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July 21, 2005
So often when a famous or semi-famous musician dies there are countless articles, blogs and websites that show up to pay tribute and to preserve that person's memory. The loss of one of our heroes saddens us, but seldom do we really relate on an intensely personal level because those people live separate lives, apart from the daily grind of mass existence. I mean, how many of us that are in bands, were in bands, or are just big music fans get to tour the states and Europe and play to the adoration of thousands of fans? How many of us get to play to 50,000 people at 1:30 in the afternoon outside of some farm town in England? I mean, we all dream about making it, but it doesn't happen for most of us.

Like myself and countless others, my friend Kevin Dziadon wanted to be in one of those great rock bands. Kevin wanted to be, for lack of a better term, a "rock star." But though he made good music with some good bands, in the grand scheme of things he was never more than a blip on the radar of the underground music scene. Last Saturday night in an apartment in Brussels, Belgium, Kevin died at the age of 28.

When we were both younger and dreaming about playing in a cool band, the topic of dying would sometimes come up. You know, dying like Hendrix, Morrison, Cobain, Joplin, or Ian Curtis. We would dream that, if one of us died at a young age, we would have reached a point where our band would matter enough for it to be a big deal. We didn't really want to die young, but if it happened we wanted to at least have achieved some form of musical immortality. A point where the surviving members of the band would get calls about when we first met and all that crap. Well, not surprisingly, no one has called to ask me about Kevin. But, like any of us, his is a story worth knowing.

Kevin's freshman year in high school was the time that he began the move from the guy who got complimented for wearing ties to the guy that died his hair fluorescent yellow, and it was music that fueled his descent. There was no one particular band that changed his life; along with our friend Nate, we had begun discovering great new bands almost every week, and that musical revolution quickly changed all of us. We loved Fugazi, the Jesus Lizard, the Blues Explosion, the Smashing Pumpkins, Pavement, the Archers of Loaf, the Grifters, the Verve, Zeppelin, the Who. Every weekend there was a road trip up to Chicago from where we lived in Bourbonnais, some 50 miles to the south. We would become fast friends with anyone who had a driver's license and a car. Anyone that could take us to see PJ Harvey (back when she rocked), Hum, Quicksand, the Poster Children, Seaweed, et cetera, they were our friends.

Kevin's own musical career began with the purchase of a bass guitar somewhere around his sophomore year in high school. For a while he took bass lessons, but like any good rocker he decided the best way to learn was to play for real. Lacking any friends that played any musical instruments, Kevin recruited me to play drums with him. Since I had no job and was not blessed with wealthy parents, Kevin and I bought a children's drum set, setting into motion a brief adventure that did not go all that well. Apparently, what I lacked in ability I could not make up for in enthusiasm for playing tiny drums. Compounding matters was the fact that I broke the kit during our first practice.

A few months later, through some friends, a band was finally started. Kevin would play bass, our friends John Fetterer and Dheeru Pennepali would play guitar, I would be the singer and, well, you could always find a drummer somewhere, right?

After a couple of weeks searching the ranks of our high school, Kevin and I recruited this guy named James from our P.E. class to play drums. We had never spoken to him before we asked him to play, and in hindsight, as a tip to all you aspiring high school bands, I can say with a degree of certainty that just because a person looks like he'll be good at playing the drums, doesn't mean he will be. A couple of weeks later, Kevin had his first real cliché band moment when he kicked James out of the band, as we were all sitting in a car on the way too a concert in Chicago (Superchunk maybe?). "Oh yeah, and can we buy your drums off of you?"

While it wasn't the most tactful thing I have ever experienced, it was, without doubt, total rock and roll. I mean we didn't really know this guy except that we asked him to buy a drum set and play music with us. Miraculously, he had agreed. About three weeks later we were kicking him out of the band on the way to a concert. It made for an awkward show and an even more awkward ride home. Luckily, John F. seemed to have a good rhythm, so we changed to a four-piece and installed him on the drums.

Our first concert was at our high school's 24-hour Relay for Cancer (or something like that). We played in the early afternoon and we were not good. Still, what we lacked in skill we made up for in excitement. A person dressed up like Spiderman handed out a 15 lb bag of both baked beans and tapioca pudding. We covered "Beat It" and it went so well that a girl actually came up to the stage and kicked me in the ass. We were blazing away and, consequently, went over our 30-minute allotment, prompting the officials to turn my microphone off. Ever defiant, Kevin, Dheeru and John kept playing. We were not asked back the next year.

That summer Kevin wrote a letter to Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips explaining that he was organizing a show on the deck around his parents' outdoor pool, asking Mr. Coyne if his band would play. Wayne wrote back saying that they would love to play the show, but that they had other obligations. The show went ahead anyway, and it actually saw a pretty big turnout. While we were not exactly what one would call tight, our band did have a lot of fun. I still think it was my grilled cheese sandwiches that brought the masses out, and that the music made them stay.

We had a new name every month, something that confused even our most ardent supporters (our parents). We were Crambone, Rock Band Utica, Jimmy Two Times, Moses Pudding, and The Pinchers of Power. There we even side projects like Crotch 22 and Scromp Attack. We played the Wicked Brew, Spankonnais (the little brother to the annual Spankakee festival) and the Friendship Festival. We played an 8th grade graduation party. A five-year-old kid once asked for our autographs. We played a couple of New Year's Eve shows in Ann Arbor, Michigan, but mostly we stuck around northern Illinois. If there was a venue that needed a band anywhere in Kankakee County, we were there. Kevin loved it all.

After a couple of years and a couple of short cassette-tape-only EP's, Jimmy Two Times went the way of so many other high school bands. Although we were shaky at the start, the music that was being made by Kevin, John and Dheeru at the end was downright listenable. As for my singing- let's just say that I had good stage presence.

Over the years Kevin and Dheeru had actually matured and, with a new band at the University of Illinois, they began to take the music part of being a musician a little more seriously. They started playing out at parties around Champaign-Urbana and eventually were playing shows every couple of weeks at the local venues. The band was called the Bargos Steeler and they were pretty damn good. [LAS review of Classic Steve]

What should you know about the Bargos Steeler? Perhaps their biggest claim to fame was that the White Stripes once opened for them, which at the time it happened was not really saying a lot. Kevin's driving bass was the backbone of the band as Dheeru's shifting, angular guitar played riffs that were somehow catchy and frightening at the same time. As our friend Jack once termed it, they were construction rock.

The biggest reason I was sure that the Bargos Steeler were going to make something of themselves was the relationship between Kevin and Dheeru. To say that they often grated on each other's nerves would be an understatement. They were the classic love-hate songwriting duo. Though Dheeru and Kevin managed to play music with their own unique sound, their relationship was so rock and roll cliché. It was frustrating at times, but it made for great theater. They had some bad fights, but there was also a time when they were both jumped by a couple of thugs and Kevin wound up getting severely beaten up by trying to attract the attention away from Dheeru. They were musical brothers.

As bands go, the Bargos Steeler was moderately successful. They actually toured. They played with other cool bands. They released two albums. (I believe the editor of this website might have some way to get a hold of the CDs.) Their last couple of shows found them growing into a bigger, more powerful sound with the addition of a second guitarist. Another year or two down the road and they would be launching full-fledged tours and touring Iceland opening for Mogwai or something. But that didn't happen because the Bargos Steeler, like most bands, eventually broke up. The rocky relationship between Kevin and Dheeru's musical approaches was straining their friendship too much, their new drummer was moving overseas and real life was catching up to everyone. Kevin eventually met the love of his life and moved with her to Europe.

During the last couple of years in Belgium Kevin found time to play in three different bands at the same time. Although the music I heard was different than the Bargos, it was still good. It still sounded like Kevin on bass. He could play funky, smooth and abrasive all at the same time. He could anchor any song with a groove, but he also had flourishes of Rush-like fluidity. And only Kevin could have written the lyrics "Cut a rug like a mutha" for a singer that couldn't speak a word of English.

Kevin's life was much more than music, and in his twenty-eight years he did a lot more than just play the bass. But other than the time he spent with his girlfriend, he was never more alive than when he was playing music. I got the impression that someday soon he was going to move to Chicago and play music with Dheeru again. I hoped that this time it was going to work and that the hipsters would be lining up in 2008 to see my friends play at the Empty Bottle. But that all changed last Saturday night.

Pitchforkmedia will not be posting a flash about his death, there will be no Kevin Dziadon essential songs sidebars in the next Magnet magazine and no Starving Musicians Fund has been started in his name for fans to contribute to. So why should you give a crap about this guys death? You should care because Kevin Dziadon wasn't Elliot Smith. He was you and I.

--
John Steinbacher
The last we heard, Steinbacher was living in Minneapolis.

See other articles by John Steinbacher.

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