The last night at SXSW, while everyone else was seeing Prince and Justin Timberlake, I went to the Invisible Oranges showcase, which was loaded with very loud acts — KEN Mode, Full Of Hell, Pallbearer — and one pretty quiet one: John Baizley of Baroness, playing (mostly) solo, doing some Townes Van Zandt covers, some Baroness songs stripped down, and talking about his recovery from the injuries he sustained when his band’s tour bus crashed, injuring nine members of its crew. It was a life-affirming set, in which Baizley discussed (among other things) how his injuries have forced him to relearn how to play guitar. We often assume, I think, that when a musician survives an accident, he can simply continue making music, but the human body is a complicated machine, and the human brain even more so, and healing both, together, is hard enough even when that healing doesn’t involve trying to reteach one’s muscles, reflexes, and digits the demanding specifics of how to play an instrument at a professional level. So it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise to hear that drummer Matt Maggioni and bassist Allen Blickle have parted ways with Baroness due to the injuries they suffered last summer, but it’s still kind of heartbreaking. Baizley posted a thoughtful letter on his band’s site today, announcing their departure. Baizley offered no details, except to say, “Simply put, some of the effects and injuries were severe enough to prohibit further activity in Baroness. While we would never have asked them to leave; we have the utmost sympathy for this situation, and in earnest, we wish Matt and Allen the best in the future.” But it’s a powerful, immediate piece of writing that leaves one both excited for the future of Baroness and truly frustrated and saddened for all involved. Read the full letter below.
Nothing can truly prepare you for a brush with death. The event is unique one, singular to the observer. Trust me, you don’t want to invite the experience. Our bus accident left indelible marks, external and internal, physical and mental, you name it. Each of the nine of us went through and continues to go through an entirely different, yet common experience. We are tied to each other by a trauma, which, despite its damage, has been made individually easier through our shared ordeal. While I would never wish the incident on anyone, I cannot imagine going through that wreck alone.
Thankfully, injury was not dealt out evenly; unfortunately it was dealt in great supply. Each of the nine of us now finds our self in a drastically different circumstance, and we each move forward accordingly. There are two important things to note. First, we are all healthy. We are recovering at different rates, and we’ll all be fine in the end. Second, Baroness has made a commitment to pick up where we left off, and get back out on tour, where we belong. In fact, I am personally staking my recovery on this principle; it gives me direction and something to look forward to (finally).
However, for some of us, the accident necessitated a change that would prevent them from performing music or touring. It is with sadness that we must announce that Matt Maggioni and Allen Blickle will not continue touring with Baroness. The details of their departure are not sensational; they do not come with hard feelings. Nor are the details going to be public; suffice it to say we’d like to keep to ourselves the finer points of this situation, to respect the privacy of all involved. While the nine of us must respect the significance of the bus accident in Bath, we must also move away from it and get back to our lives. Simply put, some of the effects and injuries were severe enough to prohibit further activity in Baroness. While we would never have asked them to leave; we have the utmost sympathy for this situation, and in earnest, we wish Matt and Allen the best in the future. In their stead, we have found two musicians who can approach our music with passion and vitality and help get us back out on tour to finish what was seemingly cut short last August.
‘til the wheels fall off,
John Baizley & Baroness