In two months, I've now lost three friends from the local music scene. Richard Schnap passed around Christmas and Karl Hendricks also passed on January 21. Now this week, the news came that Dave Vucenich has left us too. At 50, he was about my age (I'll be there in October), a little older than Karl, younger than Richard. All of them were way too young. Scott Mervis wrote a great obituary about him for the Post-Gazette here. Dave and I weren't tight but we were friends because with a personality like his, it was easy to warm up to him. So I wanted to share a few thoughts.
Dave, affectionately known as Dave V around town, played bass with the Mt. McKinleys and, for a time, the Cynics. He also worked at a few landmark record stores around Pittsburgh, Eide's Entertainment and Jerry's Records. Like many garage rockers, he was well-versed in the all sorts of obscure bands that had put out great singles that one might otherwise miss. Instead of being jaded or snobby about his knowledge, Dave was always very down-to-earth, as excited to share information with people, much like he probably was when hearing those records for the first time. In fact, every time we talked, I think Dave always had a smile on his face and an upbeat mood, always willing make small talk about music.
I don't often bust out the Electric Prunes' Underground album but on the rare occasions that I do, I think of Dave. One time I was wandering around Jerry's Records when that album was playing, and the two of us shared thoughts it. In particular, the Prunes' goofball country song "It's Not Fair" was on. In a moment that could only be attributed to vinyl fanatics, I can remember that it was clearly a stereo copy of the album because the spoken word part was only coming out of one speaker so it was easier to hear, unlike my mono version, where it's a little buried. Dave and I probably talked about that fact. There was also one time, when a mono copy of Velvet Underground and Nico was on and we talked about the mono v. stereo case for that. I almost offered to buy the record off the turntable, though I eventually thought better of it. (I had a stereo copy at home and figured the mono would be a tad pricey.) All of this really is minutiae but talking to someone like Dave made it both interesting and fun, something that you enjoyed sharing with others.
But Dave should go down in history for his bass playing. The man was solid, with a sense of time that was ideal for the type of music he played. And the wild thing about Dave was that he usually played in the upper register of the bass. That was definitely not in keeping with garage bands, which are usually all about a low, raunchy bottom-heavy sound. In the early '90s he had played with the band Uncle Sydney, but I didn't really take notice of him until a few years later when I saw the Mt. McKinleys. Watching him play an octave higher than you usually hear, I remember thinking, what are you doing, man? But he did it with such authority - a full sound, excellent time - that he altered my idea on it. To the point where, when I take things up an octave like that for variety's sake, I think about Dave doing the same thing.
I'm realizing now that I never got to tell him that. Damn.
Thanks, Dave. I hope you and Richard Schnap are hanging out, trading Cynics stories and listening to music together; music that Karl is handing you.
And Awaaaaay We Go!
4 years ago