Part of us is missing

by Nathan Hall

With a friendly attitude that stood in contrast to the weighty topics of his lyrics, Matthew Davis’ talents as a singer, songwriter and guitar player appeared limitless.

But Davis’ gifts were not exclusively situated in the musical arena.

“He had this knack of making you feel like whatever it was you were doing was cool and he supported it 100 percent,” said Brian Severns, guitarist for local post-hardcore band Signal to Trust. “He made us all feel like somebody really actually cared about us.”

Davis, 26, died Aug. 10 at BroMenn Regional Medical Center in Normal, Ill. At press time, the official cause of death had not been announced.

At the time of his death, Davis was a guitarist and lead singer for popular Iowa City, Iowa-based post-punk band Ten Grand. The band, which also included Joel Anderson, Robert Adams, Zachary Action and Mike Lust, was touring in support of their second full-length album, “This Is The Way To Rule,” released by Chicago-based independent label Southern Records.

Davis’ death devastated family, friends, fans, booking agents and fellow musicians all over the world, who said they loved him and his passionate, energetic and poignant vocal deliveries.

In a public outpouring of grief within the region’s fiercely loyal scene, Minneapolis-area bands dedicated performances and pooled resources in order to provide transportation for those who wanted to attend the memorial service held in Iowa City on Wednesday morning.

A memorial fund was also established by World Impact Village Church in Wichita, Kan., where Davis’s father Don is pastor.

“Whenever I played a show in Iowa, he would show up and cheer me on – no questions asked,” said Knol Tate, currently with Askeleton and former lead singer of Minneapolis-based indie rock band The Hidden Chord. “That type of pure enthusiasm and heartfelt loyalty is pretty rare in jaded, cynical groups like this.”

“Matt Davis was a very kind and gentle person – one that we very much believed in, as well as in all the members of Ten Grand,” said Shannin Cartwright, a Southern Records publicist, in a prepared statement. “We will remember and celebrate him forever.”

During the 1990s, Davis also played in a hardcore outfit called Brazil, an early incarnation of Ten Grand called Vida Blue and did solo acoustic work as well as dozens of personal side projects. Davis was featured in the documentary film “Afro Punk,” which debuted in Chicago-area theaters this week.

Ten Grand’s debut record, “The Comprehensive List Of Everyone Who Has Ever Done Anything Wrong To Us,” released in 2002 by Sickroom Records, was favorably compared by rock critics to bands Nation of Ulysses, Jawbox and Fugazi.

According to messages posted on the band’s Web site, Davis had been working at a record store while juggling the band’s numerous live dates that included recent successful events in Europe and at the South by Southwest music festival.

Fans, who described Davis as a basketball “fanatic” who eschewed all drugs and alcohol, also said they had noticed a significant influx of Ten Grand Recordings on peer-to-peer file sharing services. The possibility of a tribute compilation has already been mentioned by several interested parties.

“He was electrifying in this sense that everyone wanted to talk with him,” said Stephanie Davila, vocalist for local pop group The Winter Blanket. “He just had this strong presence but yet he always made you feel just as important too.”

In addition to his father, Davis is survived by his mother Elizabeth, his sister Joanna, his brother Daniel and his girlfriend Molly Freeman.

Nathan Hall welcomes comments at [email protected]