Drummer remembered as father, friend in 28-band concert

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First Posted: 6/3/2013

The night before his interview with The Weekender, Bryant August had a surreal but poignant dream about his friend and bandmate RJ Minichello, who passed away suddenly on April 12.
“It was strange because in the dream he came back, and eventually he had to go back, but he was talking to me. He was just joking around and being himself. It just felt really weird, and then I was talking to his wife and his daughter had a dream last night too and he was holding her hand. She told me that it felt real. I gave him a hug and it felt real,” August described.
“They say that people who have passed away can reach you in your dreams. Some people believe in that, and some people don’t.”
It’s clear which side he falls on as he talks about Minichello, well-known in the Northeast Pennsylvania music scene for drumming in over 30 bands, including Calm Waterz (which became Gemstone), Newpastlife, Bliss, Spitshine, Destination West, and Simon Sez. August played with Minichello in his latest band, The Switch, for about a year before his untimely passing at age 39.
“He was very talented. He put his own spin on things. That’s the thing with live music – you can play along to the CD, but if put your own spin on it, it makes it interesting, and that’s why we eventually started doing these different medleys and mash songs together,” he noted.
“The Switch was kind of about doing crowd-pleasing music, but then turning into music that we wanted to do. The first set would be what bars want you to play because everyone is going to sing along to it; our second set we would slightly go into the mainstream, but we’re doing stuff that we want to do; and then the third set was hard rock, lower tunings, different stuff like that.
“He had the good gear, and he knew what he was doing… He did some drum teching for Fosterchild and Tantric and Fuel – he went out on tour with them, all around the U.S.”
More importantly, though, August remembers him as a great friend and father.
“He was just a great guy. He was always joking around, always laughing. He really cared about his kids. He was an awesome dad,” he emphasized.
“After practice, he would be shooting hoops with his younger daughter. He would do anything for his kids.”
It is appropriate, then, that his extended musical family will be raising money to support his two young daughters, Abigayle and Skylar, on Sunday, June 9. 28 bands (with The Switch performing twice) will play three venues throughout the day, using Minichello’s own drum kits. It is $5 for each show or $10 for access to all three.
“I started (organizing the event) by researching and discovering what bands I knew he played in and what bands I didn’t know he played in. I tried to get them first because that is meaningful… 90 percent of the bands (scheduled to play) he played with or knew him as a friend,” August said, adding that some are reuniting for the first time in years.
“I named it ‘Concert in Memory of RJ’ because that’s what this is. We could say ‘RJ Minichello Benefit,’ but I wanted the name ‘concert’ in it because this is going to be a big event. This is something that’s going to be special.”
August hopes the three simultaneous concerts, which will include raffles and other fundraisers, will bring the local music scene even closer together for a fitting tribute.
“The money is not the biggest thing. This day is about him,” he said.
“The music industry is stronger than people think in this area. With this many bands supporting and honoring this musician and putting on a concert, I think people will know that this is something he would have wanted to happen.
“Depending on what people believe, he could be with us, kind of like how he was with me in my dreams.”