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Of Skulls and Cellos: Billy Mickelson makes haunting magic with Third Seven 

Self taught cellist brings to the stage a solo act of dark gospel.

click to enlarge onstage_billymickelsonbyangi.jpg

Billy Mickelson has a cello. And that's about it. Well, at least on stage.

And if there's one thing we know about cellos, or at least we think we know about cellos is that they are absolutely, never cool - at all. But Mickelson, who has served as a member of Larry and His Flask, Mr. Potato, The Dela Project and several other acts since high school, has accomplished the impossible. With his new solo act, Third Seven, Mickelson is spending most of the summer on the road armed merely with his cello, the neck of which is topped with a skull, some loop pedals and a microphone. It's with this seemingly scant arsenal that Mickelson has created the haunting yet accessible tunes that are fueling a nationwide tour, which includes one last stop in Bend on Wednesday before he heads all the way from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine.

You'd think this is where we'd talk about how Mickelson picked up the cello in a grade-school orchestra program and made it his life mission to work it into a rock and roll career. Not quite.

"I'm self-taught on cello. I grew up classically trained on piano, so I had a good knowledge of music theory and music in general and I'd played guitar in a number of bands," says the 27-year-old Mickelson, having just arrived in Redding last week for a gig before meeting up with Larry and His Flask for one of their Warped Tour gigs.

After Casey Prather, his band mate in Dela Project, decided to return to school, Mickelson began putting more effort into Third Seven, one of the many musical projects that had always been on his backburner. But when he first set off as a solo musician, he didn't even have original songs to play. That, however, didn't stop him.

"I didn't have any songs to play or even a set list, it was totally improvisation and it actually all went really well," he recalls. Since then, he's played everywhere from coffee shops to art shows to rock clubs and found his music appreciated in each of these seemingly divergent venues.

It might be difficult to imagine how one man and a cello could make for an exciting live show, but it works for Mickelson, whose music tends to match his black Western attire and skull imagery.

"I kind of think of it as dark gospel. It's gospel, but it has this almost evil tinge to it that fascinates me," says Mickelson. - Mike Bookey

Third Seven

8pm Wednesday, July 6. Madhappy Lounge, 850 SW Brooks St.

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