Last night, the longtime jam-band scene fixture Col. Bruce Hampton was onstage at Atlanta’s Fox Theater, playing at an all-star concert that celebrated his own 70th birthday, as NPR reports. During the encore, with most of the musicians from that night onstage with him, Hampton passed out. After collapsing, Hampton died. He was 70.
Hampton started out in late-’60s Atlanta, where he led the surrealist psych-rock group Hampton Grease Band. After releasing the famously low-selling 1971 LP Music To Eat, they broke up in 1973. But Hampton kept playing improvisational, jazz-influenced rock music in the decades that followed, leading a number of different bands.
Hampton’s Aquarium Rescue Unit played a big part in the ’90s jam-band revival, and he helped launch the touring H.O.R.D.E. Festival. He had an acting role in Billy Bob Thornton’s 1996 movie Sling Blade, and he made a cameo in Run The Jewels’ “Blockbuster Night, Pt. 1” video. In recent years, Hampton had been playing a weekly residency in Atlanta.
Last night’s concert featured members of Phish, Widespread Panic, Leftover Salmon, and Blues Traveler, as well as people like Billy Bob Thornton, Karl Denson, and R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck. Most of the musicians for the show were onstage for the big finale performance of “Turn On Your Lovelight,” and the song was reaching its conclusion, when Hampton passed out. It’s hard to imagine a more legendary way to go out.