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July 11, 1969 - Image 4

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1969-07-11

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coho das


FRIDAY, JULY 11, 1969,










-Daily-Larry Robbins

T'S AMAZING, you know, what people
can do with a piano, a bass and the
When they put them together in song,
some people can make you sit still for
hours or make you feel like dancing. Or
they can make you happy or sometimes
make you think.
"Balderdash-" you mutter. "No one is
that good, and besides, who are you to
I am a person with two ears who likes
using them to capture the music of the
Iris Bell Adventure, the long-playing trio
at the Rubaiyat on Main St.
The Adventure, which has been at the
Rubaiyat 13 months, is Iris Bell, leader
and piano player; Butch Miles, the drum-
mer who sings falsetto, deep base, country
western twang and virtually any other
voice; and Derek Pierson, the sideburned,
mustachioed bass player who also plays
the guitar and develops the group's ever-
changing special effects.
To attempt a conventional review of the
Adventure by analyzing their musical abil-
ity is unnecessary-that they are very,
very talented I shall grant them.
BECAUSE THERE IS, I think, something
more to the group than producing
well-balanced, good music. They can, plain
and simply, make you feel good inside just
watching and listening to them.
"We want to wake up people to what is
in them," Iris explains.
And I think the group succeeds because
they really play "from a love to perform,
not a need to."
Iris, Miles and Pierson are doing what
they enjoy-making a lot of good music
for people they like and inviting their
friends to join them.
At an April benefit concert at Hill Aud.,
for example; Iris stopped the program to
move the piano so she could see the audi-

"Maybe the reason I can relate well to
big groups is because I think I have failed
in a lot of my personal relationships," ad-
mits Iris.
"I want to make it up on a bigger scale."
IRIS DOES NOT talk about peace and love
merely to fill space between songs.. She
believes and lives what she says.
At the Diag rally after the first night of
arrests on South University, she walked
up to the microphone, took it and spoke
despite brief spurts of heckling.
She talked about what she talks of
every day and asked the people really to
strive for peace by being peaceful, not by
needlessly provoking violence.
As she finished Iris asked all those sup-
porting her to make the "V" peace symbol'
and raised her own hands with the many
who did.
"I just had to say something," she ex-
plains. "I had 'to find out if people still
believed in peace,..."
HOW TO END THIS now, I wonder. I
could say, "And so. folks, for a really
swell evening go down to the Rubaiyat and
see the Iris Bell Adventure. They're great."
But that won't do.
Because maybe there is no ending. May-
be things aren't finished with the group.
Though they've been together five years
they're still growing, they say.
I think it might be like a song Iris has
written, "Summer and Grass." She says
she hasn't written the last verse yet be-
cause she can't. She says she hasn't lived
it all.
And I don't think I can write the final
paragraph here, either, because there is
nothing yet than can sum up the Adven-
ture, nothing that can or should put even
a verbal lid on their music. I won't even

ence and they could see her. And before
resuming the music, she invited the crowd
to make Hill their living room.
Whether or not the transformation com-
pletely occurred is unimportant. At least
Iris let her audience know she wanted
them to be more than spectators at a mu-
sical show. She wanted them to be her
And so do Miles and Pierson.
VERSATILE AND energetic, Miles is the
youngest member of the trio at 25 and
a drummer since he was nine.
"It's very gratifying to know people like
the way we do a song," Miles says, "rather
than like it just because it's a popular
Watching him play, especially during his
10-minute drum solo in "Mirage" you
can't help but be awed and exhilarated by
the whirlwind he creates when his arms
are set against a strobe light.
They zoom up and down, across and
back like a supersonic mix-master blend-
ing every beat. Sometimes you catch a
single motion. Other times, just a blur-
shirt, stick, drum, hand-fused together.
Miles also writes some of the group's
songs and shares the major singing duties
with Iris. He is the nearest thing to the
group clown-he can create comic charac-
ters with his chameleon voice but can also
sing a mellow folk song like Leonard Co-
hen's "Suzanne."
ance the exuberance of Iris and Miles
with his quiet intensity. He's the technician
of the groun-the behind the scenes man

tar, however. He also does the special ef-
fects during each !performance which en-
tails adjusting sound levels (three or four
times during some numbers), controlling
the strobe and black lights, and singing
background as well.
SO WHEN YOU combine the talents of
these three people you have something
more than three good performers. You
have a good time.
Evidentally a very good time. The Ad-
venture came to the Rubaiyat in June of
1968 for a one month engagement. And
they're still there.
"We tell the truth here," Iris says to all
audiences. "Our old manager used to tell
us 'You have to have some gimmick' . . .
but we don't believe it. We're not an act."
When the Adventure plays there are no
games, no tricks, no blatant attempts to
overpower the audience. Instead there is a
genuine atmosphere of relaxed enjoyment
whether at 3000-seat Hill or the more inti-
mate Rubaiyat.
It comes through simply in watching the
three make music together. They smile,
they laugh, tell jokes, ("We're h e r e
even if everyone else is at the riots," Miss
Bell quipped on the second night of the
South University disturbances.)
They speak to friends in the audience
as they spot them-(at Hill, as well, fa-
miliar faces were acknowledged throughout
rows of people.)
And they always'seem to relax, ignoring
a dissonant chord, a missed beat or an ac-
cidentally garbled lyric-all of which are

Her eyes are closed, her head tilts back
and sometimes bows forward in a quiet
second. Her hands and arms are either
playing the Rubaiyat's Baldwin grand pi-
ano or waving gently to the drum and bass
accompaniment. And her shoulders sway,
reminding you of each beat going by.
The words flow in a crystal clear, strong
voice that can be Janis Joplin in one song
and Barbra Streisand in the next.
It's the kind of voice that lets you re-
lax. You're not afraid Iris will miss a high
note because her sound is so solid you
know she'll hit it.
AND SHE THINKS. She has theories,
ideas, ideals and a part of herself she
likes to convey through conversation and
through each song or set of songs the
group does.
In a sense Iris challenges each audience
with her mind. She tells them at the start
what the group is going to sing and talk
about and offers them a choice: Become
involved or leave.
They all stay. And the audience is her
Every evening Iris speaks of peace-the
internal peace in each person and the ex-
ternal peace between people and between
And she talks about love-between per-
former and audience, between all people
and most assuredly between man and wo-
Granted you may have heard this before
and may want to rank her with other "mes-
sage" performers. But I think Iris -is dif-
ferent. She's not kidding. She is what she
does-honest in both her. music and her

They left, but half an hour later they
came back, apologized and stayed until
Iris is equally blunt in delivering her
views on life. Although she talks about
love between men and women, she is quite
explicit about what she does and.does not
"For those of you who can't. get above
your belts we do this one," 'Iris says. And
she begins "Why Don't We Do It in the
She goes beyond the title, however; and
adds her own verses to emphasize the
point. One night she looked squarely into
the crowd and asked, "Why don't you do it
in the grass? Why don't you do it on your
Those who believed her laughed. Those
who understood didn't.
"HEY JUDE" PROBABLY says it best,
though, and when the trio does the
song Iris talks at great length about what
she feels. She reinterprets each section of
"Jude" and explains- her interpretations
directly to the audience.
Where the original words say "let her
into your heart," for example, Iris sings
"let love into your heart."
"If you can get so full of love for your-
self, some just has to spill out to others
and bring them into the universal circle
of people," she tells the audience. "It has
to widen that circle.
"When the Beatles sing 'go get her' they
mean 'go get love,' not merely some girl,'"
she says. "And when they say 'get her un-
der your skin' they mean 'get love under
your skin'. It's not just bed love-it's for all

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