When Houston pop-punk forefathers 30footFALL landed in Las Vegas just a few days ago for Punk Rock Bowling, one of the nation's biggest punk festivals, they could never have imagined how the trip would turn out by weekend's end. As most band members left Vegas for Houston Monday, none could imagine what they’d really leave behind, either.
That’s because guitarist Chris LaForge, a longtime pillar of Houston's punk-rock community, suffered a massive stroke shortly after he arrived in Vegas, and passed away early Monday evening. "We are exhausted,"
30FF lead singer Butch Klotz said after LaForge's death. "His family did an amazing job coming to his aid and received his supporters with kindness and gratitude."
While LaForge's life hung in the balance, a GoFundMe account was set up on behalf of his family to offset medical bills and costs. With more than $12K already raised, it’s obvious this tragedy has struck a nerve in local punk circles. Support in terms of prayers, well-wishes and hopes for LaForge's recovery came not only from Houston, but far and wide.
“Because Punk Rock Bowling was why he was [in Las Vegas], there was a heavy Houston presence,” explained Klotz earlier Monday.
“There [were] those of us there for the festival and those of us who flew out because of this tragedy," the singer continued. "[We] were met with huge support from the punk and rock and roll community, including many hugs from people we had never met. Chris's family received many visits and hugs.”
According to Klotz, LaForge, 42, is survived by his parents; a brother, Mike; a sister, Renae Jernigan; sister-in-law, Rhonda LaForge; and a daughter, Ivy. He was not just a familiar face in Houston’s punk community, but also a bartender, a friend to all and a passionate local-music supporter. Few people involved in Houston music hadn’t either seen one of his bands or made his acquaintance in one form or another.
Before LaForge passed away, clothing designer and Die Fast front man Tod Waters remembered his longtime friend's larger-than-life personality. “When I first mentioned to Chris I wanted to work on Die Fast in Houston, he jumped right in and put together a killer, killer band," Waters said. "He is a hug-giver, a big smiler, a royal pain in the ass and a talented, loud-ass guitar player.”
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Often sought-after for his skills, LaForge had no shortage of other admirers among Houston musicians. Again speaking before the guitarist's death, another longtime friend, Baron Von Bomblast bassist Joel Torrez, said, “Chris is one of those guys that is so super-talented and very down to earth at the same time."
"He'd buy you a drink, give you a smoke and shoot the shit with you for hours," continued Torrez. "Then, he'd get up onstage and melt your face off with his guitar playing. He's definitely one of the most genuine guys in the Houston music scene.”
This writer witnessed LaForge’s kindheartedness firsthand. Once, while watching a Die Fast rehearsal at Francisco Studios, I was impressed with how humble and gracious he was. In fact, knowing LaForge in any capacity meant he called you a friend; he simply didn’t know any strangers.
“I’m pretty gutted and at a loss for words," said Roo Olivarez, formerly of Die Fast and Hell's Engine, also before LaForge passed. "We certainly have a tight bond, friendship and we always enjoyed ourselves to the fullest. I love you, Chris.”