There was a little pocket of time in the late '90s and early 2000s when the Free Street Taverna was a place where the Piners and King Memphis and the Coming Grass and Diesel Doug and the Long Haul Truckers could play in the window and it all felt just a little bit like Nashville every once in a while. Better than that, actually.
Owner Pete Kostopoulos wasn't the best with names or details sometimes, but he had good taste, mixing in surf bands with just about anybody who liked stand-up basses and electric hollow-body guitars. Kostopoulos was the first one to tell me to check out Jerks of Grass, and he was the first one to rave about this kid, Nick Danger, who could really tear up a swinging blues and rockabilly guitar.
I'm not sure if Pete named him that, or if he named himself, but I do know that people loved Nick Curran as both a musician and a person (and he never recorded under the Danger moniker). He was sweet and friendly and a dynamo on stage. God, he was fun to watch. Like Jerry Lee Lewis with a guitar.
Soon he was headed off to Texas, to tour with Ronnie Dawson and then Kim Lenz as part of her Jaguars, and already by 2002 he was coming back to his old stomping grounds with his band, the Nitelifes (later, they'd be the Lowlifes), and his first album on Austin's Blind Pig Records, Doctor Velvet. And boy was he smooth. The kind of guitar player who made it look completely effortless. It was no wonder when he caught on with the Fabulous Thunderbirds for a while, or showed up on True Blood.
On Saturday, he died of cancer at the age of 35. Just about a year ago, there was a benefit for him at Bayside Bowl and the word was out that he was sick, but the news still made people gasp. Nick Danger is dead? That just doesn't make sense.
: Music Features
, Nick Curran, Diesel Doug, Pete Kostopoulos, More