RIP Rob Fried (July 15, 1951 September 8, 2006)Thanks For Being Here!
On September 9th, the music world and the Max Creek family lost one of its most noble musicians, as percussionist Rob Fried, 55, passed away after a year long illness.
Mr. Fried was a vital part of Max Creek, having served percussion for 27 of the New England institution’s 35 years. His immense array of percussion, variety of sounds, sense of rhythm, and his keen vision of applying those spices — and when not — dramatically enriched the band’s musical palette; adding unique dimensions to Creek staples like “Emerald Eyes” and “In Harmony.” His presence was such that he always added and never overshadowed guitarist Scott Murawksi, keyboardist Mark Mercier, bassist & founder John Rider and the variety of drummers Rob shared the stage with over the years (Bob Gosselin, Greg DeGugliamo, Greg Vasso, Scott Allshouse). When he was not playing with Max Creek, he served stints with other New England artists including Greg Piccolo, Dr. Juice and the Burt Teague Band.
For many a Creek Freak, including myself, who spent many a gooooood night with the Creek in the 1980s up to his departure in 2004, Rob and his array of percussion were an essential part of the Creek experience. When Scott Murawski would lead the ensemble in a segue, it was always Rob’s rich tapestry of bells, whistles, wooden blocks and rings that would accent that given transition, adding to the overall fabric of the sounds woven by Murawski, Rider and Mercier.
My last time seeing Mr. Fried was on Max Creek’s three-show Colorado run in Spring 2004, the last night of those on May 1st at Ducimea’s 100th Monkey in downtown Denver. Sadly, it was one of those rare Creek shows that was not recorded, but it was a typically strong up tempo rock & roll show marked by strong CreekaFried versions of John Rider’s ballad "Silver Jack", Murawski’s engaging "Emotional Railroad" and a rip-snortin’ closer of the Rolling Stones’ "Gimme Shelter." Afterwards, I wound up enjoying conversations with Rob and John Rider, catching up with them after having moved to Colorado from New England a year prior. Little would I realize that it would be the last time I would see Rob Fried play, and I was thankful to share those kind moments with him off stage.
However, it is not a Max Creek song that best defined Rob Fried. Instead, it was an early infamous 1970s classic by Dobie Gray which Creek occasionally covered with Mr. Fried on lead vocals, always immersing himself in the song with an abundance of heart. Looking back on the few renditions I caught by Rob, it is clear that “Drift Away” is now and forever a vital part of Mr. Fried’s epitaph.
“And when my mind is free
You know a melody can move me,
And when I’m feeling blue
The guitar’s coming through to soothe me.
Thanks for the joy that you’re given me
I want you to know I believe in your song,
Your rhythm and rhyme and harmony
You’ve helped me along, making me strong.
Oh, give me the beat, boys, and free my soul
I want to get lost in your rock and roll
And drift away” – “Drift Away” by Dobie Gray
Quite often, Mr. Fried would get us lost as we freed our souls to the sounds of Max Creek, drifting to the next stratosphere under the woven melodic tapestries. We would get lost in the greasy groove of a southern-fried “Louisiana Sun,” where Rob’s driving accents added emphasis to Scott Murawski’s snarling slide. We could get reflective via Mark Mercier’s ballad “Said and Done”, where its crescendo would be graced with Rob’s traps. On those nights where you are soaked in blissful sweat, it was often Rob’s spices that gave you that extra kick to take you there! It is fitting in their last two outings — The Harvest Celebration Festival on September 9th and Wormtown Trading’s annual Garden Of Eden Festival one week later — Max Creek dusted off "Drift Away" with Mark Mercier handling the vocals, as a tribute to their fallen comrade.
While Max Creek has carried on largely as a quartet the past two years, I have admitted difficulty listening to Creek recordings without Rob Fried; as at first, numerous Creek standards now feel like a filet mignon without the lobster tail; a Caesar salad without its dressing, a white garlic pizza without the ricotta. Of course, Max Creek has soldiered on and continue to have many a goooooood night. In all actuality, it is my personal reflection of what Mr. Fried and his role in the robust Max Creek musical tapestry meant to me for nearly eighteen years since my first Creek gig at the old Warehouse in Rochester, NY. Unlike most of the Max Creek family, being in Colorado places me in a distant position to grieve, but I will not feel my grieving for Mr. Fried is completed until my next visit to New England, where I can properly pay my respects at his grave. I also highly recommend visiting the Max Creek Forum (http://maxcreek.com) and scroll through the archives to read many Creek Freaks’ tributes to Rob, which clearly displays how much Mr. Fried meant to Max Creek and their extended family.
Rob, saying “Thanks For Being Here” is just not enough! Wherever you are now, I know you’ll only spice that up and make that slice of Heaven a better place, as you did on Planet Earth for half your lifetime with Max Creek. The next time I hear “Blood Red Roses,” whether its live or a recording, instead of drinking to the stars, I’ll be drinking to you! Your soul is free, lost in the rock & roll you helped create, and may you drum away in blissful, everlasting peace.
[Back in the Grateful Dead years, John J. Wood was a regular contributor to DeadBase and also occasionally contributed to Dupree’s Diamond News and the first edition of The Deadhead’s Taping Compendium. Today, when John is not listening to music and playing with computers, he is learning the Earl Scruggs three-fingered style of banjo picking! John is now running a music blog at http://blog.myspace.com/jjwood64]