Punk Rock Eulogy

There’s a statistic that says if you make it into the latter part of your 50’s clear of cancer and heart disease, there’s a good chance you’ll live well into your 80’s.

But there’s a corollary: all the other stuff that can take you out before you ever hit 60. Things you can die from at 18 or 53, 31 or 45, birth or 27.

Brain tumor, birth defect, suicide, landslide, broadside, embolism, aneurysm, undiagnosed diabetes, untreated depression, untreated alcoholism, overdose, stroke, heart attack.

No matter how many times it happens, it’s devastating when someone dies unexpectedly.

An acquaintance of mine– a really great stagehand– died all of a sudden last week. He was only 45, putting up a show, and his heart gave out. No warning. I can’t get him out of my mind even though I only played through his town twice.

How does someone you’ve worked with exactly twice leave a mark like that?

When you’re a stagehand on the road, everything changes with every move: Your home, your workplace, your co-workers. An awful lot of how it goes depends on the local crew in the new town. They can make your life easy or make it a living hell.

They can either tell you how to get in & out of the best BBQ joint in town on the lunch hour, or give you wrong directions on purpose. They can load your show in like a dream before you even ask for anything, or they can unplug cables on the sly. They can tell you how to make friends with the head carpenter or set you up to unwittingly play into their long-held feud.

When you played through Providence, Pop didn’t make your life easy or hard; he made your life interesting. He was a truly unique individual and had so much in his life in addition to being a stagehand. Outspoken doesn’t even begin to describe him. If you played through Providence and he liked you, he made sure to stay in touch through email and text before there was Facebook. His was, of course, one of the first Facebook friend requests I received.

He was so punk rock, in the truest sense: no bullshit, and never concerned about what people thought of him. His ideals, his friends, his family, and his work ethic were sacred. He always helped people get what they needed.

He was a staunch union advocate. He backed artists and spread the word on Kickstarter projects. He turned people on to local bands and was quick with gems of history from the scene. He sent comic books to little kids when they had surgeries. He spread the word for fundraisers.

When I posted about #4 being Gene Simmons for Halloween, he sent me a picture of himself as Gene from back in the day. He emailed me when a new guy I had trained played through Providence to tell me what a good job he was doing, how he was holding his own. When my niece Colby died, he shared with me how he was born prematurely and his own twin didn’t make it.

My favorite Pop memory was a small, perfect moment on a work day. We started the show call and I put on Queensrÿche’s Operation Mindcrime to test my sound system, quite possibly the most ridiculous thing that feeds my soul, and walked the house. When I went back to the console I saw Pop sitting in the seats with another stagehand. For some reason I thought they were having a meeting and said, “Sorry, Pop, I’ll cut the music,” and Pop goes, “Nah nah nah, leave it. Turn it up.”

I turned it up. Someone dimmed the house lights. Other guys drifted out and sat down in the dark to listen. We played the album out until they opened the house.

People die young and you’re left there going, What the fuck? 

Would they give anything for it to not be over yet, or in the moment they passed, did they suddenly understand everything they came here to remember?

I don’t want to spend much time thinking about that. I’ll get my own answer soon enough. I picture asking Pop that question and him saying, “Nah, nah, nah, leave it. Turn it up.”

Will do, Pop.


Chris Popoloski’s Obituary

IATSE Local 23 Photo Gallery



26 thoughts on “Punk Rock Eulogy

  1. Hugs to you, and what a great memorial to him…he touched many, and now even though I didn’t even know him, he has touched me, thanks for that…it’s all we can hope for in this life right? Xoxo

  2. He sounds like one hell of a guy. Sounds like you and everyone else who did are lucky to have known him. I’m sorry he was taken away so soon. Some things don’t make any sense.

  3. Seems to me that some people just naturally fill their years with more life than I’ve managed to do. Pop sounds like one of those people. I’m sorry to hear his living was cut short. This was a nice tribute to him.

  4. I just put on Operation:Mindecrime in his honor. Definitely an album that seems so ridiculous, and then you play it and it’s just so damn good.

    And it sounds like he was a rock roadie in the purest, most American/cowboy sense.

    1. Mindcrime is like that, isn’t it? Anytime someone can publicly admit they like that album, they go up a few notches in my book. It’s so good, but it’s never been cool to like it. And thank you.

  5. Well said. I am about to tech a show in Providence, and the thought of doing that without having Pop there feels strange.

    1. That’s going to be weird. I hope you have a good tech & thanks for stopping by. In the staying connected spirit of Pop, you should know that I made my kids bread this week in the bread maker you got me for my 27th birthday. It’s still kicking.

  6. I loved this post and mostly, I am just grateful to get to hear about this guy — what an energy force for good, and how true he seemed to be to his purpose here. Ridiculous age to go …. WTF, indeed. I loved reading his obituary and am glad you included that — what a dude!

  7. I knew Pop for at least 25 years. Not that we were the best of friends, but would see each other as often a we could. And this story is so touching and so Pop. One of the truly wonderful. His passing just proves the old saying “only the good die young”. He is..and will be missed.

      1. A band he fronted call “The Bastards” will be getting together for a reunion of sorts. Details are still being put together.

  8. This was such a nice piece to read, JM, thank you for writing it and sharing it with us. Pop was one of those rare souls on this planet who truly makes the world a better place just by his presence. He was just as sensitive as he was tough, just as warm as he was strong and generous to those he loved, while defending them against those who meant harm. He took no shit and only gave you shit if you deserved it. (If you were close to him, you deserved it and got shit at least once in your life.) He worked hard at everything he did and could light up a room by stepping into it. The loss his family, friends and coworkers have suffered is great. The loss our stupid race as humans has suffered is greater. The world seems less bright without Pop in it. I am better for knowing and loving him, and hope to meet up with him again someday.
    I do want to clarify for your readers that Pop struggled with Type 1 Diabetes most of his life, so his heart attack was not so sudden. It is a devastating disease and he managed it with incredible grace. Awareness is important and anyone struggling with diabetes should take extra care of themselves and please don’t suffer in silence. If loved ones can help, let them.

    -Kari (My son was the child facing lengthy recovery with comic books) (Pop also used to make me sangria and chocolate covered strawberries, despite not being able to eat/drink them himself…because he was amazing) ❤

    1. Kari, I’m so glad you came and shared some memories of Pop here. Thanks also for the clarification; I actually didn’t know he had Type I diabetes. I had another dear friend who died young from complications of that too, 34. It’s definitely a disease that we’re under educated about as a whole. Thank you.

      1. We should do something about that! Screw you, Diabetes!
        PS- Mindcrime is one of my all time favorite albums. Instant joy when I hear it. Hmm, maybe that will help this week…

  9. As mentioned above, there is a memorial show -http://thingstodo.providencejournal.com/providence_ri/events/show/363198023-the-1st-annual-pop-chris-popoloski-memorial-rock-show

Comment. It gives me a reason not to clean my house.

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