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When former Weezer bassist Mikey Welsh — who died at age 40 on Oct. 8 at a Chicago hotel — turned up at the band’s show at Long Island’s Jones Beach on July 29, the security guard struggled to locate his name on the guest list, albeit just momentarily.
Welsh, carrying a sizable canvas under his arm, wasn’t afraid to speak up: “I used to be in the band,” he reiterated to the guard several times, as a thunderstorm raged on overhead. Welsh appeared to be bridging the gap between his former world and his current one, presumably presenting Weezer — the band he left in 2001 following a mental breakdown and drug problems — with a painting.
Welsh didn’t just remain on the sidelines at Weezer’s Jones Beach show with the Flaming Lips: During the performance finale of “Undone (The Sweater Song),” he nestled among current Weezer members and dancers for the Flaming Lips on the right hand corner of the stage, unannounced but at one point playing guitar. For those who recognized Welsh, dressed casually and sporting hair shorter than his Weezer-era mop, it was a thrill — a secret shared among diehards.
This wasn’t the first time Welsh had popped up at a Weezer show, but it would be the last, despite attempts otherwise. On both his Twitter and Facebook, Welsh had expressed excitement over attending Weezer’s RIOTfest show in Chicago on Sunday, Oct. 9. “So I’m going on my first vacation in quite a long time… very stoked,” Welsh wrote one week before his death on his public Facebook, an account rife with his art and uncensored stories from his time in Weezer. “First I’m off to Nashville, to be photographed working on a big painting by a very good friend of mine and then off to Chicago, to see the mighty =w= [Weezer] rock out. I’m excited to see the boys, hang out and have some fun.”
Over on Welsh’s Twitter account, dispatches from the Burlington, VT experimental painter’s life were sometimes less sunny. “Dreamt I died in Chicago next weekend (heart attack in my sleep). Need to write my will today,” Welsh tweeted on Sept. 26, later correcting the date to “the weekend after next.”
The story that Welsh eerily predicted his own death has made the rounds in the last 24 hours, with an undertone of planned suicide tinting many reports — undoubtedly fueled by Welsh’s past suicide attempt via “severe drug overdose,” as he’s called it. Immediately following his departure from Weezer in 2001 (he appeared only on 2001’s “Green Album,” joined in 1998), Welsh attempted to OD but ended up in a coma, after his heart stopped beating — an account Welsh once chronicled six years after the fact. In the same account, from a 2007 issue of a disbanded literary journal called Rock Salt Plum Review, Welsh said of struggles with mental illness, including post-traumatic stress disorder and borderline personality disorder: “I’m unable to replace my demons with anything. It’s impossible. I’m only able to hide from them for a few hours a day, more or less.”
As the Chicago Tribune reported, authorities suspect perscription narcotics and heroin played a role in Welsh’s death, though the official toxicology report came back inconclusive. Welsh was reportedly discovered unconscious by a cleaning crew at Chicago’s Raffaello Hotel, who found his body blocking the door when attempting to enter his room.
Weezer’s take on Welsh’s death emerged on its official website late Saturday night, hours before media reports began trickling online. It was a candid summarization of the fallen comrade, with no denial of his wilder antics: “Mikey was never one to shy away from the absurd, dangerous or strange, and he did so with a gusto few others had. No one had quite the stage presence of Mikey, nor have there been many who pulled the types of shenanigans he did at shows. If it rocked, he had to try it — and he always found a way to pull it off.”
“When he emerged from his nervous breakdown that spelled his exit from the rock’n’roll world, he took on a new role as an astonishing and pure visual artist. It was a glorious flowering of a talent he always possessed, but he had chosen to rock out first, paint later.”
Weezer’s Chicago show went on, a nod to Mikey included. As the band reiterated in a second note via historian/webmaster Karl Koch: “Today is a hard day for Weezer and all Weezer friends, fans, and family. While everyone is still in shock over yesterday’s tragic loss of Mikey Welsh, we know damn well he would never have wanted to stop the rock at today’s RIOTfest, the show he was planning on attending. On the contrary, the rock was what he loved, both in music and art. To play the show and play it well tonight is to honor him and his memory. We have a feeling he will be watching.”
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