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Mark 1340: As I write this, I am sitting at my desk, totally stunned by the news of Jon Bunch’s passing. I am overwhelmed by emotion for a man I never met, yet whose words and voice meant so much to me. So much.
My first exposure to Bunch’s music was through my roommate Jeff. He was a hardcore devotee in the mid-nineties. One of the bands he loved the most was Sensefield and he played Killed For Less almost non-stop for a long time (at least, it seemed like it to me). Now Sensefield was more of a “thinking man’s” band for sure, but many fans of the old school Victory Records roster (including Jeff and myself) had much love for them.
While I enjoyed Sensefield, my true appreciation for them didn’t develop until after Bunch had joined Further Seems Forever for the timeless Hide Nothing. Bunch’s voice perfectly complimented the music. The emotional strain in his voice as he reached to hit the notes and convey the poetic lyrics immediately resonated with me.
FSF fans are often split over their feelings on that album. I have always felt that this was an age issue. FSF had a young fanbase that didn’t know what to make of Bunch or the poppier turn of the music. I, however, was in my mid-twenties, fairly newlywed, and trying to reconcile the idea that I didn’t have much direction. And what direction I did have just wasn’t working out. Every syllable of Hide Nothing felt like it was written specifically for me. In many ways, it still feels like that when I listen to it.
While I was never able to see Sensefield live, I always figured the chance would come back around. Now, sadly, it never will. Fortunately, I did manage to see the Hide Nothing lineup of FSF a couple of times and they, in my opinion, were at their very best each time. As a matter of fact, the show at the Purple Door Festival just before the release of Hide Nothing is still one of my favorite shows ever.
Part of me thinks that it’s crazy to mourn someone I have never even met. That’s how strange music is, though. It affects you in ways that no one can understand besides you. It meets you where you are at. So, thank you, Jon Bunch, for inspiring me and for singing about the feelings that I could never articulate. I wish I could have told you that in person. Your race has been run and I pray that you can see who you ARE.
“We live and we learn and we crash and we burn and we're gone / We take what we know and we learn as we go and we run/ Run until that day, we can see who we are /Have the final say, we keep being who we are / As love lights the way to the last day…. and no one can take it away” - "Hide Nothing" from Hide Nothing
Jim 1340: 2016 has been a tough year for rock n’ roll. With the passing of so many icons, fans have been sucker punched by a year that seems destined to leave us reeling from the loss of those who have inspired us, sometimes over the course of a lifetime. High profile deaths like David Bowie left some of us, this writer included, feeling like a piece of personal history has been erased. In most cases, those who have left us have lived an average lifespan, and while their departure is not laudable, it’s understandable that at some point we all reach the end of our earthly road. In other cases, death is a cold bitch, and 2016 does her bidding.
It’s in that light that I look at the recent news concerning Jon Bunch. While I had missed his early work, he came to my attention when he took over as vocalist for the always impressive Further Seems Forever. While the band never disappointed lyrically, Hide Nothing had an energy and nakedness that immediately struck a chord with me. The chorus of the title track describes adult life in a few simple lines: “Run and hide, don’t hide at all. Change is coming, know it’s nothing personal.” Through both tragedy and success, this song has been a cry in my life to rally against the odds, and to do so with integrity. This album brought Jon Bunch into my world, and I could only imagine he had a stellar career in front of him.
Last year Jon’s new band, Lucky Scars, released their debut on Spartan Records. I was fortunate to have a review copy fall in my lap, and it’s an amazing piece of work. While maybe not the deep lyrical tome of Bunch’s previous efforts, it was one of the most fun albums released in 2015. The four songs of driving party rock were infectious, and more than a few times I have put that album on repeat and listened to it several times in a row before deciding to move on.
Rock n’ Roll Party Foul stood out because it had all the energy and attack of a young band. If one didn’t know the participants it would be impossible to guess that the frontman was in his mid-forties, rocking with a volatile power that spat in the eye of those who would say such moxie is for the young. There was no doubt in my mind that Jon Bunch’s career had been reborn.
On the cusp of such an amazing outing, a man who only lived half a life when measured by measured by the average American lifespan, was removed from the game. Given his few years on earth, and the vitality of his persona and career, the death of Jon Bunch is cruel. His fans feel it deeply, and I can only pray for his family, who must have expected many more years with him. As a fan, my only comfort in this is that even in death no one can take away from what Jon has left behind. I never saw him perform live. I never had the opportunity to interview him, as I have so many of my favorite rockers. Luckily, I still have the words he sang, and they will remain a testament to a man who was there during good times and bad through his recorded output and has been a part of my life. While Jon Bunch never knew what he meant to each fan individually, he has left an indelible mark on many, and no one can take that away.
RIP Jon Bunch
I pray you’ve found your way home, where you need to hide nothing.
"For all we know, these days are all numbered / But things could get better, I know / God, 'cause I'll be the first and the last one to go / Lord, it's a cruel, cruel world" - "For All We Know" from Hide Nothing
Rob 1340: My life experience with Jon Bunch begins with regret. When I was very young and just coming into my musical self, I had the chance to see Sense Field play. I wanted to see Brett Detar's new band (The Juliana Theory) and they were opening. So I went to the old Showplace theater in Buffalo, NY and had my first true rock and roll experience. Unfortunately, I was really only there to see TJT and so I left before Sense Field played. This was something I regretted for years.
Fast forward a few years, I'd seen how Sense Field finally made it big. They played "Save Yourself" on TV. They were on a semi-major label. I was in school and working in a pizza shop and spent pretty much every penny I had at Best Buy on CD's. So when Living Outside came out and was one of Best Buy's loss leaders, I quickly grabbed it. I was amazed by the professionalism and rock energy mixed with Jon Bunch's strong and powerful vocals. Quickly, I memorized the lyrics to songs like "Burn", "On Your Own" and "I Refuse". They became anthems of mine. Songs I loved not only for the musicianship but also for the power in what was being sung.
A friend then sold me Killed for Less, Building, and the OneLineDrawing split. "Overstand" and "Beautiful Beautiful" quickly became favorites song of mine. I will say that Killed for Less never really became something I enjoyed, but listening to it tonight it's a very powerful record.
A few months after Living Outside was released, I had the chance to make right what I'd done wrong in skipping Sense Field the first time I saw them play. Sense Field was opening for Hot Hot Heat at some radio show in Richmond, VA, and I made the hour and a half trek to see them play. I remember watching and thinking, THIS IS HOW A ROCK BAND SHOULD PLAY. Sense Field was truly an amazing and powerful live band. I was deeply saddened to hear them announce (I believe it was announced by the time of the show, but my memory fails me) that they were done around this time.
It was around this time that Jason Gleason quit Further Seems Forever (or was fired, or was just an a$$). I remember being so excited upon hearing that Jon Bunch would be replacing him as the singer of the band. One of my favorite singers/lyricists was joining one of my favorite bands. What could be more perfect? I'm not sure if anything could have been. The result Hide Nothing is one of the most powerful albums to come out of the 'emo' scene. Period. Yes, it's disjointed. It's obvious that the music was written for a singer who sung in a higher range, but there's a chemistry that came out of this that few could ever replicate. Songs like "Light Up Ahead" and "Someone You Know" are right up there with anything else in FSF's catalog.
I saw Bunch sing for Further a couple times. He wasn't as 'cool' as Jason or Chris were, but he was still an excellent front man. Unfortunately, FSF went on hiatus after only one record with Jon. There is a great live DVD The Final Curtain that features Bunch singing songs from all three Further Seems Forever eras. This is worth your time if you can get your hands on it.
My life experience with Jon Bunch ends with regret. His projects after Further Seems Forever never really caught my attention. I had the opportunity recently to review his Lucky Scars album and passed as it just wasn't my thing. I also was quite disappointed by the subject matter after how moving his material of 2003-2004 was. It's really sad to see someone go at only 45 no matter what the cause was. R.I.P. Jon Bunch. I pray you held fast to the faith that made you write "Light Up Ahead".
"I know that you’ve already told me / You don’t like the new me at all / You told me that you miss the old me / And that I couldn’t be happy at all ‘cause? / I Refuse / To fit into this lame idea you’ve always had for me / I’m not going to be what you want me to be" - "I Refuse" from Living Outside