Wednesday, Aug 21 2013 02:55 PM

Gig didn't start until Jim was airborne: An appreciation

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    By Photo by Jessica Moncrief

    Jim Fendrick

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    By Photo by Jessica Moncrief

    Jim Fendrick in a solo show at B Ryder's on Feb. 24, 2012.

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    By Photo by Jessica Moncrief

    Jim Fendrick and vocalist Ty Elam perform with Karmahitlist

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BY CESAREO GARASA Contributing writer

Man, that cat could play.

Jim Fendrick was a soldier for art: 100 percent packed pure nitro, a sleek 5'9" tattoo-covered turbo engine whose main purpose was to play music.

He would drive two to three hours to play a show/rehearse/write music/record, sometimes sleep an hour or two and then drive back to Orange County because he had to be at work at some ludicrously early time or to be there to pick up his kids. His work ethic was constant, trying to be everywhere at the same time like he had no time to lose.

He did this nonstop for the nearly 12 years I knew and played music with him. He never faltered. Never.

One of the best shows of my life was a month ago when Jim and I played with our band The Iron Outlaws. I was on drums, Jim on guitar. It was the second gig I played with him this year (the other being Karmahitlist's reunion on Feb. 2). The audience lost their minds: people singing along, yelling, pushing back and forth into the front of the band like an unbreakable wave. Some people were weeping -- at a rock and roll show . This is a very rare thing these days, especially when the musicians onstage are over 20.

But eliciting that kind of reaction from the crowd was just another day on stage for Jim. It didn't matter how long we had been playing a show on any given night, the gig didn't start until he literally became airborne. He had this signature stage move that I called "the kick," where he would hop around lightly, like a boxer, and then, BOOM, stomp on the ground. Then, and only then, would the rest of the band show up.

He proved this power over and over again, in different bands and on countless stages, from here to Arizona to Nevada. There's little recorded evidence of his talent, but most of what he laid down can be found during his time with Karmahitlist at www.reverbnation.com/karmahitlist.

He wasn't the guy who practiced sweeps and knew every scale; in fact his musical knowledge -- though far from basic -- was concentrated on unique chordings and fluidity. His riffs would sound odd on their own but they would fit perfectly within the context of the song they were intended for. He'd write progressions that, when broken down, displayed extremely sophisticated songwriting that would combine edge and texture; easy to play and listen to, but difficult to replicate accurately. Believe me, I tried.

He was as stoic as Johnny Cash, as natural a mystic as Bob Marley. He had the dangerous puma swagger of Miles Davis and the gentle sweetness and mystery of a George Harrison (years ago, Jim told me that most of his tattoos were based on his belief in God). These aren't overblown comparisons; it's rare to find anyone with some of these traits. To know someone with all of them, to consider them a close friend, is a gift.

After the show in July -- the last we would play together -- I told my dear friend Jim Fendrick that when I die, I wanted him to play his haunting song "Faith a la carte" at my funeral. This affected him deeply. He hugged me and said, "I love you, brother." I got to tell him the same.

There was no forced love from him; it was all genuine. From his playing, to his smile, to the way he loved his two boys, he had so much soul, so much heart he couldn't keep it all cooped up in a human body anymore; he just upgraded. He couldn't be everywhere like the soldier he was.

Now he can.

-- Cesareo Garasa is a Bakersfield drummer who plays in a number of bands around town 

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