By Wallace Wylie
I’m going to assume that you know about Bush Tetras. Maybe you’re a fan, or maybe you’ve just seen their name here and there and you’ve always meant to check them out. If you’re in the latter category I highly recommend it. Their small discography belies their influence and importance. In their original incarnation they released a few scorching singles, an EP, and then they were gone. Those original recordings are still discussed, still sought after, and are still capable of reducing people to either slack-jawed awe, or making them dance like a demented robot.
In their original line-up was bass-player Laura Kennedy. As luck would have it, I managed to both meet and befriend Laura. A little over 10 years ago I moved to Minneapolis and, after acquiring a work permit, I got a job at the record store Cheapo in Uptown Minneapolis. Laura was already an employee of the store and when we were first introduced I had no idea about her past. She just came across as a welcoming, funny, self-assured human being. After a few weeks somebody told me she had been a member of Bush Tetras. At that point they were only a myth to me, a band I’d read about but never listened to. This would soon change.
I remember thinking that Laura was just so ridiculously … cool. She never once mentioned Bush Tetras to me, but she radiated strength and an aura of not giving a damn. She went out of her way to make me feel welcome, at one point even asking me if I wanted to go with her to see a solo show by Exene Cervenka. I never went to the show, partly fearing that my company would be disappointing outside of a work setting. The next day I asked her how the show was and she replied that it had been great, and that afterwards her and Exene had sat around and had a couple of beers. I instantly regretted my decision not to go (and still do), but at the same time wondered what I could have contributed to a conversation involving two such bad-ass women.
After we had both moved on from Cheapo I discovered to my great pleasure that Laura lived in my neighbourhood. Meeting her on the street became a regular occurrence, as we caught up on life and the goings on of Minneapolis. In 2008 she received a liver transplant and things seemed touch and go for a while, yet she came through and before long we bumped into one another again in Uptown. I saw her less and less while on the street but she was always ready to share an opinion on Facebook. I desperately wanted to interview Laura for Collapse Board, but her Facebook page had been quiet and I didn’t want to risk bothering her. I decided to wait till I heard how she was doing.
On 14 November I looked on Laura’s Facebook page and saw that things had taken a turn for the worse in regards to her health. Then suddenly the news was out. Laura had passed away that very day. I wish in no way to insult those who knew and loved Laura by implying that our friendship was anything more than random conversations on Minneapolis streets about the ups and downs of life. Yet I liked Laura, and felt in her warmth that she liked me too. The idea that we would bump into one another always filled me with happiness, and it feels strange and rather terrible to think that it won’t happen again.
If you’re reading Collapse Board, I know you’ll love Bush Tetras. It’s your kind of music. Smart, funky, and cooler than ice-cold. Laura was a part of that magic. Goodbye Laura.
Laura Kennedy, co-founder of Bush Tetras, passed away on Monday 14 November 2011.