‘Cool Brad’ remembered with two-day music festA Two Harbors music festival honoring the late “Cool Brad” Rozman will feature performances by Alan Sparhawk, Arcwelder and the Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank.
No wonder “Cool Brad” Rozman lived such a happy life — his friends are simply amazing. And that doesn’t seem like something that will ever end.
More than a year after the local drummer’s untimely passing, the people who knew the Iron Range native (by the way, Rozman’s “Cool” nickname comes from his job as Whole Foods’ refrigerator-section guru) are celebrating his life with a two-day music festival near Two Harbors.
“There is so much to be excited about,” said BradFest co-organizer Troy Rogers. “This is something I can’t even fully conceive of right now. It started out as an afternoon/evening concert. … It’s evolved into this really huge weekend-length festival.”
First things first: the headliners.
“One of the bands we’re really excited about — we basically begged them to play — is Arcwelder,” Rogers said. “They’re a band that Brad and a whole bunch of his friends loved. There was a contingent from Virginia that would drive down to [7th Street Entry in Minneapolis] on Sunday nights for the all-ages shows when Arcwelder played. You know, on a school night drive three-and-a-half hours to see the show, then drive back up and go to school in the morning.
“A bunch of devoted Arcwelder fans will be at BradFest, so we’re excited we’ve gotten the group to get together up north for this. That’s a big one.”
Another big one: One of the area’s most recognizable musicians, Alan Sparhawk (of Low, Retribution Gospel Choir and the Black-eyed Snakes), has agreed to headline the festival’s Friday night slot.
Not only is BradFest a tribute to the late Rozman, but it will also serve as a fundraiser for the newly formed Friends of Brad Memorial Organization.
“Basically, the mission of that foundation is to, bottom line, just support young Minnesota musicians,” explained Rogers, whose friendship with Rozman started in elementary school.
The three initial initiatives Friends of Brad will tackle include helping out musicians in three different age brackets: middle and high school, university-level and young professionals.
“Those are the three musical communities that Brad was a part of,” Rogers said.
The reasoning behind the formation of the foundation is simple, he said.
“Brad was a person who lived and loved music,” Rogers said. “Music was the center of his life, and he loved sharing that with people.”
Rogers, who said he and Rozman “grew up playing music together,” is definitely no exception.
“I pretty much owe my being a musician to him and his influence,” he said. “He was on that track and convinced me that that was the way for me to go too.”
Rozman’s influence has led his longtime pal down quite an interesting road. Rogers, who actually called the Budgeteer via Skype from Belgium (and, thus, helped plan BradFest from half a world away), is currently working with Godfried-Willem Raes, a “genius” who has created a robot orchestra that sports more than 40 different instruments.
“I’m a composer who builds music robots and writes music for them,” he explained. “For me this is the best place I could possibly come to work.”
‘Finish My Song’
Rozman is no stranger to posthumous press.
Before he passed away (at the age of 32), the drummer recorded albums with two of his bands, Equal Xchange’s self-titled debut and High Volt Rustler’s “No Longer Blue” — both of which were profiled in the Budgeteer upon release:
“Brad was my drum machine for a couple of years,” EX’s Rain Elfvin joked at the time about his former bandmate. “I would bring a new song to practice and he would know exactly what to do with it.
“He didn’t like hip-hop much, but he was such an incredible drummer and percussionist, he just liked to play.”
The music Rozman made with Elfvin (aka “Ray the Wolf”) stood in stark contrast to what he produced with the other group he was in at the time of his passing, the Americana-tinged High Volt Rustler.
But his effect on HVR frontwoman Pauline Russell was consistent with the way he lived his life: positive.
“Really, I only knew him for a year, and that breaks my heart, because he was so fun and so intelligent,” she told the Budgeteer when “No Longer Blue” was released.
On the bright side, however, Russell said she’s been able to make meaningful human connections with the friends and family members of Rozman through the disc.
“He knew some really great people — just interesting people — so that I’m really grateful for,” she said.
Russell’s words reminded me of something Rogers said: “Wherever Brad went, he formed a community of these amazing, interesting, funny, wonderful people around him.”
In that sense, BradFest will also serve as a homecoming of sorts for everyone connected to the late musician.
“People who haven’t met each other are going to meet at this event,” Rogers said. “It’s going to be a really special atmosphere. …
“We’re really trying to conjure Brad’s spirit, this real community spirit.”
In addition to BradFest’s impressive lineup — the aforementioned headliners will be joined by, among others, the Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank, High Volt Rustler and a solo set by Ray the Wolf — there will be a pie fight, a belly dancing performance by Zenith City Tribal, a raffle, a silent art auction and various video tributes to Rozman between the bands’ sets.
Rogers promises “delightful bits of absurdity” throughout the weekend.
It seems only fitting.
“There were lots of crazy stories (about Brad),” he said. “I’m thankful for all those crazy stories. He loved friends and family first and foremost — and just being around good people. And he loved the woods: His refuge was being out in the forest, whether it be walking, sitting or meditating.”
When asked what he misses most about his late friend, Rogers didn’t hesitate.
“I think I miss his laugh the most,” he said. “I miss just being able to hear that. If you had heard his laugh, you would know what I mean. He just had this deep, full-body, full-soul laugh that could just fix your day, no matter what.”
NEWS TO USE
BradFest, a music festival to honor the life of local musician “Cool Brad” Rozman, will be held from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and from 1 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 13-14, at the Earthwood Inn just south of Two Harbors. Performers include Alan Sparhawk, Arcwelder and the Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank. Cost is $20.82 for a weekend pass. See www.bradfest.org for details.
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