PHOENIX — Near the heart of an ever-evolving downtown Phoenix, set back a bit from the intersection of 2nd Ave and Van Buren, sits a music venue named Crescent Ballroom – constructed in 1917 and renovated from The F.L. Hart Garage. Since its 2011 opening, the brick exterior has changed some, with an expansion adding a second level of outdoor seating. It would be here that friends, family, and loyal fans of Stefan Pruett would gather to remember the radiant and deviant man who changed countless lives, leaving everyone whom he met a better version of themselves. (Read our June 2020 memorial article Remembering the Power of Peachcake – In Loving Memory of Stefan Pruett…)
This night’s celebration of a life so rich and well-lived was a fitting way to remember Pruett. For over a decade, he was the charismatic frontman of Peachcake – a band that had started out as an experimental electronic music duo with his childhood friend John O’Keefe, and blossomed into both a nationally and internationally known band.
Among the many incredible achievements that Peachcake and Pruett attained over the years included being made honorary members of the International Peace Bureau in 2009 for their efforts to promote tolerance, peace and love through music and live performance. The IPB, along with Demilitarize.org, later selected their song “Were We Ever Really Right?” in 2011 as the official song for a worldwide event to support demilitarization worldwide. The band dissolved 6 months after their Unbelievable Souls LP was released, and Pruett went on to continue in music solo, under the stage name The Guidance.
The front room of Crescent Ballroom serves as a lounge and restaurant, as well as an additional place for other acts to perform when a larger concert is going on. Straight back from the entrance to this room is a set of double doors that leads to a large room with a stage and a second bar within. Upon entering this music venue, all guests were handed two items: The first was a brochure / program with a vastly condensed story of Pruett’s incredible life, and the second was a packet with QR codes to stream albums that included unreleased music he had worked on. It also contained a card for a drink – one last round on Stefan, with which we could raise in his memory. There was also a guestbook so that everyone who loved him could stay in touch.
Merch sales were set up in the back to the left of the stage as usual, however all proceeds from this show would go toward benefitting Rosie’s House – a music academy for children – and HEAL International (Health | Empowerment | Aid | Light).
Nearly 9 years prior, Peachcake had played their final show on this very stage. On the stage sat a lit up cut-out letter sign that simply said “HAPPY” – the same sign featured in a publicity photo by AJ Colores.
To the left of the stage was also a fantastic homage, put together by Pruett’s loved ones, exhibiting items from his life and performances. Two of the outfits he had performed in were displayed on body forms – an impactful sight for those that witnessed those shows at which he donned them. The criminally underrated Unbelievable Souls record was mounted on a plaque, which was given as a gift to everyone who worked on the record as a celebration of its release. A poster for The Guidance’s headline show at the Brooklyn Fire Records showcase, on March 28 of 2019, inconspicuously hung on the wall behind the exhibit, and across the room from this was a commemorative display of prints related to that music project.
Beautiful artwork on the exhibit table paid tribute to the late singer – a painting by Chris Babicke, a large mixed media piece, a poster designed by Quokimbo, and the Peaches comic book by band member / artist Johnny McHone. A photo book titled The Magic Man featured a collection of press and social media sentiments following his passing. An article written by music journalist Ed Masley of the Arizona Republic had been laminated and laid out, along with another article from The Entertainer! Magazine by Christina Fuoco-Karasinki. Some of the photography in the articles and books was contributed by Katherine Amy Vega (Kataklizmic Design), Uriel Padilla, and Jeremiah Gratza (former manager of Peachcake, owner of The Thunderbird Lounge and President Gator Records). Scrapbooks documented Peachcake on tour, and Pruett’s personal life.
Peachcake member Mike McHale – who put enormous amounts of work into planning this beautiful night – started the evening off by thanking everyone for being there, and then introduced Forrest Kline, lead singer of the band hellogoodbye.
The show began with a somber performance that contrasted the normal upbeat and pulsing dance music that Peachcake and The Guidance produced, but it set the tone perfectly. Kline sat on a stool holding an acoustic guitar, and in between songs he talked about his memories of Pruett; one of which was a chance meeting on the streets of LA after Pruett moved there. He spoke of how much of an inspiration Pruett was, about the two of them texting back and forth about making new music, and then – in reference to making music with him – said, “I thought we had plenty of time, you know? You never know how much time you have.”
An acoustic cover of Peachcake’s “Stop Acting Like You Know More About The Internet Cafe Than Me” was recently released by Kline’s band.
Producer Jeremy Dawson, one of the founding members and keyboardist of Shiny Toy Guns, took the stage next to DJ the songs from Pruett’s solo career. In the middle of the set, a small crowd took to the floor in front of the stage to dance – the first of many moments that brought the joy back into focus. At long last, this is now, the album Pruett and Dawson completed shortly before his passing, dropped on January 14th – the day before this memorial event. How bittersweet it was to hear the culmination of all of their efforts – never able to tell him how incredible the album is.
“As a means to honor his life and all the work spent on the creation of this stunning album, together Dawson, Pruett’s family and Handwritten Records decided to continue with the release. This Is Now, is the first and last album from The Guidance.” – FindYourSounds
After Dawson wrapped up, and as the stage was being transformed for the final set of the night, a video played of McHale, A Clarie Slattery and others talking about the impact that Pruett and his music had on them. The consensus – both in the video and from everyone who spoke at the show – was that he made life fun. He reached into people and pulled out the person they didn’t realize they were, and he showed them that anything really is possible in life. There was also a short clip of Pruett talking about 4 heart surgeries he had, and his pacemaker, speaking on the congenital heart disease that would eventually claim his life – but he did not let that stop him from living life to the fullest.
“If you ever think you can’t do something, and I know everyone in this room has their obstacles and stuff they’ve gone through… don’t let that shit hold you back.” – Stefan Pruett
“He was living on borrowed time his entire life. He knew that from the time he was very, very young. He didn’t think he was going to make it out of being a teenager. Every minute of every day was bonus points. He knew it and he lived in such a way that he never made you forget it.” – The Entertainer! Magazine
There was also an anecdote from his brother’s memorial service, which was an experience described as profound. Pruett played the song “Someone Great” by LCD Soundsystem in memory of Alex Pruett, who passed away in 2007. With his “unique ability to bring people together”, he encouraged people of all walks of life to close their eyes and share “in this beautiful musical moment… creative moment with Stefan.” His aunt beautifully encapsulated who Stefan Pruett was, speaking of him as a honeybee – something his mother called him. He was, as she put it, “a builder of dreams,” in the same way a bee builds a hive.
Steven Pruett, the father of Alex and Stefan, spoke after the video ended; the pride he felt for his son and the pain of losing him evident in his voice. He spoke of the amazement he felt regarding his son becoming a singer, saying that Stefan did not even like singing in church. Calling Peachcake an iconic band, he reflected on the journey his son had taken, from MySpace, to a touring group, to an internationally known band.
It was a reunion of sorts for Peachcake. Guest singers performed in Pruett’s stead, with the first being Jessica Biaett, who was his girlfriend, singing “Hearts Can’t Lie.” Normally a peppy, yet wistful song, she gave it a hauntingly beautiful quality, making an incredible tribute to the man she lost.
McHale (vocals, guitar, keys, percussion) became frontman for a few songs, and just as Pruett wore a shirt that said “NOT A DJ” at this venue 9 years prior, he wore one that said “NOT A SINGER”. Other guest vocalists included: Chris Babicke, Damien Salamone, Mickey Pangburn (The Prowling Kind, MRCH), Jake Greider, and Jason Catlin.
The Omicron variant of COVID-19 had been blazing its way through friends and family prior to the show. As such, a balance had to be struck between the crowded nightclub-like environment of a typical Peachcake show, and social distancing. Throwing back to staples of Peachcake shows, the crowd was encouraged to crouch down and spring up during the climax of “Welcome To The Party To Save The World”, and later formed a circle for mirror dancing during “Souls Have No Drum Machine”.
Peachcake closed by accompanying a video of Stefan singing “We Never Pretended To Know Anything, Why Would We Now?” in at Modified Arts (Phoenix) in 2009. It was a moving, perfect way to end the night, allowing a man who touched so many lives to posthumously perform for us one last time. With that, Peachcake ended their set, and Jes Danz took to the stage to DJ some of the songs Pruett loved and was inspired by as the night faded out.
McHale later told Burning Hot Events, “Everything I did with putting together the memorial show for Stefan really helped me get through a lot of emotions that I had with hearing of Stefan‘s passing... Stefan‘s mom, Paula, had mentioned to me how much that show meant a lot to the people that had come to it and how much it helped her and her husband as well. To me, that was the most rewarding thing about doing this show for Stefan. I wanted to give some sense of closure and celebrate him properly when we were able to.“
It has been said that Stefan Pruett left this world on June 14th, 2020, but I would argue that Kline was correct when he said that “no one really goes anywhere. We keep them in our memories and in our hearts. He lives on through his art and the connections he made.” Pruett burned brightly and fiercely, a force for good to be reckoned with, in the best way possible. He made the most of every day of his 35 years on this planet, and those he met had their lives changed for the better.
To quote the band Sleeping At Last’s song “Saturn”:
“You taught me the courage of stars before you left, how light carries on endlessly, even after death.”
Photographer: Katherine Amy Vega
A Night Celebrating the Life and Music of Stefan Pruett of Peachcake and The Guidance 1-15-22
Photography © Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design
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