Rob Priebe was the singer/rhythm guitarist in the group. The epitome of the journeyman musician; a restless spirit that found a respite from that inherent wanderlust by setting up opportunities to jam with friends in front of an audience. He was a rock star, no doubt, even if he wasn’t exactly famous. He owned leather pants, for Pete’s sake. And his days fronting the still talked about local bands Tripod and Pagan Gyration in the 90’s influenced many of the musicians that are taking the stage around town today. Rob — the wild, red-haired Colorado boy that wandered down to another mountain town and made a home. And a family. And more friends than many of us would be lucky enough to acquire in a lifetime.
A “lifetime.” What a word that is. How much can you fit into a lifetime? How many joys and heartaches, promises and disappointments can you stuff into that finite number of days we’re given? How many lives consist mostly of risks not taken? I don’t think Rob had too many of those on his list. But the good thing about occasionally making the wrong choice is that, at the very least, a decision was made. That’s got to count for something, right? All these ups and downs, the good and bad, they weave together, they weave US together. And if one of those threads breaks, man, it feels like the whole thing’s going to fall apart. But it doesn’t. We fix ourselves, knit things back together and move on — in theory.
Rob’s gone. He left us some time last week. I got the call Tuesday evening, and proceeded to call my band mates and break the news. We had just played together at Guadalupe on Jan. 24, my birthday. We threw together some of his original songs, a few covers and got up there and went for it. It was a good show, and one that, if I hadn’t been preoccupied with every other detail, I would have (should have) enjoyed much more than I allowed myself to at the time. It was the last time any of us would play with Rob, the last time that throng of friends would gather together to see what he might pull off next. But the frat boy in the front row kept yelling at me to turn it up. And my amp didn’t sound good. And Rob’s guitar was out of tune. And my tremolo pedal stopped working. And boo-hoo, I was another year older. So with all these gargantuan, world-crushing problems at hand, only a few times did I think to listen to what we were doing and enjoy it for what it was. Damn.
Last March Rob set up the jam session that introduced me to Nick Demos, the drummer with whom I would eventually start a band of my own, along with bassist Adam Bigelow. Rob was the ex husband of one of my best friends, and father to the most precocious and hilarious kid I’ve ever met in my life. He would call me at work while I was doing half a million things at once — just to see “what was going on.” Jeez. And his ability to take a song like Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs,” which we’ve all heard one too many times, and twist it into this almost unrecognizable, hypnotic blur of words and sound is probably something I’ll miss the most. Half the time, I had no idea what the hell we were playing until he started singing, and after that all that was left to do was hang on for the rest of the ride.
It would be so easy to toss out some cliché like “the brightest stars burn out the quickest,” and as much as I don’t want to, it fits. Rob lived all the ways you should, and maybe some of the ways you probably shouldn’t, every moment. He was a true character, cracking you up one moment and ticking you off the next. But staying angry with the guy was just this side of impossible once his face curled up into a crooked grin and that damn goofy laugh popped out of his head. I just don’t know what more to say.
Cheers, Rojo. We’ll miss you terribly.