A brilliant musician, strongly charismatic, and a personal hero; Kirk Rundstrom passed away after a year-long battle with esophageal cancer that had also overtaken the lymph nodes around his aorta.
It's been seven years since a coworker invited me to the Tractor Tavern in Ballard, WA to see a "speedpunk-bluegrass" group called Split Lip Rayfield. I was caught up in the amazing energy of the quartet from the first notes off mandolin, gas-tank bass, banjo, guitar, and the group's growly Kansas twang.
Kirk looked like the quiet one until you were struck by the mischievous grin and sparking blue eyes- and then the full force of his 100-miles-a-second guitar work and singing that didn't fall a beat behind. He was dynamic and near-always smiling in a way that I will always be envious of. The way a man smiles when he loves what he's doing with every inch of what he's got.
I met the guys briefly, since they were friends of my coworker, and hung out after the show. They were wired from the show and exhausted from the trip out, which made for an interesting night and a wide range of subjects discussed. Kirk had an amazing energy and a quick, sincere smile, even for a shy hanger-on like me...
Split Lip Rayfield, with band members Wayne Gottstine (mandolin), Jeff Eaton (bass), Eric Mardis (banjo), and Kirk (guitar), had been together for over a decade, and though the line-up had changed briefly when Wayne left for a year, the original four were back together for what was their final tour in 2006. I had the privilege of seeing them back at the Tractor November 12, 2006 and I'll never forget it.
Kirk leaves behind wife Lisa, and two daughters, Elle and Mollie as well as his band-mates/brothers-in-bluegrass and thousands of fast-made, faithful fans.
If you've never listened to Split Lip Rayfield, do yourself, and all the friends you'll make sit down to listen, a huge favor; go to their website at http://splitliprayfield.com/ and listen as you look into their history.
Thanks Kirk. You and Split Lip Rayfield have made many a sad day liveable.