Tag Archives: The Guidance

Phoenix Pays Tribute to the Late Stefan Pruett of Peachcake, The Guidance (1-15-22)

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.

Stefan Pruett photo by AJ Colores
Stefan Pruett (Vocalist) – Peachcake, The Guidance | Photography: 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.

Forrest Kline of Hellogoodbye
Forrest Kline (hellogoodbye)
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

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.

Jeremy Dawson (Shiny Toy Guns) DJs just-released music of The Guidance
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

“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.

Jessica Biaett
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

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

Mike McHale ( Guitarist) – Peachcake
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

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”.

Crowd anticipates springing up
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved
Mike McHale, Peachcake
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

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.

Stefan Pruett’s “final performance”
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

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

Open Album in a New Window

A Night Celebrating the Life and Music of Stefan Pruett of Peachcake and The Guidance 1-15-22

Photography © Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design
All Rights Reserved.

The Guidance Online:

Peachcake Online:

Remembering the Power of Peachcake — In Loving Memory of Stefan Pruett (aka The Guidance)

Just two days after sharing the Tommie Sunshine & MureKian Remix of his track “Overs”, The Guidance – properly known as Stefan Pruett – was found to have passed away peacefully overnight. Pruett was open about his lifelong heart condition — his pacemaker, his three open-heart surgeries, and one closed-heart surgery. He was formerly the lead vocalist of Phoenix electro pop group Peachcake, which was founded by him and vocalist/multi-instrumentalist John O’Keefe, who was most identifiable as the keytar player.

Nothing could have prepared me for the first time I was exposed to Peachcake. Considering the line-up, it was likely the May 18, 2005 “Suicide Prevention Show” at now-defuct Tempe, Arizona venue The Clubhouse; this would have made me 18 years old when I was introduced to them. I had ventured out to catch a band named My Darling Murder, after drummer Elias Mallin reached out to me on Myspace and sold me a ticket. MDM was influenced by industrial music  — I recall Mallin (formerly of Opiate for the Masses) mentioning Nine Inch Nails in particular while chatting it up with him at The Graffiti Shop off of Mill Ave.

Peachcake was absolutely nothing like MDM whatsoever, and how these two acts were included in the same line-up that night is beyond me (probably the theme of the night), but in some odd way it worked. At this point in my life, I was still developing my identity and beginning to cross from goth into raver culture; you can thank my introduction to the movie Party Monster and the frequent spillover between cultures in the widely spread and yet surprisingly small city of Phoenix.

ca. 2005 Stefan Pruett (Vocalist, Percussion), Peachcake
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved
Click to Enlarge

Peachcake brought mammoth-sized energy and a psychedelic atmosphere into the room from the moment they struck up their instruments. It looked like a party store had exploded all over the stage.

The impressively energetic performer was not an extraordinary vocalist, and it didn’t matter because that’s not what it was about; it was about the experience. He had an unapologetic, inherently confident stage presence — somehow very pure and innocent-feeling despite frequent thrusting and convulsing, sometimes wearing as little as little as pink satin boxer-briefs. 

5.12.2011 Peachcake’s “This Wasn’t Our Plan” EP release show at the Rhythm Room
Photography: Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved
Click to Enlarge

Looking back on all of the exhilarating dance parties, he was giving us permission to let our inner children run free amidst a society constantly pressuring us to conform to a conveniently capitalist idea of what being an “adult” looks like. Pruett had a gift for inspiring even the most timid in the crowd to leave their comfort zones, go nuts and participate in oddball activities.

2.16.2010 Peachcake performing with one of their signature props during “Welcome to the Party to Save the World!” at ASU Art Museum

Combining hippie and punk elements in both sound and lyrics, the artists cultivated a community that demonstrated a tone of universal acceptance and unconditional love while challenging the status quo. Many years later, I learned of The Flaming Lips, who had an unquestionable influence on the church of Peachcake, with a similar ethos.

3.28.2008 Peachcake performing “Hundreds And Hundreds of Thousands” during Tempe Music Festival at Tempe Beach Park

Making a great impact, Peachcake performed at countless interesting venues across the valley, continuously toured, played festivals, performed with noteworthy acts, released their debut full-length What Year Will You Have The World?.., held drum circles in downtown Tempe, and participated in political causes on topics such as demilitarization and opposing anti-immigration.

They cycled through a handful of live band members over the years. O’Keefe departed from the group in 2009, and Pruett continued on with Mike McHale (guitar, synthesizers, percussion, backing vocals), Henri Benard (drums, percussion), and David Jackman (programming, beats, production, soft synths, vocals).

They worked on retooling the band, their sound was refined with the help of producer/engineer Jalipaz Nelson (Audioconfusion), and the 2012 album Unbelievable Souls was released.

2.16.2010 Peachcake opening their show with “Don’t Panic It’s Organic” at the ASU Art Museum

“Everything’s out there, we’re climbing up these walls,
Falling down the stairs laced with sweat and tears,
It’s time to pick ourselves back up, show the world we’re tough
Stop running on an engine of fear.

Because something is out there waiting for you to find it,
And when you do, it may hit you oh so blindly.
Pick yourself back up, show the world you’re tough
Stop running on an engine of fear.”

— taken from the track “Don’t Panic, It’s Organic” by Peachcake

4.13.2013 Stefan Pruett (Vocalist, Percussion), Peachcake
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved
Click to Enlarge

On April 13, 2013, Peachcake performed their final show at Crescent Ballroom. Unfortunately, after this show I never had the opportunity to witness the glory of Pruett and Peachcake again.

4.13.2013 Stefan Pruett (Vocalist, Percussion), Peachcake
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

He went on to relocate to Los Angeles and start his new “Darkwave Pajama Pop” musical project, The Guidance — its Facebook bio currently reads:

“In an effort to escape the monotony of electro pop, Stefan Pruett moved from Phoenix, Arizona to Los Angeles to begin his solo project ‘The Guidance’. As The Guidance, Stefan wants to craft a reflective approach to making electronic music that he has termed “Future Grunge”. This aural concoction is the convergence of electronic synth sounds, driving beats, and dance elements representing the aesthetic and energy of 90s grunge, but all sequenced digitally instead of live instrumentation.”

When I learned of The Guidance late (thanks, Facebook algorithms) I was thrilled. I planned to see him perform at a show in Phoenix at the Valley Bar in 2016, which ended up being canceled. Pruett’s impressive energy was like a much-needed supplement for a deficient world. I feel that no words can properly convey how meaningful and refreshing the experience of Peachcake’s live performances was. It is wonderful that he continued to perform and uplift fans and strangers until the end.

5.12.2011 Peachcake’s “This Wasn’t Our Plan” EP release show at the Rhythm Room
Photography: Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved
Click to Enlarge

Despite all of the light in a dark world that Pruett brought to countless individuals, on his Facebook profile mini-bio, he left us with the words, “I haven’t done shit with my life yet.” But beneath all of the layers of weirdness that he wore existed a profound musician with an insightful mind, a quirky sense of humor, and a big heart. I believe that those inspired and supported by Stefan Pruett’s music, performances, words, and deeds will always carry some of his light deep in their souls.

Stefan Bennett Pruett

Mar 8, 1985 – Jun 14, 2020

6.19.2010 Stefan Pruett at Audioconfusion
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved
Click to Enlarge

“They put us in little cubes and tell us how to do our jobs,
Saying that there’s no more left for revolution.
But I’m sorry sir, I’m going to have to stand and disagree ,
Cause no matter what, you’ll never ever ever ever get to me.

I’ll always have my light, my will, my creativity,
To shine bright upon you and all the world you see.

What would happen if we spent out time creating harmony 
Instead of all the destructive, lost, calamity? 

The clock is ticking away, what are you doing today?”

— taken from the track “Step Away From My Destiny” by Peachcake

Thank you and rest in peace, dear friend.

4.16.2011 Peachcake at Tempe Beach Park
Photography: Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved
2.16.2010 Peachcake performing “Stop Acting Like You Know More About The Internet Cafe Than Me” at ASU Art Museum. This starts off as an a capella sing-a-long due to technical difficulties. MAGICAL!

Stefan Pruett Memorial Photo Album

Photographer: Katherine Amy Vega

Peachcake Online

The Guidance Online