|From left:: River, Kris, Tomas, Jack|
As I read the tragic news from Sweden about UK band Viola Beach, I thought of how things might have easily turned out very differently more than half a century ago for The Beatles in the early days of their career: it could have been John, Paul, George and Ringo from Liverpool plunging into a canal in Germany after doing yet another residency in Hamburg rather than making it safely back to England. In the wee hours of Saturday February 13, 2016, four young men from Warrington as well as their tour manager were not so lucky as one of the five drove the rented tour van off a bridge outside Södertälje 15 miles south-west of Stockholm, into the waters 80 feet below. (The exact cause of the accident as well as the identity of the driver have yet to be determined by Swedish police investigators.)
As word spread on the Internet via main stream media and social media, people who had never heard of Viola Beach soon became fans, resulting in the single "Boys Who Sing" shooting to the near top of iTunes and being streamed many times on Spotify. As it happens, the attention is well-deserved: the three tracks uploaded to Soundcloud since the group was formed last May are superb and make it abundantly clear that much more good stuff was going to come from this gifted quartet. In addition to "Boys Who Sing", the songs "Swings & Waterslides" and "Cherry Vimto" showcase their fully formed sunny California surf vibe meets Merseybeat for the 21st century sound.
A string of shows had been scheduled for the UK between this week and October 1; they were also due to play a coveted gig at this year's SXSW in March. Thankfully, their lovely live version of "Swings & Waterslides" was filmed last fall; it took place in London on October 27 as part of the ongoing intimate concert series Sofar Sounds (Song From a Room).
R.I.P. Kris Leonard, 19 (guitar/vocals), River Reeves, 19 (guitar), Jack Dakin, 24 (drums), Tomas Lowe, 27 (bass), Craig Tarry, 32 (manager).
Trivia: On September 27, 1986 on the road in Dörarp in southern Sweden, Metallica's tour bus crushed 24-year-old bassist Cliff Burton after he was ejected from his bunk and through a window; he had picked guitarist Kirk Hammett's spot earlier after drawing cards. In 2006, a memorial stone was unveiled near the crash site.