Surfer BloodSurfer Blood. Thomas Fekete at left.

Obviously, Donald Trump’s horrifying ascendancy to the presidency will be the singular, terrifying takeaway for 2016, but the year will also be remembered for the sheer loss of artistic visionaries. David Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen — the list of legendary musicians who passed away in 2016 is impossible to fathom. Each day brought a new bit of unwelcome news until the year mercifully came to a close.

Yet, of all the deaths that from last year, none affected me in a more personal way than the passing of Thomas Fekete, the young guitarist for the power-pop group Surfer Blood. I’m an appreciate fan of Surfer Blood — in particular their soaring debut album, Astro Coast — but when I first started listening to the group, I knew nothing of Fekete. That was until 2015, when I read somewhere that the 26-year-old guitarist had been stricken with a rare form of cancer.

Essentially on a whim, I donated money to a GoFundMe campaign designed to help Fekete fight his illness, and for the next year, I received regular updates on his condition. Perhaps it was Fekete’s youthful looks (he could have easily passed as 18), or the impassioned letters sent out by his wife, Jessica, that made me so compelled by his sad story (like nearly ever touring musician, Fekete had no health insurance).

During Fekete’s year-long battle, he and his wife remained astonishingly upbeat, determined to fight the cancer that was slowly spreading throughout Thomas’ body. While they posted news about setbacks or financial hardships, it always seemed like Fekete was going to pull through in the end.

That’s why it was such a shock to receive the final update from Jessica on May 31, alerting everyone that her husband had succumbed to the disease. In her last note, Jessica said that “Our sweet Thomas passed on last night, peacefully in his sleep, holding my hand. With one last sigh, he let go of the burden of pain and suffering that he has been bravely carrying for so long.” After reading that, I damn near broke down in tears in front of my work computer.

Without one of their founding members, Surfer Blood has gamely moved on and are set to release their first album without Fekete, Snowdonia, on February 3. They’re also embarking on a tour and are set to play at The Chapel on February 7.

Based on all the wonderful things written about Fekete, he seemed like a much-beloved friend, and so the Surfer Blood shows on this tour are sure to be emotional, cathartic performances. Come for the tunes on February 7 and stay for the healing at the Chapel.

Surfer Blood, Boogarins
The Chapel
February 7, 2017
9pm, $18

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