The best way to avoid doing something hard is to just not do it. I considered that option for weeks as I looked at my photos from this tribute dubbed "Buddy Bash." Ultimately something should be said, though, so I'll give a try.
John "Buddy Lush" Paul was hit by an SUV last summer while riding his scooter. He was in a coma for a week before he died. Buddy was a friend and I miss him. He was also a compatriot, an artist, and a musician. And a very funny curmudgeon. Everyone knew Buddy, and everyone who was active in the Kansas City music scene had seen one of his bands. He was in a lot of Kansas City bands over his 40+ years in the scene. In December, the Record Bar was packed as we paid tribute to Buddy and his music.
For years Buddy performed as "The Buddy Lush Phenomenon." At one point the band had a weekly residency, but recent appearances were rare, unexpected, and a treat. The night started with the Phenomenon's Brock Ginther (bass) and Chip Sage (drums), bolstered by Gregg Todt (of Federation of Horsepower and more). Todt sang and played Buddy's guitar. They called themselves "The Buddy-less Phenomenon." The set was a collection of songs Buddy loved and had performed. Some covers. Some from his previous bands like Sin City Disciples. The band was noisy and swampy rock & roll and some of that grit must have gotten in my eyes as they wouldn't stop watering.
The Big Iron were up next. Buddy played drums in this band for twenty years. This lineup featured Jeff Pendergraft on vocals, Rich Smith and Ricky Reyes on twin guitars, as well as both Ginther and Sage reprising their earlier roles. The band hadn't played in a while – a few years, anyway – and according to the band, this performance would likely serve as its farewell. The long-running band does it all, from aggressive hard rock to classic hardcore speed to twangy psych. The two-guitar version allowed Reyes a little more room to tinker than he normally has in the band. That was nice, but I'll confess I wasn't focused entirely on the performances. Anyway, after a few songs Sage bowed out and the next generation took over. First Reyes' son Ian came in for a handful of songs, then Pendergraft's son Hank finished out the set. As an added bonus, Chris Orr (formerly of Buddy's band Circle of Trust) joined The Big Iron for a three-guitar version of "Do it Again" from 2014's We Will Fall. There were a lot of people hugging on that stage. There was a lot of hugging in the audience, too.
At this point I should note that Buddy was there for the show – not in any metaphysical sense, but physically. His ashes were in a box, on a stool, center stage, topped with one of his flat caps. Throughout the night a slide show displayed photos of Buddy, of his bands on stage, clippings of reviews and show announcements, and even photos of one last pub crawl that the box of Buddy was taken on. Buddy would have loved that. And he would have loved getting to see the next band one more time.
I don’t think Buddy was never in Cretin 66, but he loved the band. Like The Big Iron before them, Cretin 66 doesn't play out much anymore. Maybe a show or two a year around Christmas or maybe for Greaserama. The crowd had thinned; family friends had cleared out and those with kids had gone home. But those that remained pushed forward to dance and enjoy the foursome. There was more revelry than solemnity in the set as the band played its punk rock doused in so much garage you could smell the motor oil from the pit. As is tradition for its seasonal shows, Cretin 66 offered up a Christmas song, though in honor of Buddy, who despised such things, Slim was tasked with taking Buddy outside for the duration of the song. Vocalist Mike Campbell demurred that it was a pagan song, but added that it wouldn't have made any difference to Buddy. For a finale, the band brought up a guest vocalist I didn't recognize for a cover of "Kick out the Jams." Buddy was missed and rock & roll lives on.
The crowd thinned further before the final band of the night. Buddy made a name for himself in the '80s and '90s, but he never stopped playing. In recent years he could be found drumming for "power punk" band Hipshot Killer, who would headline the night. For this tribute, guitarist/vocalist Mike Alexander and bassist Chris Wagner were backed by drummer Adam Phillips (of Gadjits and so many others), and the show started off hot. Two big emotional anthems right off the bat. For the first few songs, Alexander's voice was ragged and raw, and his movements anxious. It was obvious that his mind was on Buddy. He told a few Buddy stories between songs as he tried to catch his breath. Phillips needed the time between songs too. Buddy's rapid-fire fills aren't easy to replicate and watching Phillips' arms swing looked exhausting. Although the audience had shrunk, Wagner joked that it was still the largest crowd the band had ever played to, and he thanked Buddy one more time for drawing everyone out one last time. One last time.
Anyway, sorry it took me so long to get this up. It was hard to type with all this dirt still in my eyes. I miss you, Buddy.