Beau Velasco, co-founder of energetic punk outfit the Death Set, was found dead this past weekend, a horrible tragedy announced via the band’s Twitter. No details regarding the cause of death have been released.
Under a beautiful mess of loose curls and horn-rimmed glasses, Velasco was a lynchpin of the East Coast DIY scene. He performed in several bands, toured with friends (once serving as a roadie for Japanther), covered himself in art (he worked in Harlem’s Black Ink Tattoo Gallery), and displayed his own visual creations at small galleries. He met future Death Set frontman Johnny Siera after a performance by his then-band Black Panda in the quiet town of Gold Coast, Australia. “Beau was the first person I’d ever seen in our small scene that was going absolutely apeshit,” Siera once recalled. “I remember him picking up his amp and smashing it against things, and I just made a decision that I was going to play music with that guy. I didn’t know how or why, I just knew that I wanted to.”
The newly formed band traveled first to Sydney and then on to Baltimore in late 2005, after catching the ear of Morphius Records’ Emily “Rabbit” McDonough with their first EP, To, a noisy, catchy 13-minute fiasco. After landing in Baltimore, Velasco moved into the infamous Copycat building (a DIY arts/music warehouse space) next door to Dan Deacon. (“Beau was the definition of a solid guy,” Deacon told the Baltimore Sun.) The Death Set quickly became local, hyperactive favorites, befriending other local up-and-comers, including Spankrock and Ponytail. Soon, the band launched a U.S. tour alongside like-minded Austin duo Best Fwends: Those high-energy and frenzied shows propelled the Australians from local celebrities to nationally recognized indie-punk sweethearts.
In 2008, the Death Set released their first full album, Worldwide, to critical acclaim–the catchy, scream-along track “Negative Thinking” became a hit among punk kids, emo tweens, and indie-rock nerds alike. Meanwhile, Velasco moved to Brooklyn to concentrate on other projects: painting, jewelry-making (he helped with Mishka’s first piece), and a new musical endeavor, Giantize. Also known under the moniker VLXO, his art could be found at small local exhibitions (most notably at the Arm in Williamsburg). Despite his turn toward the visual arts, it was clear that his love of music reigned supreme. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so happy as when he was back on the stage last month at the Bikes in the Kitchen show,” says a friend. “Reunited with the whole band.”
Friends and family, still reeling in shock, have been mostly quiet since the announcement of his death. Last night’s Family Showcase event at Fat Baby–featuring a DJ set by Death Set drummer Jahphet (a/k/a Roofeeo) & Ninjasonik’s Telli Gramz–became an impromptu tribute to Velasco, while a more somber-toned Johnny Siera shared his thoughts via Facebook: “RIP my dear brother, friend, and band mate Beau Velasco. We are all so devastated that I will keep this short. We love you and you will be missed. You affected us all so much in the most positive ways. Our lives would not be as is, if not for you. We love you.”