UPDATE: On Wednesday afternoon, Melanie Vammen posted the following on Facebook —
“After much thought this decision comes at a time of universal uncertainty. We must sadly announce the postponement of the Celebrate the Life of Kim Shattuck show. We take the safety and health of our guests, staff, performers and community very seriously.
Celebrate the Life of Kim Shattuck benefit show will now be rescheduled. All tickets purchased will be honored for the rescheduled date TBD and will then be announced. Purchasers please go back to point of sale or you will be receiving an email from the venue.
Thank you for your continued support in making this special show and ALS benefit successful.”
When Kim Shattuck succumbed to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the disease that she had been privately struggling with for two years, it’s not an exaggeration to say that Los Angeles was shaken. Fans all over the world in fact, but here, in her hometown, it was and is particularly painful.
It was October 2 of last year, and the news came as a complete surprise to all but her family and close friends. As our own Falling James wrote in his obituary the following day: “Throughout the course of her life, the Los Angeles native created an impressive body of work — primarily with The Muffs but also with The Beards, The Coolies and The Pandoras, not to mention a puzzling and brief digression as a member of Pixies — that influenced countless garage rock, punk, pop and riot-grrrl bands.”
On March 15, the El Rey Theatre will host a tribute to Shattuck which will raise awareness and much needed funds to combat ALS, while celebrating her life. Her former bandmates in the Pandoras, the Muffs and the Coolies will perform, as will friends Redd Kross, Veruca Salt, Vicki Peterson of the Bangles and Kathy Valentine of the Go-Gos, among others. The Coolies are particularly important; the band was set up by Shattuck, Melanie Vammen (who also played in both the Pandoras and the Muffs) and Palmyra Delran (the Friggs) to specifically raise money for ALS research.
“At the time, nobody knew that Kim was sick, and Wicked Cool Records 100 percent supported us in putting it out,” says Vammen. “We already had that, and myself, Hillary Burton who I play with in The Pandoras, we got to talking and we said ‘wouldn’t it be cool if we put on a show to raise more money?’ We started brainstorming and decided to have a celebration of Kim’s life, and let’s bring all the people that were most important in her life to her and all of us, and make it a really special event. That’s really what we did. These are all people that meant something to her, that have been a part of her life, that she’s played with or great friends with.”
Anybody who lives with ALS, or who lives with it through a family member knows that, similar to MS, it’s an unimaginably cruel disease. It’s also mysterious in that, despite years of research, little is known about it and it affects people differently.
“It baffles all the sciences,” says Delran. “People don’t even know what it is. So they look it up and they see how horrifying it is. Sometimes people don’t want to talk about it because it’s so scary and just so tragic, but I think that’s exactly what needs to be done. The ice bucket challenge was amazing for the cause, and I just think that if people really focus on what this is — Kim’s family had it running through their genes so that was the 5 percent, but 95 percent is completely random. It’s scary but I feel like diseases can be cured so let’s develop cures or at least treatments so whoever’s afflicted with it can have a better quality of life.”
“Where there’s other people that have lived 10 years, Kim was diagnosed and the sequence of what happened was immediate,” adds Vammen. “She was able to hold on a plateau for a while, but it took its course about what she predicted. I do want everybody to know that she has donated her brain and spinal cord for research because her type of ALS was so extremely aggressive — they want to study it and they want to be able to find a way to cure it and be able to help people. If she can give that ultimate gift, we can raise a few dollars.”
That is testament to Shattuck’s strength and spirit — that she was looking to help other people during her worst days. Delran also points out that she never stopped working; indeed, the final Muffs album was released the week that she passed away. And the Coolies was among her main concerns towards the end. Therefore, it must be strange for Delran and Vammen to contemplate performing those songs without her this week.
“I’ve known Kim and Melanie for 30 years or something,” says Delran. “We were always joking around that we’d have a band someday, like ‘Agghh, why can’t we live next door to each other, we’d have such a great band.’ Then when she got sick it was like, ‘Ok, we have to do it now.’ So to me, this is a promise that we made to her. We’re gonna do it, and it’s really been so much fun. Working exclusively with Melanie obviously now, I really feel like it’s a celebration. I think about Kim every single day. I celebrate her and her friendship, and the love she had for people and for music, every single day. So of course it’s gonna be weird. But I am looking at this as a celebration, a promise we made to her, and it’s gonna be good. No, it can’t be good, it’s gonna be great.”
Evenings such as this one generally generate a whirlwind of emotions. Of course, there’s an air of sadness. Kim Shattuck will be missed. But there will inevitably be a celebratory feeling — which Vammen says is exactly how Shattuck would want it.
“She would want it to be fun — for her and me and all of us it’s all about laughing and having fun, and making fun of a situation,” she says. “I was with her every day for two years holding her hand while she was sick, and I know she would be happy and that she loves us. She’ll be there with us that night. She’ll be with Palmyra and I on stage, I know. This was her wish — for Palmyra and I to continue our band that the three of us put together and she wanted us to play live. She picked out songs for us to do in the future and put out more music, and she wanted us to tour.”
So there you have it — the Coolies will continue beyond this tribute show, because the band was designed to do so. Shattuck has set them up with enough material for a new album, and they’ll tour. And Kim Shattuck’s music will live on.
Celebrate the Life of Kim Shattuck: Create a World Without ALS, at the El Rey Theatre, has been postponed. New date to be announced.