Saying goodbye to Dan Tomassini
April is the cruellest month, breeding/ Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing/ Memory and desire, stirring/ Dull roots with spring rain
—T.S. Eliot, “The Waste Land”
The cruelest season Hope and fate. Spring can be rough. This year, in my circle of Chico, the transition into the season has been marked by extremes: Two of my close friends just welcomed their second healthy child into the world; while another close friend has watched, helplessly, as his brother slipped into a coma.
Transitions are often unpredictable and difficult to navigate, but it feels like things are especially turbulent in Chico this time around the sun.
RIP, Tomassini You would be hard-pressed to find a person as universally loved in this community as Dan Tomassini. The longtime Chico musician and actor died last week (March 11), and his passing has left a serious mark on our little scene. Tomassini wasn’t a hog-the-spotlight kind of guy, but he was a near constant presence on the local sidelines—keeping time in the rhythm section on drums or bass for many local bands over the last couple of decades (from Job’s DeSoto and The Incredible Diamonds to The Cheatin’ Hearts and The Shout Bamalamas), or cheering on every other musician in town from the front row.
As I’ve talked to his friends and read online remembrances over the past week, the universal sentiment has been that whenever, wherever you ran into him—and you often ran into him—Tomassini was always ready to offer comfort with arms and heart wide open. That rings true for me as well. My strongest memories of him are from the mid-1990s when his power-pop band Charm Fueled—featuring an amazing combination of personalities with vocalist Trish Howard (née Rowland, of Vomit Launch), white-hot guitarist Sean Gowan (The Vertels) and bassist/Tomassini’s best friend Jim Hollinger—and my power-pop band (Pep Rally) played a bunch of shows together. From his enthusiastic support of our band in those days, to every warm, heartfelt greeting when my wife and I would come into the Sierra Nevada pub for dinner when he was working the floor, Dan’s sweet, sly smile has represented the best part of this intimate community.
No cause of death has been announced yet, but whatever the manner, it was too soon for the 47-year-old soul. The season feels colder and a bit crueler without Tomassini’s gentle warmth.
Blue night I didn’t notice (until it was too late) the online announcements of the celebration of life for Tomassini on Saturday in Bidwell Park, but I was glad to have experienced a brief, very tender tribute later that night during the Blue Room’s Hoedown Variety Talent Show, Hootenanny Southern Review!
The typically loose Chico-style variety show was hosted by wisecrackin’ Lerlene (Chico theater vet and funny lady Betty Burns) an’ her more-than-slightly “touched” sidekick Pearl (Delovely Delisa). The show provided a great laugh-out-loud release—especially the grinning, spirited, patriotic “dance” routine by Lil’ Sugar Poo Poo (Samantha Perry); the porno-stash song by Mad Bob Howard; and Burns’ signature cowboy crooner Dicky LaRoca’s smarmy take on AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long”—but the most poignant moment came at the end of actor/comedian Steve Swim’s standup skit. Picking out the song on an out-of-tune acoustic guitar, Swim coughed out a short version of Pink Floyd’s gentle love note to Syd Barrett. As he went into the last chorus, the crowd very quietly joined in, sending a delicate chorus for Tomassini into the night: “How I wish, how I wish you were here.”