Earlier this month word broke that Bob Petric of the Ohio underground rock scene had passed away. Petric’s longtime admirer and friend Jerry Dannemiller joins us today for a look back his work.
Bob Petric, revered guitarist for Columbus, Ohio underground punk legends Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments passed away in April at his home in Columbus. He was 56. The news of his passing quickly spread via a Facebook post by remaining TJSA band members, resulting in an outpouring of tributes and shock from friends and fans. Petric was a towering music figure in Columbus. In small corners of the noise-punk underground, he was known for his fierce, powerful style. I was a friend of Bob’s since the late ’80s, when we met in college at Ohio State.
While onstage with TJSA, his playing sizzled, equally blaring and highly musical, providing a foil to singer Ron House’s sardonic gyrations. Offstage, Bob could be kindhearted, acerbic, and quick with a wink or encouraging word from the end of the bar. Every TJSA show was a communal can’t-miss moment, it was a thrill to witness Petric’s singular guitar fireworks.
Over the course of several singles and three albums (including one on Rick Rubin’s Onion imprint, 1995’s Bait and Switch), it was Petric’s playing that elevated the group’s status throughout the decade. Petric and TJSA mounted several national tours in the ’90s, opening for Guided By Voices and Lollapalooza side stages at different runs.
Though their recorded output ceased with 2000’s No Old Guy Lo-Fi Cry (on Robert Pollard’s Rock-a-thon label), the band continued to reunite over the last two decades to play infrequent shows and festivals (Cropped Out, Chaos in Tejas).
Through it all was Petric, a powerhouse who didn’t so much as play guitar as he wrestled it to the ground like a feral dog. At different moments, he recalled Andy Gill, Randy Rhoads, and Pete Townshend—complete with windmills!—all duking it out for ownership of the guitar neck.
The tributes from fans, friends, and fellow musicians were effusive in their praise paired with sadness for the loss of such a conspicuous musical talent. Tom Lax, of Philadelphia’s Siltbreeze label, was an early champion of TJSA’s, releasing their 1994’s Negative Guest List single.
“I’ll always remember Bob as a kind and generous friend,” said Lax. “We shared an abundant enthusiasm for sparkling wines and spicy BBQ, and his back porch was perfect for both. His pursuit for perfection shone whenever he played live—you could see it on his face—and I never saw a weak TJSA show. There’s so much more I can’t put into words, his passing is a very deep cut I haven’t fully processed. I’ll miss him greatly.”
Matt Sweeney (Chavez, Superwolf) said via Twitter: “Bob Petric was a genius musician and a great person. Terrible to hear we lost him. His band Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments played with my band Chavez in the ’90s and his guitar work and vibe were always sublime. Like, as good as rock gets.”
As tributes have rolled out, so has unheard recorded output. A 1997 set from First Avenue in Minneapolis was just posted to TJSA’s Bandcamp page and a pre-TJSA group Petric was in, Girly Machine, has just released a few songs of never-before heard chunky prog-metal recorded in 1994.
Sue Harshe (Scrawl) was a longtime friend of Petric’s, who said, “Bob has been part of our lives for so long, I’m not really sure how it happened. I suspect he snuck in with his guitar playing in Girly Machine and then became fully embedded with TJSA, developing his mighty ferocious style. He was generous. He had a big laugh, a big temper, and a bigger heart. I will miss him very much.”
As the shock gives way to sadness and pain, and the realization sets in that we won’t have anymore of those communal moments witnessing Petric’s playing, the loss takes on new weight. Bob Petric left us far too soon. Here’s hoping the sound of his inimitable, thundering guitar lives on.
Photos by Jay Brown | jfotoman.com