Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tony Bailey

I just caught wind via the internet that Louisville drummer Tony Bailey (left) passed away. I didn't know him at all, other than him drumming in the other band named Lords (above) in their first incarnation and the correspondence between our two bands over sharing the name a few years ago.

I don't know the circumstances of his death nor want to know anymore than I do but what leads me to post on the matter are two things.

One is that Tony was part of a gig experience that legitimately changed my musical life. I managed to get myself to Derby in 1998 for the Mogwai/Aerial M show at the Loft. It was no mean feat I might add. I think I stayed on someone's floor after missing my train/bus home. I don't recall. I have a few photos from the night that I'll scan in once I move house. But anyway, it was Mogwai I was going to see. The idea of doing instrumental music was a pretty fresh one to me then and not just instrumental music but wordless music still delivered with huge amounts of passion and a not inconsiderable amount of fury. I still look back on the early Mogwai shows I saw as being genuinely amazing, at times unhinged and above all super, super loud events.

But it was Aerial M that night that blew me away. I dug Mogwai of course but I guess I knew what to expect. It's Aerial M that sticks in my mind from that night (and in Birmingham on the same tour). I didn't expect to hear a band play with such a measured approach and to veer not between loud and quiet/tension and release but between awesome beauty and a woozy, sinister edge that to my ears at the time even superceded that of mainman David Pajo's previous band Slint. They blew my mind by barely doing anything at all. Tony Bailey, like Pajo (and Cassie Marrett on bass and Tim Furnish on guitar), seemed to constantly be playing within himself on purpose, like having an amp on 10 and only barely touching it which gives this strange tension to proceedings. It absolutely changed the way I looked at making music and it was almost like I was hearing things I'd wanted to make all along. It's easy to write off that early Aerial M music as part of the post-rock deal that made the underground in the UK so dull for about 10 years but re-assessing it now, 10 years down the line, it still sounds as unique and fresh as it did then.

Secondly, Bailey was just 2 days younger than me. Look at the list of bands he played in and the sheer amount of effort he dedicated to his music: http://history.louisvillehardcore.com/index.php?title=Tony_Bailey

I don't know how he had the time. If everyone making music used this guy's output as a benchmark it'd be just the kind of mass stepping-of-one's-game-up that the world needs no?


Cory Greenwell said...

Tony Bailey's passing was a HUGE HUGE loss to the music world and to Louisville in particular. I recal watching Phantom Family Halo open for Black Mountain and Tony literally broke his cymbal. He was a beast on the drums.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't sleep tonight thinking about my friend. We played music together in one of many bands on that list, and he made me a better musician, but what I miss most about Tony was the explosive and utterly committed laugh that he had. We could sit in our living room and just throw lines from 'Spinal Tap' back and forth and laugh until we cried. "No we're not going to do stone hinge!" was a particular favorite of his. I crawled out of bed and just searched his name. I miss my friend. Your recollection was nice to read. That show was very special.