It was the summer of 1982, and Naked Raygun was playing at the Cubby Bear. The Wrigleyville dive was known for its all-ages matinees featuring punk and hardcore bands like Hüsker Dü, T.S.O.L. and The Replacements. For almost everyone involved, this was just another gig.
But, for a scrawny 13-year-old boy from Virginia, this was everything. Until that day, he didn’t know the first thing about punk rock. Hell, he’d never been to a show before! That Naked Raygun set was his big bang moment, a day that would set him on a trajectory to book his own shows, conquer MTV, tour the world, win 18 GRAMMY Awards, get inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame twice and, in 2023, headline Riot Fest.
Yep, that kid was Dave Grohl.
In his memoir, The Storyteller, Grohl reflected on the stripped-down Naked Raygun show.
“I foolishly thought that bands performed only on giant stages with smoke machines and massive displays of lasers and pyrotechnics. To me, that was rock and roll. Little did I know that all you needed was four walls and a song.”Dave Grohl
More than three decades later, Grohl would invite his heroes to open for Foo Fighters at Wrigley Field. For thirty minutes on that rainy, muggy August night in 2015, Naked Raygun embraced stadium rock. Among the band members was bassist Pierre Kezdy, whose playing was a driving force in the band’s sound.
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Due out Friday, July 28, 2023
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Since forming in Chicago in 1980, Naked Raygun had evolved over decades of making music. During their original run, they toured hard and released seminal albums like Jettison, All Rise and Understand? before disbanding in 1992. It wasn’t until a headlining performance at the Congress Theatre for Riot Fest 2006 that the band was finally, officially back together.
After reuniting, the legacy band released new singles, worked on their first new album in thirty years (Over the Overlords) and did shows with Jawbreaker, Mudhoney and Alkaline Trio. (Matt Skiba once told WBEZ that Naked Raygun shows were “a cross between Christmas and walking to the electric chair.”) They even returned to Riot Fest for triumphant performances in 2009, 2011 and 2014, where they played their classic album Throb Throb in its entirety.
While there was plenty to celebrate, these years weren’t without hardship. Kezdy experienced a number of health issues, including a stroke in 2011 and a cancer diagnosis a few years later. He passed away on October 9, 2020 at the age of 58.
Fans will always remember Kezdy doing what he loved most, standing stage left in a power stance with that black, sticker-covered Gibson bass slung over his shoulder.
He also took great pride in Naked Raygun’s influence on other artists, telling the Chicago Ambassador, “We were the guys out there with machetes, blazing a path through the jungle while other people were able to follow and bring their weapons through easily.”
Combining the intensity of hardcore with melodic sensibility, Naked Raygun helped punk grow into something bigger, broader and more creative. It’s no wonder why bands like Foo Fighters, Fall Out Boy, The Lawrence Arms and blink-182 cite Naked Raygun as an essential part of their punk rock education.
So what better way to celebrate Kezdy’s life than by remembering all of the incredible music he gave us over the years?
Available digitally and on vinyl July 28, Godspeed… A Tribute to Pierre Kezdy features artists like J. Robbins, Hot Water Music and Swingin’ Utters covering their favorite Naked Raygun classics. All of the profits go directly to Kezdy’s family to help them continue to honor his legacy and creativity.
Since Kezdy’s greatest impact was here in Chicago, it’s only fitting that some of the album’s highlights come from locals, like The Bollweevils, The Usuals, The Methadones and Smoking Popes frontman Josh Caterer. In one of the compilation’s many standout moments, Pegboy honors their “perfect bandmate and dear friend” with a powerful, soul-shaking cover of “Vanilla Blue” from 1988’s Jettison. You can feel how much Kezdy meant to this scene.
“Naked Raygun are one of the few bands that became a permanent landmark in how we, as a band, see and approach the music we play”Chris Wollard, Hot Water Music
Your first taste of the compilation comes from Jawbox frontman and punk lifer J. Robbins, whose connection to Naked Raygun dates back to his mid-80s stint in the Washington, D.C. hardcore band Government Issue. The groups were mutual fans of each other, and he took on the early Basement Screams-era deep cut “Got Hurt” partially because it had only been released as a work-in-progress bonus track.
“Covering Naked Raygun is difficult because I regard the original versions of their songs as essentially perfect, and I didn’t want to just do a pale imitation,” said Robbins. “I picked ‘Got Hurt’ because it was kind of a forgotten gem.”
His version captures the urgent, explosive energy of the original and comes accompanied by a music video that features footage of him and his bandmates biking around Baltimore. (There’s a whole lot of other crazy shit going on, but we don’t want to spoil anything. Watch it for yourself!)
- Hot Water Music “Wonder Beer”
- The Usuals “Soldier’s Requiem”
- J. Robbins “Got Hurt”
- Pegboy “Vanilla Blue”
- Swingin’ Utters “Gear”
- Death and Memphis “Treason”
- The Methadones “Surf Combat”
- Face To Face “I Don’t Know”
- Grey Trash Aliens “Fever Island”
- The Bollweevils “I Remember”
- The Turdles “Rat Patrol”
- Josh Caterer “Knock Me Down”
- Stress Dreams “Home of the Brave”
- The Brokedowns “Walk in Cold”