Monday, October 26, 2020

Pegboy marks 30th anniversary, dedicates gig to Pierre Kezdy

John Haggerty plays with Pegboy on Oct. 17. (Photo by Meredith M. Goldberg)

By Andy

It was a gig to mark Pegboy's 30th anniversary, but it was so much more than hitting that milestone for the rock-solid Chicago band. 

Not only was it a rare, socially distanced gig during a pandemic, it was an emotional tribute and memorial for Pierre Kezdy, the dynamic Chicago bassist and lyricist who passed away from cancer on Oct. 9 at the age of 58. He influenced and inspired scores of musicians during his time with Pegboy, Naked Raygun, Strike Under, Arsenal and Trial By Fire.

On Oct. 17, Pegboy took the stage alongside The Bollweevils, Jake Burns and Local H at the Chicago Drive-In Theater in Bridgeview, Illinois.

Pegboy guitarist John Haggerty, drummer Joe Haggerty, vocalist Larry Damore and bassist Mike Thompson rammed through their set during the windy, overcast and socially distanced atmosphere.

"So windy that I thought my amp would blow over and they had to put sand bags on the cymbal stands so they would not fly away," John said. "At first it was strange to play in front of a crowd largely confined to their cars without the type of direct interaction we are used to. But that quickly passed as soon as we heard all the car horns blaring in unison. Especially when Larry held Pierre's bass aloft and dedicated the show to him. We might not have many, but we have the best fans in the world."

Pegboy vocalist Larry Damore displays Pierre Kezdy's bass. (Photo by Meredith M. Goldberg)

John noted that the show resonated deeply with those people whose lives Kezdy had touched. Pegboy was also humbled by the other artists who played that night, who are all headliners in their own right, he added.

"I knew that Pierre's work had a positive impact on many, but I never realized how many," John said. "It was seeing his first band, Strike Under, that made me realize that you can play live, write songs and make records even if you are not an arena rock band. I joined my first band shortly thereafter."

"Seeing his likeness on a giant screen while playing a show with his bass on stage was very moving to all of us. We thank all who came out despite less than ideal conditions," added the guitarist, who turned 60 the day of the gig and was serenaded with "Happy Birthday" by a socially distanced group of people up front while he was jamming with Local H.

John and Kezdy played, wrote and recorded together in both Pegboy and Naked Raygun for about 25 years total. 

"Besides being a great player and a brilliant songwriter, he was a lot of fun to be in a band with. He had a great sense of humor and would give you the shirt off of his back, without hesitation," John said. "He was a great card player and could drive massive distances without a break. He could do an interview in the afternoon, play a show at night, load gear like a longshoreman then drive us safely back to the hotel. He was the MVP of our band and one of my favorite people in the world."

Now that he's hit the big 6-0 and is still rocking, John sums up his musical trek over the last 40 years, which surely mirrors a multitude of other musicians' experiences.  

"I have very few regrets and I am honored to be associated with so many fine musicians and music lovers," he said.

Naked Raygun from the "All Rise" CD reissue with John Haggerty and Pierre Kezdy.

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