When I heard Kip Brown passed away, I felt like I ought to be sad, but I’m not.
Kip was the lead singer and guitarist for a rock ‘n roll band called The Pontiffs. The Pontiffs played raw, pure, simple rock ’n’ roll, but they were so much more than the sum of their parts. I don’t want to use the word “transcendant”, because it sounds pretentious, but on the other hand it’s totally accurate.
The best way I can explain a Pontiffs show is those old black and white cartoons, the kind where dogs and cats, flowers and mountains all bounce along with the music. Everybody moved with the beat at a Pontiffs show. The bartenders slung drinks in time, the bouncers swung while they checked IDs.
Plenty of sullen, too-cool-for-school punk rockers in black leather. But also ordinary folks in regular clothes, and hella weird maybe not-in-a-cool-way freaks. Everybody — everybody — shakin’ what the good lord gave them. Zero judgement. No rules.
Time didn’t exist at a Pontiffs show. The band, the audience, the staff, the room itself, stopped feeling like separate things. I’m not sure if their typical set was a half an hour or an hour and a half. While they were playing, everything else went away. And when it was done, that was okay too, because it _had_ to end. The sun can’t stay up all the time, you need night and silence in order to appreciate light and sound.
Last time I saw Kip, I told him how much their music meant to me. He smiled graciously and said thanks, but that was it. He wasn’t there to get his ego stroked, or to sell merch or pick up chicks. The only reason he was there was to play that music.
I’m not sad about Kip, just grateful. Under his spell, everyone was so alive, so free, in those moments he is still alive, he will live forever. So grateful I got to experience it. My heart goes out to his family, but I’m grateful to them too, for sharing him with us, for being willing to risk loving.
I’ll tell you who I’m sad for, the people who never go to the little rooms because they think only “big time” musicians can be good. Those who think rock ‘n roll is boring because it’s not complicated or “original”.
Except for when they covered “Loose” by The Stooges, I didn’t know the names of any songs the Pontiffs played. But there was one line that’s always stuck with me. “If it’s cool, it’s cool forever.”
Hell yeah it is. Long live Kip Brown and the Pontiffs. Cool forever.