Switching Gears

Cousins of the Wize turn from musical enthusiasm to coping with tragedy

Elyea, out of town the weekend of the accident, says he didn't find out about it until the Wednesday afterward. He says he has no idea what happens from here.

"They were introducing a little more rock into their style," he says. "Chris and Pie were singing a lot more. A few weeks back, I heard one of their songs on [alternative-rock radio station] The Edge. They were getting some attention. . . . We weren't done. We were only a quarter of the way done with it."

Until that clarity comes, Elyea and other musicians in the rap-rock hybrid scene are left to eulogize Pangrazi and the Cousins vibe -- "We were just trying to have fun, man," as Gomez puts it.

Cousins of the Wize, circa 1997. Pie Gomez (standing left) draws in Chris Pangrazi's halo.
Cousins of the Wize, circa 1997. Pie Gomez (standing left) draws in Chris Pangrazi's halo.
Friends, family and total strangers pay respects at a roadside memorial in Scottsdale.
Friends, family and total strangers pay respects at a roadside memorial in Scottsdale.

"I dug the Cousins' show because it was a little more chill and not such a crush on your senses," says Elyea, who learned all about crushed senses with Bionic Jive.

Mike Hill, drummer for nearly two years before joining the Phunk Junkeez earlier in 2003, says his love for the Cousins drew him into the fold. Eloquently, he says, "They were the kind of band where you would step into the room and you would feel talent. When you watch them play, you just get it. You don't have to figure it out. It's laid out in front of you. You either feel it or you don't."

You also, from the sounds of it, either felt Pangrazi or you didn't. His bandmates describe him as a lightning bolt, the one who could pack a club audience full of admiring off-duty strippers, who stood as the center of attention onstage, the chief imp in a band full of them. Cousins cut its teeth as a band and built a cult following in Tempe clubs; the musicians speak fondly of its weekly gigs at the now-defunct Bojo's. There, Pangrazi and mates built their reputation as partyers extraordinaire.

"You knew one of us was going to throw up off the side of the stage, or we'd break something," says Maywalt.

"Or 50 girls would jump on the stage and take their tops off," adds Gomez.

"We always thought Chris was completely indestructible," says original bassist Steve Faulkner, also formerly of Trik Turner, who arrives late to join Gomez and Maywalt at the Pita Jungle (by the end of my lunchtime visit, several more friends join in the group, effectively making this a therapy session). "Chris was Chris. Nobody could get to Chris."

The accident robs Pangrazi of what might have been -- marriage, patiently earned musical success -- leaving his survivors to wallow in the unknown. Pangrazi and Reiland's friends and families pieced together a makeshift memorial for them in the pebble-littered walkway on the corner of 94th Street and Poinsettia Avenue, two blocks from the crash site.

On Wednesday the 14th, as I stand before the memorial, two crosses are draped with flowers, candles, photos and written remembrances. Reiland's side sports two pastel-colored teddy bears. Pangrazi's has lyric sheets, an empty bottle of Corona and a metal tube of flowers addressed by his mother to "my heavyweight." A pile of debris -- from the looks of things, shattered remains from the accident -- sits at the foot of the crosses, and on the top of Pangrazi's cross lies a startling sight -- a Bud Light bottle cap and his Neon's ventilation knob.

Another reminder this story is not about music.

Got a problem with Kick & Scream? Let's hear it. Contact the author at his online address: christopher.oconnor@newtimes.com.

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