Brian O’Connell is a Boston based musician who is noted for his kinetic and inventive playing on bass guitar and touch guitar in a variety of contexts. Brian has been active on the Northeast music scene and beyond for over 15 years and has performed widely with Uncle Sammy, Gordon Stone, The Gary Backstrom Band, Road To Utopia, The Grass Gypsys, under his own name, and with many others. He is active in the peace & justice community and frequently combines his activist and musical pursuits.
Brian's rock opera, Over The Line, a multimedia meditation on idealogy, indoctrination, and self realization debuted on February 4, 2012 at Spontaneous Celebrations in Boston, MA. This theatrical rock show featured giant puppet actors and a 10 piece band consisting of members of The Grass Gypsys, Brief Awakening, and the Gary Backstrom Band.
Brian is also an active participant in the movement for local and world wide peace, social justice, and sustainability.
Born in the midst of the funky and proggy 70’s in Buffalo, NY second youngest of 8 kids (one girl and seven younger boys). Influenced by his musician brothers Pat and Mark as well as the musical tastes of his other brothers he took up the bass guitar at age 13. Roger Waters bass performance movie “Pink Floyd Live at Pompeii” was the influence that led him to pick up the instrument. Lessons with Buffalo bass legend Jim Wynne provided a solid foundation to pursue music with his high school band Jamasaurus Rex, which pursued an ambitious compositional style and extended jamming. Hard work by these young musicians allowed them to climb the ladder to the point where they opened a few times for the at the time up and coming Buffalo jamband, moe.
After graduating from Amherst Central High School in 93' he attended Villa Maria College and then Buffalo State College and gigged with his drummer brother Pat O'Connell in the blues/rock band The Purple Connection and Ike Smith and the Flash of Purple. He also played original progressive rock with the band Earful. During this time Brian studied with Buffalo bass teachers Jim Kurzdorfer, Rodney Appleby, and Greg Piontek.
In September '96 Brian moved to Boston, MA to attend Berklee College of Music (graduating in '99). There he further honed his chops studying under Anthony Vitti, Jim Stinnett, Bruce Gertz, and Hal Crook. At Berklee he met Max Delaney (guitar), Tom Arey (drums) and Beau Sasser (keys) with whom he would form the band Uncle Sammy. Spearheaded by the visionary management and natural promotional skills of Jeff Waful, Uncle Sammy blazed a path of jammed out funk-rock-prog-fusion grooves that left a trail of smoke across the Northeast and East Coast from 97-03. He also played in two Uncle Sammy side projects, his own project Earthly Delights and Double Helix (formed by Uncle Sammy members Tom and Beau, which has since evolved into their widely praised groove-jazz outfit Akashic Record). Richard Gehr, of The Village Voice said of the band, "Uncle Sammy is a startlingly nimble, energetic, and spontaneous young quartet apparently comfortable jamming in just about any style of music...They amazed me recently with inventive jam after genre-shifting jam".
After Uncle Sammy disbanded in 2003 Brian played extensively throughout the Northeast & Mid-Atlantic for almost 2 years with legendary banjo and pedal steel guitar wizard Gordon Stone.
He then developed a one-man solo show which showcases “mesmerizing futuristic folk meltdowns laced with ambient nightmares and majestic soundscapes”. These solo show features the 12-string Touch Guitar, an adaptation of the Chapman Stick, a hybrid guitar/bass with a radical tuning that is played by tapping or hammering on the strings with the fingertips, like a piano. The solo performances also feature looping, samples, bass, songs, and spoken word.
In 2008, Brian played around Boston with The Excited People, a band led by Gary Backstrom Band drummer, Dave Scandurra. The Excited People combined funky grooves and slick songwriting with a socially and politically conscious message. Brian also played bass on the all star recording that documents this great project.
Brian has also played extensively with The Grass Gypsys, a songwriting collective based around the duo of husband/wife team Justin and Colleen Kleya. The Grass Gypsys perform a wide variety of original music. The GG's also feature genius Rhode Island guitarist/singer Kevin Silvia. Their new album, "Symbolsongs" was released in 2012.
Since 2006, Brian has played with The Gary Backstrom Band. A highly respected New England based guitarist/singer/songwriter, Gary made a name for himself touring with the popular jamband Jiggle the Handle and he is known for his incendiary guitar playing, soulful singing, and deep-hooks songwriting. Brian also plays in Gary’s tribute project to the legendary Todd Rundgren - Road To Utopia.
In late 2011, Brian did a short tour with a new all star group called New Moon Review which features Berkshire guitar-god Rev Tor , Xavier and Arlo Guthrie drummer Kali Baba McConnell, and rock and roll hall of famer and former Grateful Dead keyboardist Tom "TC" Constanen. This exciting new project will be appearing again in 2012 at festivals and clubs in the Northeast.
Brian debuted his rock opera, Over The Line, a multi-media show which debuted at Spontaneous Celebrations in Boston on Saturday, February 4, 2012. This multi-media theatrical show featured and all star band consisting of members of The Grass Gypsys, Brief Awakening, and The Gary Backstrom Band as well as giant puppet actors. Over the Line encompases themes centered on radical politics, societal indoctrination, and inner psychological transformation.
Brian freelances in various groups and other assorted musical situations. He is an accomplished music teacher who teaches lessons on bass, guitar, touch guitar, and piano. He is also passionately engaged in anti-war and social justice activism and organizes concert fundraisers for various peace and solidarity organizations.
Some of Brian's primary musical influences include: Frank Zappa, Pat Metheny, Jaco Pastorius, Todd Rundgren, Pink Floyd, Joe Jackson, Phish, Victor Wooten, Kai Echardt, Oregon, Trilok Gurtu, Steely Dan, Santana, Michael Hedges, Gentile Giant, ELP, Genesis, Yes, Peter Gabriel, King Crimson, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Aquarium Rescue Unit, moe., Igor Stravinsky, The Grateful Dead, The Allman Brothers, Jefferson Airplane, Radiohead, Joni Mitchell, Steve Reich, Charles Mingus, J.S. Bach, Herbie Hancock, Talking Heads, Paul Simon and many more.
Aside from extensive performances with the above mentioned bands; Brian has performed, sat in, and/or recorded with Addison Groove Project, The Breakfast, ulu, Mike Keneally, Kasim Sulton, Prarie Prince, Bobby Strickland, Peter Prince, The Bomb Squad, Scott Murowski, Marc Brownstein, Al Schnier, Chuck Garvey, Double Helix, Brother's Past, The Rev Tor Band, Miracle Orchestra, Jake Pardee, Jimmy Ryan, Victor McSurely, Brent Sirois, Oen Kennedy, Jo Henley, Automatic Man, Oak Street, Wooden Spoon, DJ Logic, Chris Opperman, Jordan Carp, Muriel Anderson, Ed Gehrhard, Pete Pidgeon & Arcoda, George Puleo, Pamela Ryder, Johnny Trauma, Mike Barnette, Anna Freitas, Mitch Cohn, Andrew Alexander, Caleb Bronz, Doug Perkins, Larry Mancini, Jeff Gittleman, Larry and Mike Reynolds, Peter Stoltzman, Julee Avallone, Chris Chitourus, and Sean Frenette; as well as members of moe., Max Creek, Soulive, The Spin Doctors, The Slip, Jiggle The Handle, The Disco Buscuits, and many more.