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Rogue Wave asks for a little help from its friends 

Wednesday, Sep 27 2006
It's no secret that indie-level musicians trade career staples (steady paychecks, regular showers) for the far less cushy life of an artist (sporadic pay, showering at gas stations). But while their cube-dwelling peers scurry between Muni stops and iMacs, touring musicians are seeing the country, widening their circle of friends faster than a MySpace popularity contest.

That community counts for more than social points — it comes in especially handy when a band member gets sick. There are organizations out there that can help ailing artists (I always recommend MusiCares, which offers confidential assistance with physical and mental health issues; there's also the nonprofit Future of Music Coalition, which offers free health care consultations to musicians though its HINT program at But, as Rogue Wave drummer Pat Spurgeon jokes wryly, sometimes your disease makes you a lucky health care candidate on its own. "I'm actually covered by Medicare and Medi-Cal," he says, speaking from the Rogue Wave tour van somewhere between Mississippi and Texas. "Anybody who has kidney failure is eligible for this insurance. If I had liver failure I wouldn't be able to be covered in the same way ... it's only because I have kidney failure and I'm poor," he adds with a quick laugh.

This is the second time the 39-year-old has tried to keep his commitment behind the kit while going through kidney failure. In 1993, Spurgeon was a member of a Bloomington, Ind., band called Antennae when he underwent his first transplant. Thirteen years later he's in need of his second organ donor.

Spurgeon's kidney started malfunctioning again this past spring, and in April doctors put him on a daily dialysis regimen, a process that replaces the work done by a healthy kidney (keeping the chemical levels in your blood safe, removing waste/water buildups from the body, controlling blood pressure). Discussing needles and red blood cell counts is surely not the drummer's favorite interview subject — he'd probably be more amped to talk about the band's coveted slot at the Download Festival at Shoreline on Sept. 30 (see page 27) — but since there's a benefit in his honor (later that same night at the Independent, with performances by Rogue Wave, Ben Gibbard, John Vanderslice, members of Guster and Nada Surf, and writer Lemony Snicket ), his health is the topic at hand. "I don't want to make people feel like I need help all the time," Spurgeon says, "[but] this time I do need help financially."

The reason Spurgeon's peers are pulling together — Death Cab for Cutie's Gibbard offered his support 10 minutes after receiving the message — is that screening and assisting a possible donor is a costly process. Rogue Wave bassist Evan Farrell's wife was prepared to give one of her kidneys when tests results produced a last-minute snag. Each prospective new donor requires costs not covered by insurance — flying the person to San Francisco for tests, reimbursement for the time they have to take off work, food, and general travel expenses. "The odds of me finding a donor with my blood type is one in 20, so I might go through 20 people — and that would be a lot of expenses to take care of," Spurgeon explains.

In the meantime, there's a good chance this fundraiser will sell out — announcements have appeared on Web sites like Pitchfork and Gawker's new music blog, Idolator — which could shave down a chunk of that financial burden. "We're pretty fortunate for what we have," Spurgeon adds. "If Rogue Wave hadn't put in the work and time and met all these great people, I wouldn't have this great opportunity. There are so many people who don't have this kind of family, for lack of a better word, and I happen to have it." Donations can also be made at

Other show picks this week: Sonic Youth takes a shine to locals Erase Errata and 16 Bitch Pileup on Sunday, Oct. 1, at the Fillmore; SunnO))) liberates your fillings with low-end blasts on Tuesday, Oct. 3, also at the Fillmore; Pink Mountaintops massage you with lo-fi VU rays at the Independent that same night.

About The Author

Jennifer Maerz


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