Adrian Belew was playing in a costumed cover band in Nashville when Frank Zappa discovered him in 1977. He'd never played odd time signatures and couldn't read music, but according to Belew, "[Zappa] wanted to be able to do some of the funnier music and wanted somebody there who wouldn't object to wearing a dress or a helmet or whatever it took."
Over the next four years, Belew would not only play with Zappa. He would also tour the world as David Bowie's sideman, collaborating with the Talking Heads and Robert Fripp along the way. The latter proved the partnership that would make him famous: In 1981, Belew joined Fripp in the reformed King Crimson. Belew began to forge his idiosyncratic guitar sound with their debut, Discipline.
"I was the first guy I ever knew with a guitar synthesizer, and Robert was the second," Belew says, laughing. "You had these two guys who could suddenly sound like trumpets and violins and things, which was totally strange. Then, in the air, there was a very adventurous kind of creativity that a lot of people [Talking Heads, Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel] were exploring, especially with African rhythms and Balinese music."
Between periodic King Crimson and Bears albums, solo work and guest spots, Belew spawned two power trios of his own. He recently recorded two albums with Tool drummer Danny Carey and Primus bassist Les Claypool. He later discovered Eric and Julie Slick—20- and 21-year-old sibling graduates of Paul Green's School of Rock—to bring the music to life on stage.
"They're young, gifted and so focused," beams Belew of drummer Eric and bassist Julie. "They don't have any jadedness. They don't have any vices. They don't even have a driver's license yet. Because of that, their focus is so incredible and their energy level is what amazes me. The show is like electricity."
Adrian Belew plays with the Slick siblings as the Adrian Belew Power Trio at Cat's Cradle Tuesday, Aug. 21, at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $18-$20. Saul Zonana opens.