The Betsy Years take their name directly from bassist Liz Payne’s life. “My father’s been married four times,” she says. “So I denote certain periods in my childhood by who his wife was.” The Betsy years (1971 to ’77) were a significant period in Payne’s development and a time of tension in her family. In the collages that keyboardist Colm O’Reilly has made for the band’s posters and the cover of its eponymous, self-released CD, Betsy’s passport photo is superimposed on the bodies of seductresses, animals, torturers, and satanic priests. “It’s a lawsuit waiting to happen,” O’Reilly says, not looking very worried. Payne, though, is concerned about her karma. “It snowballed. There was never any malice intended.”
In 1993, Payne had a part in a Curious Theatre production, Loser’s Alias, a satirical look at rock ‘n’ roll and wrestling that required a faux rock band. The group became the kernel of the Betsy Years. The band now includes Payne, O’Reilly, guitarist Mark Comiskey, and drummer Jason Wade, all of whom are involved in improvisational-jazz projects on the side, though they remain committed to the Betsy Years. “Our sense of naivete is something that works for us,” says Comiskey. “It’s like putting high art through the tractor pull.”
The Betsy Years will perform at 9 PM this Saturday at the closing party of the Rhinoceros Theater Festival. It’s at the Lunar Cabaret and Full Moon Cafe, 2827 N. Lincoln. Call 327-6666 for more information.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Chip Williams.