Beloved St. Louis bassist Blake Fowler’s obituary describes him as “one of a kind, he had never met a stranger, only made new friends.” This sentiment was heavily echoed on the 28th at Off Broadway as many packed the memorial show to celebrate his life. Blake joined hardcore band Time and Pressure in the spring of 2019 and quickly became a well-known member in the local scene. Revered by many in the area, his death on November 30th at the age of 23 came as a shocking blow to those closest to him. Friends and family from around the country flocked to the sold-out show to celebrate the life of their lost friend with a night of music and memories.
Opening the night was St. Louis-based Squint. I consider myself well-versed in the metal and deathcore genre, but this was an entirely new experience for me. With the opening riffs came flying bodies hitting the floor all around me. The shock had hardly waned when more came barreling off-stage and I realized it was concertgoers stage diving. A quick retreat to safer spaces allowed me to witness something incredible—an unbelievably diverse mix of music lovers coming together to honor their friend through the celebration of something he loved most: music. The entire night bore witness to the profound love and grief for their friend lost too soon, advocacy to help others struggling with their mental health, and a reminder to stop and live in the moment for Blake. Squint vocalist Brennen Wilkinson describes his friend Blake as “accepting, kind, tough, open-minded, and selfless.” Squint is a newer band, forming in late 2021 with Wilkinson joined by Ian O’ Leary and David Shanle on guitar, Wil McCarthy on drums, and Jake Lindsay on bass. Their debut EP Feel It dropped in May of 2022, followed by their second EP Wash Away in November. Wilkinson described their sound as a mashup of late ‘80s hardcore bands meets ‘90s grunge, listing Rites of Spring, Fugazi, Archers of Loaf, and Pixies as some influences. They have toured nationally and consider local St. Louis joint The Sinkhole as a favorite venue to frequent. Following their tribute set, they all hopped over to The Sinkhole with a few of the other bands to perform a free show for fans.
Following Squint came local band Direct Measure. Forming in 2018, the band originally went by Brute Force until forced to change their name in 2020. Direct Measure has spent the last year working on their debut LP, with three EPs available to stream currently on all platforms. Vocalist Jack Zempal engaged the crowd heavily during the set, with a near constant stream of stage diving and shared vocals with the crowd. Backed by Jake Meyer and Anthony Soots on guitar, Kevin Jaggard on drums, and bassist Jonathan Reichling, they brought a dynamic range of music spanning hardcore to the occasional punk riff. Guitarist Soots shared that the band members share a diverse range of inspiration from grunge to pop, and he feels they work well to harness this in their music.
Following Direct Measure was Springfield, IL, band Prevention. Prevention immediately caught my attention—blindfolded I would’ve wagered money that we were listening to Zac de la Rocha and Rage Against the Machine on stage. Silently considering where Zac would’ve been hiding his token unruly curls, my girlfriend turned to me and said “this band sounds exactly like Rage!” Not to overstate the comparison, this band was incredibly fun to listen to and I would happily travel to see them again. Their EP The Search was released in November and can be streamed on all platforms. The band can also be found on Instagram through their handle, @prevention217.
Following Prevention came Philadelphia hardcore band Chemical Fix. Formed in 2018, the band linked with Time and Pressure after playing a couple shows in St. Louis when touring. They state Blake stood out for his kind and genuine soul, describing him as “the first person to check in on you, and the last person to leave your side if anything bad came your way.” Releasing their full-length LP Our Shade Casts Far in 2021, the band is comprised of Bren King on vocals, Mikey Bifolco on guitar, bassist Wyatt Oberholzer, and drummer Mike Walsh. The band describes themselves as “aggressive, fast, hardcore punk,” pulling inspiration from bands such as American Nightmare, Paint It Black, and Blacklisted. At one point a fan grabbed King’s microphone and dove off the stage with it, causing a slight pause in the show. Chemical Fix had the most chaotic energy of the night, moshing on stage with fans, throwing themselves 100% into the crowd’s energy.
Rounding out the night were Fowler’s former bandmates in Time and Pressure. Playing local shows until their split in fall of 2021, Time and Pressure was originally comprised of Dave Shanle of Squint, Drew Maxey, and James Carroll. They were joined by drummer Travis Scheaffer in the spring of 2018, and James described the band at that time as “feeling full for the first time.” Blake joined the band in 2019, with the band describing him as “the scene’s little brother.” While the band is not currently making new music they reunited to honor their friend for one final show. Pulling bassist Wyatt Oberholzer from Chemical Fix, the show looked like a high energy source of catharsis for all of the band members, leaving it all on the stage for their beloved friend. | Erica Vining w/ David Von Nordheim
If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988. You can also text this number if you are unable or unwilling to make the call.