Music

An Unsubtle Tribute

Up-and-coming Anticon band's tour ends abruptly on an icy Iowa highway.

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For the first -- and presumably last -- time, you should rush out and purchase a bright-pink bandanna. While it's undoubtedly an excellent fashion accessory in the right context, that's beside the point. The goal in this case is to provide financial aid and emotional support to an East Bay musical figure who needs both right now. Badly.

Dax Pierson, keyboardist for the six-man Anticon offshoot Subtle, suffered severe injuries when the band's touring van flipped on a patch of black ice outside Des Moines, Iowa, early on February 24. The accident rammed all seven occupants into the van's ceiling, but delivered only minor injuries -- and one hell of a scare -- to every passenger save one.

Dax broke his neck on impact.

"Prognosis is unclear at this point," Subtle drummer Jordan Dalrymple says in a soft, still-dazed voice. "Kinda depends on his rehabilitation over the next two months to two years, depending."

Dax was immediately airlifted to a hospital in Omaha, Nebraska. He is currently paralyzed from the upper chest down; doctors remain uncertain as to when -- or if -- he'll recover.

"We're hoping for the best," Jordan says. "I've heard stories of people that, after a year, are completely fine after serious trauma like this. But he might not walk. That's the reality we're dealing with."

In the meantime, there's been a huge outpouring of support, both among Subtle fans and at Berkeley's Amoeba Music, where Dax has worked as a buyer for the past six years. "I'm hoping more than anything that his spirits are just kept up by all his friends and all the love that's going out to him right now," Jordan says. "I think that'll do wonders for his healing process."

Thus, Amoeba is your spot for those pink scarf/bandanna/headband thingies, $10 apiece, all proceeds benefiting Dax' recovery. Although he is covered via the store's health insurance plan, "There is some question down the road as to how long that insurance will last once he's in rehab," Amoeba co-owner Marc Weinstein explains. "There's actually a complicated and kinda stupid bureaucratic story that isn't even worth getting into."

For now, it's irrelevant. A lengthy e-mail from Subtle MC Adam Drucker (aka Doseone) is now making the rounds. It describes both the accident and its medical aftermath in vivid detail. He notes that in fifteen minutes, three trailer trucks and another passenger van evidently all wiped out on the same treacherous ten-mile stretch of highway, and that the equipment trailer Subtle's van was towing probably prevented it from rolling multiple times. But once was enough.

"I was basically sleeping, and woke up to this nightmare," Jordan says. "Five seconds later I was upside-down." But the dazed band still recovered quickly enough to buy Dax -- who'd been wedged into the front passenger seats, his legs contorted awkwardly -- valuable time. "It was all kind of, uh, fortunate, how it worked out," Jordan continues. "We all kinda did our little part. I pulled down Dax' leg and he started breathing again, and somebody else pulled the seat up 'cause his head was caught, so he was able to talk to us. Everyone kinda did their little part to [he takes a deep breath] to keep him alive, and I think we did."

Adam's e-mail goes on to detail Dax' injuries. His fifth vertebra was shattered, and a initial operation to manipulate his fourth and sixth vertebrae and craft a functional neck was a success. "The latest news is that he is off the ventilator," Jordan adds. "So he's breathing on his own and talking and smiling and able to communicate, which was incredibly frustrating for him and for all of us."

Dax left for Texas this week to be close to his mom as he starts the long rehab process. It's a waiting game from then on. For the time being, Amoeba has organized an internal fund to fly Dax' co-workers -- and other friends who are unable to afford a plane ticket -- out to Texas on a staggered schedule so that someone will always be there with him.

The accident hit the store hard. Marc describes Dax as "one of the gentlest souls anyone has ever met. Absolutely a wonderful sweetheart of a man, and an incredible musician." Indeed, a smiling Amoeba clerk's demeanor changes entirely when the accident is mentioned, as she rings up a copy of Subtle's debut CD, A New White.

Although Dax, Doseone, and other Subtle members have enjoyed success before -- in ongoing flagship Anticon groups like Themselves and cLOUDDEAD -- A New White's release this past November won praise both from the crew's core fan base and more-far-flung Pitchfork-reading indie kids. The album wraps Doseone's inimitable stream-of-unconsciousness flow in art-rock textures that sound more like a capital-B Band than anything Anticon has released to date. The result is still a dense, daunting challenge, but one more and more people seem eager to take.

"That's another thing that's really heartbreaking about all this -- this is kinda our first big tour, and everything was going way better than expected," Jordan says. "We had 300 people in Seattle to see us, over 150 people at every gig, basically. They were getting into it. The momentum was definitely kicked up a notch, so that kind of makes it that much more shattering."

Subtle, obviously, is now on indefinite hiatus. "We haven't even gotten there yet," Jordan says. "We've just been focusing on Dax' health. Everything's pretty much postponed till we get together again, get our heads together. Kinda depends on him, too, where his headspace is at, in the next couple months."

Dax needs all the help he can get. Pink is the new white.

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