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Remembering Jay Reatard, and his blistering December show at Crowbar

14

January

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On Dec. 5, Jay Reatard played a blistering set at Crowbar in Ybor City. Just over five weeks later, on Wednesday, the 29-year-old died in his sleep at his home in Memphis.

While the Internet rumor mill runs its course, speculating on the cause of this tragic, far-too-early death, let's remember why this is a huge loss for the music world.

Since 1998, the man born Jimmy Lee Lindsey Jr. released at least 19 albums and 41 EPs and singles with nine different bands. Prolific is an understatement. Jay had a knack for cramming hook after catchy hook into a mix of 1960s garage rock and 1970s punk. It was a formula that, after being honed for eight years, was finally realizing its full potential with the release of his last two albums under the “Jay Reatard” moniker.

At Jay’s Crowbar show in December, he played like a man with something to prove. About two months prior, his backing band quit on him. Within a mere two weeks, he had a new band and was on tour with them in Europe. At Crowbar, one could overhear people wondering if this new band was going to be any good. This is something that was probably asked of Jay at every stop on tour.

When the time came, Jay and his band took to the stage with a deafening squeal of feedback and launched right into their set. 

Forty minutes. No stage banter. Seventeen songs. No encore. That was it. Three guys playing together as if they had some psychic connection, seemingly unaware that they were being watched, hammering out some of the catchiest rock and roll of recent years.

At the time, the short but song-packed set seemed perfect. In 2010, Jay would have probably release a few singles and maybe an album from one of his projects.

Though his songwriting was starting to mature, his live shows were still raw and volatile. There had been several altercations between Jay and audience members over the years, though most were not started by the band. The most recent incident happened a few nights after the Crowbar show: Two fans attacked Jay onstage in Austin because they thought his set was too short. Rock and roll is supposed to be a little dangerous, right?

Chances are these two fine folks from Austin, as well as the rest of us, would have been able to see Jay live several times in the coming years, as his touring was almost as prolific as his recorded output. Sadly, none of this will come to pass.

For whatever the reason, a gifted songwriter and performer was taken from the world far too early.

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-- Gabriel Loewenberg, tbt*

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 28, 2010 3:16pm]

    

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