Tommy Keene (1958-2017)

Power-pop legend, acclaimed singer-songwriter, and venerated guitarist has passed away at age 59.
Power-pop legend, acclaimed singer-songwriter, and venerated guitarist Tommy Keene has died.     
 
The 59 year-old Keene passed away unexpectedly, but peacefully, in his sleep at his Los Angeles area home on Wednesday. Keene – who recorded for Geffen, Matador Records, and Second Motion, among others – built an impressive and acclaimed catalog over the course of his nearly 40-year career, spanning eleven full-lengths, four EPs, three compilations, and a live album.  
 
Hailed by fans, critics and fellow musicians for the moving and consistently high quality of his pop songcraft, he was also consummate rock and roller. Over the course of his career, Keene worked with a range of artists who admired his work, including The Replacements’ Paul Westerberg, R.E.M.’s Peter Buck, Guided by Voices’ Robert Pollard, the Goo Goo Dolls, and the Gin Blossoms, among others.  
 
Born in Evanston, Illinois and raised in Bethesda, Maryland, Keene launched his career in the late-‘70s as a guitarist with a series of Washington D.C.-area combos including the Rage and the Razz, before hitting the national scene as a solo act in 1982 with the release of his debut Strange Alliance.
 
In 1984, Keene followed with a six-song effort titled Places That Are Gone (Dolphin). Blatantly romantic, unapologetically melodic, bittersweet but absolutely invigorating, the record landed high on the CMJ charts and atop the Village Voice Pazz & Jop EP of the Year poll.
 
Keene was soon being courted by major labels and ultimately signed with Geffen Records for 1986’s Songs From the Film. Produced by Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick, the album spawned two MTV videos and spent 12 weeks on Billboard’s Top 200. The accompanying Run Now EP led to the singer as well as its title track appearing in the Anthony Michael Hall movie Out of Bounds.
 
For 1989’s Based on Happy Times (Geffen) Keene headed down to Ardent Studios in Memphis to record with producers John Hampton and Joe Hardy. The ironically titled disc is the darkest album in the Keene catalog, with heavier guitars, fewer jangles, and a more brooding, fatalistic outlook.
 
Following the album’s release, Keene took a break from recording, eventually signing with Matador for 1996’s acclaimed “comeback” Ten Years After and its 1998 follow-up Isolation Party. Between 2000 and 2004 he released a live disc called Showtunes (Parasol), The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down (SpinArt) and rarities/demos/unreleased-tracks collection Drowning: A Tommy Keene Miscellany (Not Lame).
 
Keene also developed a career as in-demand sideman: he was a touring member of Sony/Creation-signed rockers Velvet Crush, and appeared on their 1995 live album Rock Concert. In 1996 he joined Paul Westerberg’s band, handling lead guitar duties on the Eventually tour and making appearances on “The Larry Sanders Show” and “The Late Show with David Letterman.”  A trek opening for Guided By Voices led to his joining Robert Pollard in 2006 as a touring member of Pollards post-GBV band the Ascended Masters and, two years later, Boston Spaceships.
 
Meanwhile, 2006 also saw the release of Keene’s Crashing the Ether (Eleven Thirty), along with Blues and Boogie Shoes, a collaboration with Pollard under the Keene Brothers moniker. He put out a double-disc career-spanning set in 2011, Tommy Keene You Hear Me: A Retrospective 1983-2009.
 
In recent years, Keene continued to delivered a series of accomplished solo records for the Second Motion/School Kids labels, including 2015’s Laugh in the Dark, his final studio album. Keene had spent much of the past year on the road opening shows for fellow pop-rocker Matthew Sweet.
 
Keene is survived by his longtime partner, Michael Lundsgaard, his father Robert Keene, step-mother Dorothy Keene, brother Bobby Keene, nephews Hunter and Jason Keene, and his beloved dog, Coco. 

TK Hits The Road With Pal Matthew Sweet!

 

Tommy will be opening the show for Matthew on all dates with the exception of the festival shows on 7/15 in Springfield, 9/9 in Haverford and 9/5 in Brownsville.

July 8 and 9 Omaha NE- The Waiting Room
July 11– St. Paul MN- The Turf Club
July 12– Des Moines IA- Wooleys
July 13 and 14 Chicago IL- City Winery
July 16– St. Louis MO- Blueberry Hill
July 18– Kansas City MO- Knuckleheads
July 20– Dallas Texas- Kessler Theater
July 21 and 22-Austin TX- 310
July 23- Houston TX- Height Theater
July 25– Jackson MS- Duling Hall
July 26 and 27– Atlanta Ga- City Winery
July 28– Nashville TN- City Winery
July 29– Louisville KY- Headliners
August 15– Los Angeles- The Echo
August 16– San Diego CA- Casbah
August 17– Santa Cruz CA- Don Quixote Music Hall
August 18 San Francisco – The Independent
August 20– Portland OR- Doug Fir Lounge
August 21– Seattle WA – The Triple Door
September 7– Alexandria VA- The Birchmere
September 8– Annapolis MD Rams Head
September 10– NYC- City Winery
September 13– Northampton MA- Iron Horse
September 14– Derry NH- Tupelo Music Hall
September 16– Boston MA- Brighton Music Hall
September 17– Norfolk CT- Infinity Hall
September 19– Fall River MA- Narrows Center
September 20– Hudson NY- Helsinki
September 21– Wilmington DE- World Cafe
September 22– Tarrytown NY- Music Hall
September 23– Port Washington NY- Landmark on Main St.
September 24– South Orange NJ- SOPAC

Full dates and tickets available on Matthew’s site here!

TK & Ivan @ McCabes – 3/18/17

An Evening With Tommy Keene & Ivan Julian Tour

“When Tommy Met Ivan: After a false start, Tommy Keene and Ivan Julian join forces nearly Four decades on”

Rock and roll aficionados need no introduction to pop songwriter Tommy Keene and pioneer punk guitarist Ivan Julian. However, what even the most dedicated listener might not know is these two Washington D.C. area natives need no introduction to each other. In fact, the two were briefly in a band together in New York in 1980. While that partnership was not destined to last, Tommy and Ivan have joined forces again for a dynamite acoustic solo tour double bill.

To get to the roots of this relationship, we have to go all the way back to 1978. Ivan was playing guitar with the seminal New York punk outfit Richard Hell and The Voidoids. Tommy was working in D.C. with The Razz, a legendary local rock and rock outfit. One night, along with Razz bassist Ted Niceley, Tommy drove up to NYC to see Cheap Trick at The Bottom Line. Arriving to find out that the show had been cancelled, the two headed to Max’s Kansas City, where Ted introduced Tommy to his friend Ivan.

The two hit it off. Two years later, Tommy got an invitation to come to New York to join Ivan’s new group, ultimately called The Outsets. Tommy rehearsed and hung out with Ivan in the early part of 1980, taking in the whole New York East Village scene, including such historic haunts as CBGB’s and The Mudd Club.

Tommy, however, was not destined to remain an Outset. Instead, he formed his own group and in the ensuing decades has released acclaimed albums on the Dolphin, Geffen and Matador labels, while occasionally playing sideman for Paul Westerberg and Robert Pollard. Ivan continued The Outsets for a few years, worked with The Clash and Shriekback, and later played extensively with Matthew Sweet before releasing his own solo album in 2011.

Having headed their separate ways at the dawn of the ‘80s, this current KeeneJulian double bill is, to say the least, an unexpected surprise. But when you also consider that only a short time ago, Ivan fought his way back to good health after nearly succumbing to cancer, then this 10-city tour, in which the two will perform solo and together, is nothing short of miraculous.

Fall Tour Shirts – Going, Going….

Hi Everybody – just a heads up that we’re out of XXL shirts and XL stock is limited so get them while you can. If you still want an XXL email Matty and we’ll look into an additional run if there’s some demand. Looking like some interesting developments for hitting the road again in ’17! We’ll let you know as soon as we’ve signed some deals! Rock on!! TK

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