers but also has five originals it plays at most shows.

Although each band member has a regular job, Regnier says they hope to eventually get to the point where BOTB is full time. “That’s the dream.”

And things are looking good: This summer, between private events and bar gigs around southwest Montana, the group has three to five shows booked per month.

They also hope to record an album in the new local studio, Skylab Media House.

“We’re continually trying to keep writing more,” Bellino said. “It’s fun to play music that we love that other people have written, but it’s more rewarding to play our own music and to get a great response.”

Summer schedule

June 22 – Broken Spoke, Big Sky
July 27 – Big Sky Community Corp. Gala fundraiser, Big Sky
Aug. 1 – Broken Spoke, Big Sky, after the professional bull riders tour
Aug. 17 – Gravel Bar, Ennis

On a Friday afternoon at Lone Peak High School, Matt Bakken’s four Web Design 2 students were working on the website they built for Bottom of the Barrel. Trevor and Quinn House were adding audio files of original music the band had recorded, and Gabrielle Gasser and Griffin House were uploading photos.

“It was a learning experience for us,” Quinn said of the two-month project. “It was our first time making a website for someone. It made it matter more.”

The students had previously used Dreamweaver and learned html and css coding, but this was their first time using WordPress, which they chose because it would ultimately be easier to turn over to the band.

“None of us are techy at all,” said BOTB lead guitarist Jeff Bellino. “We don’t have the first idea on how to make a website.”

Photo by Emily Stifler

Bakken, in his first year teaching at LPHS, asked his students to research and present their ideas to the band before executing the site.

“I wanted to create a business feel where they had to work with a customer and get approval for each step, see if they want something fixed,” Bakken said.

The students also created a YouTube account for BOTB and edited video from the band’s live show at the Big Sky Resort pond skim; linked the new site to the band’s Facebook page and vice versa; created a Google+ account; edited photos for the site on Photoshop; and linked it to Google Maps, showing viewers how to get to venues where the band is playing.

“We’ll have to spend a day teaching [the band] what to do, how to add posts, links and tour dates,” said Bakken, who plans to continue the program with future classes.

“When we first cooked up this idea, it was almost a joke,” Bellino said. “But having met the kids doing it, they’re doing a great job. What they’re building for us is pretty much exactly what we’re looking for.”

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