From the Rolling Stones' whiskey-soaked revelry to Sleater-Kinney's open-armed embrace of punk whimsy, the best rock and roll has always celebrated being alive. Maybe that's why, whenever tragedy strikes at a rock show -- from the Stones' nightmare at Altamont to Pearl Jam's calamitous set at Roskilde two years ago -- it seems to resonate that much louder. Perhaps this is the reason so many locals have been galvanized by a recent passing at the Beachland Ballroom. Last December, during the Cheeseball punk show, 30-year-old Pete DiRienzo died of a heart attack, leaving behind a seven-year-old son.
"He went down in front of the stage, and at first, I think everybody thought the guy just passed out," says Blake Ferguson, a longtime friend. "They got him into the back hall, and that's when they called 9-1-1 and started CPR."
DiRienzo's death spurred Ferguson to put together a benefit show in his friend's honor, with all the proceeds going to a college fund for DiRienzo's son. A slew of bands, including Buffalo's progressive punk shitkickers the Blowtops, Dayton's blistering Mystery Addicts, and local badasses Stepsister, the Vacancies, the Defnics, and more, have lent their support and will be playing without pay. Most impressive, though, is the reunion of the storied Cleveland rock band Knifedance, which hasn't performed since 1990, but will regroup for the one-off gig, simply because it was one of DiRienzo's favorite bands.
"You go over to Pete's, and he's listening to Knifedance," Ferguson recalls with a chuckle, as he ponders what it would have meant to DiRienzo for Knifedance to reunite in his honor. "It would have made him pretty happy."