Death & Music Artists Reflect on Songs for Coping with Grief


Tonight, KEXP will open the Gathering Space for the fourth annual Death & Music. It’s a special event, hosted by The Morning Show DJ John Richards, that really goes beyond a traditional concert experience. It’s a time to reflect on grief, on the people we’ve lost, and heal with our community. Alongside performances from local artists, people will be stepping up to share their own stories, and “an exploration of the intersection of these two distinct veins of life and how they feed into one another.” This year’s sold out event will include performances from Damien JuradoIan MooreSean NelsonTomo NakayamaStar Anna, and Daniel Blue of Motopony. (NOTE: a very limited amount of tickets will be available at the door.) Ahead of what’s sure to be a beautiful and emotional evening, we asked a few of the artists to share a song that’s helped them in their life as they’ve coped with grief. These are their stories.

Tomo Nakayama: A.A. Bondy – “Slow Parade”. When my grandmother passed away a few years ago, I was on tour with Gold Leaves, opening for the singer/songwriter A.A. Bondy. We were playing in Atlanta, and I remember getting the call from home right before I had to go on stage. I played the set in a complete daze, not really sure where I was or what I should be doing. Afterwards, I walked into the green room where Bondy was warming up. He saw the glazed look on my face and asked what was wrong. “My grandma died,” I said. Hearing the words come out of my mouth finally made it real, and I broke down. Bondy gave me a hug while I cried. After a while, he said, “If it makes you feel better, my lady left me today and all my stuff is in storage.” It didn’t really make me feel better, but what can you really say in that situation? I appreciated his kindness. The rest of the night is a haze but I do recall sitting in a dark room, listening to this gorgeous ballad. “Marching in a slow parade/There are ashes where you laid…” I remembered my grandmother, the tiny lady with a huge heart, who gave birth to ten children and helped put many more through seminary with her charity work. The music put my heart at ease, and I was grateful for the memory.


Damien Jurado: “Responsibility” by Thanksgiving is a song I have turned to throughout time for comfort. Lyrically the song is very poetic and human and it speaks to me especially in times of reflection.


Star Anna: I get transfixed on a song that feels like a mantra and I just listen to it on repeat for days on end. “All The Time In Airports” by The Handsome Family stuck with me for a while. It’s a song filled with the everyday mundane of the airport, with brief little windows of loneliness peeking through. It’s his voice that gives away the emotion while he’s singing about going through security or buying frozen yogurt. It feels like a safe song to fall apart to.

Death & Music starts tonight at 6 PM. If you weren’t able to get a ticket, make sure to tune in to The Morning Show tomorrow morning from 6-10 AM PST as John Richards hosts his annual Mom Show — a four-hour block of remembrance and reflection as Richards remembers his own mother and helps others who’ve lost loved ones.

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One Comment

  1. Meredith
    Posted November 9, 2017 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    Contact Name: Meredith Stone
    Donor Account Number:

    Thank you for your grief show. This is my first year hearing it. My dad passed away in March after many years of illness. He was a talented musician who instilled in me a love and appreciation for the power of music that i am proud to pass on to my daughter. I thought I’d make it through the show today but I’m now sitting in my car crying. Grief is so hard – we are expected to move on so quickly. Thank you for taking the time to grieve so publicly, allowing us all to do the same.

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