Andy Kieley: 1975-2004
Wednesday 16 June @ 12:48:01
“Geyser” drummer, band teacher and friend to many, dies mysteriously
by Aaron Neumann
I miss Andy.
I met him last spring at the California Building in Northeast Mpls, where we talked about music, Art-a-Whirl, his mom -- Genny Kieley, a writer who was at the building for a signing of her historical book “Pride and Tradition: More Memories of Northeast Minneapolis” -- and other such wonderfully important things.
We hung out last summer and often met up at Mill City Coffee for brunch, live music and some chat. We played basketball, drank a lot of coffee, played a lot of music … you know, just hanging. Then the fall rolled around and the school year began, and Andy got busy. Really busy.
Andy taught band to middle-school students in St. Paul and its suburbs—not only one band, but five, one day a week, each at five different schools, and then directed the combined jazz ensemble for an annual performance at the Mall of America. He taught these young advanced musicians to improvise, and inspired many to continue playing at an age when band isn't "cool." But Andy was cool, so band was cool, and they remember him for his positive energy, for kickin' it with them on band field trips, for his faith in their talents and for his instructional mantra, "If you make a mistake, make it bold."
Andy also played drums in the Minneapolis rock and roll outfit Geyser. They released their first album, 2 Bad + 2 B = 4 gotten [Flying Squirrel Studios - Mpls, MN] in August and had just scored a weekly Wednesday gig at The Terminal Bar in Northeast Minneapolis, where many of our local faves, like The Big Wu and Best Fight Story, got their start.
2 Bad, as Andy described it, was just "good old-fashioned rock-n-roll." An all-original rock album transparently influenced by "alternative" rock bands from the likes of Pearl Jam and Red Hot Chili Peppers and disturbingly fun and quirky bands like Weezer and Ween, 2 Bad has everything from fast-driving rhythms (a la Kieley) and distortional licks on their songs "Downtime" and "Gravity" to groovy Brian Wilson-like ballads like "DKOW" and "Black Angel," which both pull off a sense of sincerity and depth. Not only did the talented Mr. Kieley play percussion throughout the entire album, but also lent a hand on piano and even whistles on their song "On the Brink," which really can only be described as Ween-esque.
Like many good rock bands, Geyser has a sense of humor that shines through songs like "The Man" and "The Porno Channel." They poke themselves with jabs like, "from small town obscurity to Rock Legends (in their own mind)," and the slogan, "Like the Eagles, Only Evil." They somehow managed to get an entire third-grade class to critique their album, the responses to which furnished 2 Bad's title.
Andy was all about music, and I was often envious; he had a music day job, had regular gigs in his band in the evening, and somehow found time for leisure jams. And this is what Andy did in his spare time: rock out. He played Saturday mornings (an accomplishment for any musician) for the Farmers' Market on 8th and University in Northeast. He even played guitar in his neighbors' garage band.
"He just loved to play music," says Jordy Anderson, guitarist and frontman for Geyser. "He'd play with musicians at all skill levels in a variety of arrangements just for the experience, to learn and expand from it."
How true. I had the opportunity to create music with Andy too, but more in that informal way. We played in his small, non-ventilated, crammed-to-the-ceiling-with-gear studio over in Northeast Minneapolis a few times last summer. We played jazz standards and original music with diminished scales and augmented chord progressions with spicy samba-like percussion (thanks to Andy) that my friend Ben Bisanz and I had been working on that we called "Raga Diablo." I will never forget Andy's encouragement for the original music. He dug it because, as he would say in his low raspy voice, "...it sounds pretty evil, and I mean pretty and evil!" followed with his unmistakable low-barrel chuckle. He would also stop by Ben's or my place just to jam and hang out. We played weird bohemian music, and he could play it all: guitar, tablas, hand drums and even flute. He played with a certain zest that can only be described as passionate, and always played with a smile.
Andy Kieley died on April 12 after returning from his parents' house for Easter dinner. About 3 a.m., Andy was relaxing in his apartment listing to music on new speakers when he stiffened and collapsed. His roommate called for help, but it was too late. An autopsy found no major heart problems, stroke or toxic substances in his system. A recent, second autopsy revealed a rare, minor cold virus that caused inflammation in his system. His heart just apparently stopped, the family said. Andy is survived by his older brother, Joe, his sister in-law, Melanie, his nephews, DJ and Anthony, and his father and mother, Doug and Genny Kieley. He was 29.
I remember when I last saw Andy. Ben and I were busking (playing music for tips on the street) along First Avenue in Downtown Minneapolis one Friday night on an uncharacteristically warm spring evening, just late this last March. He stopped by and jammed with us for a good hour or so; he had spontaneously ended up downtown and "knew" we'd be playing there. We played, we laughed, and, as usual, vowed to do it again soon. "After the school year," said Andy, "when I'm done with my latest batch of students," as if they were a result of his secret award-winning recipe.
He was a teacher, had a great sense of humor, and was an uber-talented musician. He will be missed by so many.
A tribute to Andy Kieley’s life will be dedicated at the 75th Annual Celebrate Northeast Parade on Tuesday, June 22nd for the entire pre-parade, 3:00 – 6:00 p.m. at the Eastside Food Co-op, 2551 Central Ave. NE. Members of Geyser will play for the last hour. For more information please call 612-378-0050.
A website dedicated to Andy’s life can be found at http://www.andykieley.com.
A tribute evening is also scheduled July 17 at The Terminal Bar with numerous bands, including Best Fight Story.
More about Geyser on their official website, http://www.geyserband.com.