As a kid growing up in 1980’s Chicago, discovering a bunch of bands like Black Flag, Agnostic Front, Anthrax, Metallica and Cromags, it was pretty easy to feel like you’re living in a wasteland of nothing. All of these bands were from the coasts and none of them were from the Midwest. The first Chicago punk band I discovered was Life Sentence, but the first Chicago band I truly fell in love with was NAKED RAYGUN.
In 1988, I was thirteen years old going to Catholic school on the northwest side of Chicago. Fridays were always half days, so common practice for me was to jump on the Belmont bus and head to Lakeview and Lincoln Park to go record shopping, hit up The Alley or pester the clerks as Sessions skate shop. Whatever money I had always went towards music… always. Not band shirts, not skate decks — records or tapes. My favorite record store was Wax Trax on Lincoln and the bus transfer was always worth it.
I walked into Wax Trax on one of those Friday afternoons with my Catholic school mullet, denim jacket with the Bad Religion logo painted on the back and high top Chuck Taylors looking for something fresh. I asked the clerk what punk records I should buy and he said “you like Naked Raygun?” I had no idea who he was talking about, so I grabbed JETTISON on cassette, popped it in my Walkman and headed to the Fullerton L station to head up to Belmont. I felt like I was let in on some big secret that only so many people knew about. Naked Raygun changed my life forever.
In high school, I discovered a band featuring the newly ex-Raygun guitarist John Haggarty, as well as members of the Bhopal Stiffs and Effigies. It was a god damned super group. I fell in love with Pegboy. Everything great about those bands coalesced into one lean-as-fuck Chicago punk machine. Pegboy is and always will be my favorite Chicago punk band. All of my favorite memories of being young and going to shows are locked up in Pegboy and their influence as a band and as people (despite being Sox fans) is indisputable. If you’ve ever seen Pegboy, you know. I don’t even need to go into it. Pegboy is the high school reunion you wish you had. It’s the family that you should have been born into. It’s the friends whose names you don’t know, but recognize and talk to every time you see them.
Prior to the release of the second album, Earwig, Pierre Kezdy joined on bass completing the best line up of the band. He had a cool, calm, stern faced presence on the bass, but it added to the intensity of the show. If you were up front and locked eyes with Larry DaMore, odds are your getting grabbed by the shirt and he’s getting in your face to sing, but Pierre — he’s holding it down, making sure the car stays in the lane. That’s the bassist he was.
I met Pierre a handful of times — once when I was fifteen or so and again at various Pegboy shows. He was the nicest person in the punk scene, hands down. End of story. You weren’t going to find anyone kinder or more willing to interact with you if you approached him. However, this isn’t the memory that sticks with me. It’s the memory of his wife at The Metro standing in the audience up front waiting for Pegboy to come on, holding up their young toddler to say hi to dad. Security would be nervous, advising her that a toddler up front wasn’t safe, but she just assured them that they were just saying “hi.” Even as a jaded twenty something at the time, I thought it was really sweet and thinking about it as a 4o something father of a toddler makes me a little teary eyed.
I’ve shared so many moments with so many people wrapped around the music of Naked Raygun and Pegboy that it’s in my blood at this point. My child has been listening to both of these bands literally since birth. It’s in her blood too. I can’t separate their music from my life or the lives of the friends I’ve made through their music. My entire friendship with my late best friend is tied directly to the albums Throb Throb and Jettison. The first time I went to a punk show with him and his younger brother was to see Pegboy/The Bollweevils/Apocalypse Hoboken at The Vic theater (I took a combat boot to the head at this show from a stage diver, causing me to black out for a couple seconds). Every time I make a new friend and I find out they listen to punk, but don’t know either of these bands, I quickly make them a tape — or link them to Spotify or Youtube.
In 2003, I was helping my friend Justin start his label, Underground Communique primarily because he told me he was releasing a Pegboy tribute album. I was so excited about this that I jumped at the chance to be involved somehow. That record is still one of my favorite records I’ve ever been involved with. I was honored to help in whatever way I could.
I’m in the business of sharing my love for Raygun and Pegboy. I’m in the business of loving Chicago. It’s hard to be a punk from this town and not do one without the other. They’re synonymous with each other. They’re like peanut butter and jelly, coffee and donuts, watered down Jameson shots and the Fireside Bowl — you know what I’m saying. The Raygun family tree is Chicago and that family tree lost a very important, loved branch today.
RIP Pierre Kezdy. Thank you for your service. You’ll be missed. The world is worse place without your kindness in it.