Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Little Bit More Death Than I Can Handle

It's been a rough summer for me. But I should be grateful that I'm alive. I just found out a few days ago that my dear friend Dave Herzer passed away, onstage up at Lake Tahoe, from a massive heart attack. It's just so fucking hard trying to put into words how you feel about a guy who you really only know one part of. I mean, I knew Dave the drummer, but I never really got to know Dave away from music. But then again, we're musicians. And for working musicians like us, music is all-encompassing - an obsession, really. Dave was a fun guy to be around. A really excellent drummer, a good singer, a sushi fanatic. Between him and my pal Mark Twohey, they were in my opinion the best drummers on the circuit, far better than me. I always felt like a plowhorse, and Dave a thoroughbred, when I saw him play.

And our paths have crossed and converged more than a few times. In the summer of 2009, just before I first filled in on drums for Steppen Stonz, and two months before I would join them full-time, I had all but joined Tracy Bing's band. Tracy is the pint-sized dynamo of a singer and leader of a band with three faces, depending on the type of gig they're playing. For most gigs it's the standard classic-rock of the Tracy Bing Band. For shows where a Fifties vibe is needed, she morphs them into Tracy & The Kingpins (which is probably what they're playing under right now at Hot August Nights in Reno). And they hit the rodeo circuit with a male singer in tow under the moniker Ricky & The Redstreaks. And no matter the name or style, they've always managed to stay busy. Tracy had yet to formally invite me to join, but the interview and grooming process was well underway. She had explained to me what she was looking for, and I guess that I'd given her the answers she was looking for. But Mike and Arthur would beat her to the punch by just a few days. I was packing up and getting ready to drive to that fill-in gig in California when she called me and asked me if I was available for a weekender elsewhere in California. To this day, I feel like I let her down, and that I still owe her an apology, even though I know I've apologized plenty of times since then. Eventually, Dave took that seat that I'd left wanting. Dave even covered for me on a few occasions at the Atlantis - Mike and Arthur loved his playing, though they told me that they'd wished he'd play a little closer to the sequence than he did.

But Dave died doing what he loved - playing, entertaining. I will grieve for his wife and his children, but I'll also grieve for his most beloved: Marsha. for those of you who knew Dave, you know what I'm talking about. For those who don't, allow me to explain. "Marsha" is a snare drum. A very, very expensive Brady Drums snare from Australia. Seriously, this one snare drum alone cost more than what I paid for the kit you see me play PLUS a fair chunk of the cymbals and hardware. And Marsha was his pride and joy. And very rarely would he let other drummers use it. I think it was at Hot August Nights in 2010 when he let me play with Marsha. We wound up sharing my kit that week, because Tracy & The Kingpins were playing a special early shift at the Nugget while Steppen Stonz played their regular evening hours. And Dave decided that while he would play my kit (which makes the transition from one band to the next soooooo much easier), he couldn't live without Marsha, but graciously decided that I should be allowed to enjoy Marsha's delights as well. To be totally honest, I felt in that moment that he truly accepted me as a colleague in the circuit. And by the way, Marsha was fucking awesome. So much better than the Sixties-vintage Ludwig student snare that I use to this day.

Rest in peace, Dave - I'll miss you.

I've just had to deal with a little more death than I can handle this summer. I mean, I knew that my grandfather would go sooner or later - he was 96, after all - but even then it was a totally wrenching, draining experience at his memorial. I just wasn't ready to lose anyone else. Joy and I have been pretty depressed ever since we'd heard of Dave's passing, and to this day I still have a hard time believing it happened - almost as though I expect Dave to post 'Fooled you!' on his Facebook page any day now. But I know that's not gonna happen. I need to celebrate my friend's life, and do the best I can to honor his memory.

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