I am a priest, parent, entrepreneur, and musician living in the Baltimore area.
You can find me saying Mass or preaching at Saint Stephen's Anglican Church in Timonium, Maryland where I serve as Associate Rector. You can also find me in the offices of Sickweather, Inc. where I serve as CTO and general geek.
I have been playing in bands in the Baltimore/DC area for a little over 25 years. I've always enjoyed playing in punk, hardcore, goth, industrial, or other such genres. I've even been in a couple of country projects, in the vein of Whiskeytown, etc. The first of these many bands (at least the first functional one) was Disillusion, which was formed in 1990 by myself, Chris Swain, Scott Wood, Jason Groth, and Jason Dowell.
I went to my friend Scott's funeral on Saturday. We hadn't hung out in real life for a decade or two; social media has made us all incredibly lazy in how we handle friendships. We kept in touch on here, and we always said we'd get together, but never did.
Scott was the lead guitar player in my first band, Disillusion. I started Disillusion with my best friend Chris Swain in 1990. We'd go to his house after school and write songs. As soon as we had a handful of them, we convinced his friend Jason Groth to play drums for us, and found a bass player, Jason Dowell. Jason Groth's parents were kind enough to let us practice there, and I can still remember Jason's mom, who was kind to a fault, saying "Jason, can't you ask Chris to change the lyrics to say "life's not *freaking* fair" when you practice at home?"
Scott was a far better guitarist than I was, and I remember we'd get together at his house after school. We'd write new songs together, and he'd teach me new tricks. I remember sitting in his room watching Ministry's "In Case You Didn't Feel Like Showing Up," on VHS, and Scott and I learning Jane's Addiction songs when they were still amazing. We eventually had enough Disillusion songs ready to play a show, and play a show we did; in the Groth family's back yard. All of our friends came, and we really felt like we'd arrived even though it was a backyard show and my mom was using an 80s camcorder to film it.
We played our real first show a few months later in 1991. Life of Agony had just released their second demo, "The Stain Remains" and were playing at the Polka Inn in Baltimore. We were all on their mailing list from the prior year, when they played the Dry Dock and were selling the first demo, Depression. We loved that band. I somehow convinced the promotor to let us open, and for some reason I think the other bands were Just Cause and Clutch. It was great, even if we really weren't very good. I remember Mike Ayres and Aaron Martinek from The Corrupted/Next Step Up and Bob and Kurt from Just Cause sticking around just to be nice.
We recorded our first demo a couple months later. A band from southern Pennsylvania called Last Call had a rehearsal space and makeshift two-track studio in a rental storage unit. It was bitter cold in the steel-walled storage unit, but we recorded six tracks of sloppy punk/hardcore a couple of days before Christmas. We continued to play locally whenever possible, and eventually we were invited to play a three day punk and hardcore festival called The Popsicle Jubilee Festival in Charlotte, NC. My father borrowed a minivan from the Chevy dealership where he was the body shop manager, and drove us all down there. It was the usual fiasco one might imagine - cancelled bands, moved venues, broken gear, etc; but it was an amazing adventure, and a major moment in my life. After the venue change, all the bands had to convene in the parking lot of a local Wal Mart, much to the chagrin of the local populace. I remember Tommy Rat giving me the very first Neglect demo along with the first Rejuvenate demo, and buying a Deviators 7" from their singer Pablo. I remember thinking Yuppicide were intimidating in a way I couldn't define.
I quit the band a few months later, not appreciating just how cool it was, and went on to join another local band called Last Reason, who became Blast Furnace shortly thereafter. Disillusion got a new bassist in my friend Paul Price, and a new rhythm guitarist named Brian, and changed their name to First Punch. I remember they were good, but I don't know if they played out. Paul went on to help found Torn Apart, and now I see him when we take our kids to bowling parties. Old punks apparently don't die, they just go to bowling parties.
I really admired Scott. He was a mountain of a man, but never used his size to inimidate people; I suppose when you tower over others, you don't really need to do so even if you were so inclined. I only ever heard him raise his voice once, and that was during our trip to the Popsicle Jubilee Festival. We kept passing signs that said "HAZMAT WARNING," and none of us knew what a "hazmat" was. Chris suggested that it was the kind of mat one could make out of the back hair of Scott's girlfriend, who truth be told, was a fair skinned and lovely young woman. Scott allowed the joke to go on for awhile, being the good-natured and patient fella he was. At some point, Jason Groth had put on his headphones, and checked out of the conversation. Shortly thereafter, Scott said "guys, you're really pissing me off - stop with the jokes about my girl." We actually did something uncommon for teenaged boys, and acquiesed. Five minutes later, we passed a HAZMAT WARNING sign and Jason, whose headphones had rendered him unaware of the moratorium on joking said "HEY GUYS, LOOK! A HAZMAT SIGN! Hey Scott, see th....." at which point Scott pulled Jason over the middle row of the minivan by his neck and yelled "I SAID STOP JOKING ABOUT MY GIRL." But that was it, he was otherwise one of those guys who was too cool to raise his voice or ever really appear concerned. The only time he appeared concerned about much of anything is if he was concerned for your well being, in the event you'd had a bad day or recently gotten your heart broken, in which case he was a well of empathy.
Turning 25 didn't make me feel old. Nor did 35, or even 40. But realizing our demo tape was 24 years old, and thus old enough to have a wife, a couple of kids, and crippling student loans....that made me feel old. I didn't realize it had been that long until I found out Scott was dying. I went to visit him with my friends Fran and Ben, and during our visit, I told him I'd make sure we could listen to it. My friend Paul Palumbo whom I'd known since tenth grade, helped me dump the cassette to MP3 with a gizmo he had, and I burned a CD for scott. I photocopied the original cassette j-card with our silly hand written notes and challenges to enemies real and imagined, and took it out to him. We listened to two tracks together, one where he had a blistering guitar solo, and one where he was the sole author and arranger of the music. He clutched the disc to his chest, and mouthed "thank you." I didn't cry because I sometimes still pretend I'm a tough teenage punk rocker.
I found it ironic (at least by Alanis standards) that our first show was with the now-legendary Life Of Agony, who were touring on their new demo with the song "Words and Music" on it. We all played that demo until the tape broke in 1991. At the funeral mass, it was 17 degrees. As we walked from the chapel to the grave side it began to flurry, and I couldn't help but think of the lyrics of Words and Music:
"I buried my friend the other day
And I saw my life in a different way
It was a cold afternoon for a funeral
I did not shed a tear as I watched the snow fall."
Scott was an integral part of my first band, first demo, first road trip, first big show, and first band breakup. I don't have a lot of regrets in life, but not seeing him more since adulthood set in will certainly be one of them. Adulthood has always carried with it the connotation of sacrificing your social life to raise children, or to pursue a career or vocation, often both. And while that's certainly something you can't escape, one must be careful to not become so mired in it that it's all you've got. Although social media has enabled people to be more connected, it also makes it easier for us to not interact in real life, where real conversations happen.
Here, in all its glory, is the Disillusion demo "My Fate Is Sealed." It's sloppy and haphazard, but an earnest attempt for a bunch of kids. Scott wrote and arranged Integrity's music in its entirety, and I really think it's the standout song on the demo.