It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has turned event planning into a juggling act.
A Night Celebrating the Life & Music of Stefan Pruett was in limbo the past 18 months, finally getting the landing date of Saturday, January 15, at Crescent Ballroom.
The group toured nationally and created a devoted fanbase through their sweetly frenetic tunes and immersive, kinetic live shows that united the band and audience for music, dance, and spontaneity. Think costumes, props, confetti, pajamas, and stage antics all swirled together in a tornado of sonic love and goodness.
was the lead vocalist and co-founder – along with John O’Keefe – of Peachcake, a locally formed electronic pop band that ran from 2003 to 2013. After living with a congenital heart condition his entire life, Pruett died of heart failure in June 2020. He lived in Los Angeles at the time, making music as The Guidance.
Mike McHale (guitar, synthesizers, backing vocals, percussion) discovered Peachcake through a post by Forrest Kline of another pop band, Hellogoodbye, talking about the awesomeness of the band's live shows.
He started attending shows, which eventually led to a relationship with the band members. He documented their events, went on tours, sold merch, and ultimately became a performing member.
Pruett was known for his positive and magnetic nature, and McHale says that working with him was very inviting.
“He was always open to different ideas and was always trying to think outside of the box and do things differently. His type of thinking and mentality helped me with my creativity and the way I approach things.”
Though he hadn’t seen Pruett for a few years, McHale shares that a few nights before his friend passed away, he had a dream that the two were hanging out and that Pruett got to meet McHale’s son.
“After that dream, I reached out to him – it was a Thursday – and he emailed a few friends and me back the next day and said that he wished we were all hanging out together, and he told us about a remix of a Guidance song he was about to release, and then the following Monday I got the news he passed away on Sunday.”
The dream and the subsequent email exchange gave McHale a sense of closure and gratefulness that they connected.
“Friends were sharing stories and memories about him – we got together on this big Zoom – and it made me think, ‘When all the dust settles from this pandemic, I want to do a proper sendoff show for Stefan.’ When I said it, everyone was down to do it.”
McHale is spearheading the memorial event, along with “an incredible amount of people volunteering their services, talents, time, and efforts to make this show happen.” He will be performing Peachcake music as part of the night’s lineup. “I’ll have four other guys with me on stage,” he tells Phoenix New Times
. “We’ll be playing the instruments, and when it comes to the vocals and singing Stefan’s lead parts, we are going to have many his friends and guest vocalists — like Forrest Kline help sing those parts.” Kline will also be performing a set of music.
A Claire Slattery
A Claire Slattery (right) with the late Stefan Pruett (left)
A Claire Slattery
will be DJing at the event and celebrating her friend through an array of tunes.
“Stefan and I shared a lot of music together, so I’ll play some of those. Most are artists we listened to when he resided in Arizona, but some are newer. We were also prepping a playlist together for a local radio show shortly before he passed, so I’ll play some tracks from that, too. And by the request of his parents, I am tossing in a few tracks from an unreleased project Stefan had called Stefan From the '80s. It’s excellent groovy stuff that’ll make you want to dance.”
Slattery came across Peachcake through that same message board that pulled McHale into the band’s fold.
“Based on that testimony of this truly crazy live band Peachcake, I knew I had to see them someday. Since they toured often, I got to see them in April of 2005 in South Omaha at a coffee shop. It was a performance I’ll never forget,” she says. The two stayed in touch, and their long-distance friendship adjusted to an in-person one when Slattery moved to Arizona in 2009.
Pruett’s inspiring and magical nature was what initially drew Slattery to him.
“As a self-conscious teen, I wasn’t sure who I was or who I wanted to be. Seeing a person perform so freely, not give a fuck, and create a space for others to do the same was truly eye-opening. I came from a Catholic background where things were rigid and judgmental. It was the polar opposite of what I was accustomed to and how I composed myself. He really helped me understand the world from a different point of view that was more inclusive and accepting.”
McHale’s affinity for Pruett is cut from the same cloth. “He was always there with an open ear to talk about things going on in your life. He was just there for people. He was a caring individual who would always make himself available, even if it was at 3 a.m.,” he says. “That is something I’ve always wanted to carry on with myself – to be understanding of people and help them out in any capacity that you can.”
Jeremy Dawson of Shiny Toy Guns and MXMX will be spinning the music of The Guidance, and Jez Danz is another of the night’s DJs. There will also be a special exhibit of costumes, props, posters, and photos from Stefan’s lifetime.
Keeping the good vibes flowing, the event is also a benefit. All proceeds from the show will benefit nonprofit organizations Rosie’s House and HEAL International.
A Night Celebrating the Life & Music of Stefan Pruett. 7:30 p.m. Saturday, January 15. Crescent Ballroom, 308 North Second Avenue. Tickets are $15.