Erik Kish, front man for local rockabilly veterans Hi Fi & the Roadburners and cofounder of Fear City Choppers, passed away last Thursday evening after suffering head injuries from a motorcycle crash near Division and Elston. He was 51.
Formed in 1984 with Kish and his brother Hans (the only other constant member), the Roadburners found mid-90s success signing with Victory Records while the label was still in its early years. Though the band only rarely played out in recent years and hasn't released new material in more than a decade, they were still very much chugging along, an irreplaceable influence on the Chicago rockabilly scene.
In her recent piece on Kish's death, Maureen O'Donnell of the Sun-Times writes:
They opened several times for those rockabilly resurrectors, the Stray Cats. After a 30-minute set before the headliners came on at the Park West, Hi Fi & the Roadburners had the audience eating out of their hands.
"They were stomping the floor. They were screaming at us for an encore," Hans Kish said. The road manager for the Stray Cats wasn't happy when a Park West honcho told him: "Listen to that crowd—there's no way I can't not let them do an encore."
But afterward, Stray Cats guitarist Brian Setzer gave them the thumbs up. "Man," he said, "you guys were rockin'."