Last spring, he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and only given a short time to live. Refusing to go gently into that good night, Rundstrom was determined to make the most of whatever time he had left by keeping on performing until he no longer could.
Roy Kasten had the distinct privilege of speaking with him one last time this past August; that interview can be found here. Although his passing seemed inevitable, the news still comes as a shock. With a heavy heart, here's the statement that his label, Bloodshot Records, issued just a short while ago:
On February 22nd, Kirk Rundstrom, the singer/songwriter/guitarist for Split Lip Rayfield and Scroat Belly, passed away after a lengthy and heroic battle against cancer.
Kirk was, without debate, one of the most dynamic and passionate performers we have ever seen. To see him on stage was to see a man totally focused on, totally POSSESSED with, the music of the moment. He never ever took his audience for granted and delivered the goods with a ferocious energy that flowed through the room. I had personally seen him play some 75 times and it was never boring, it was never phoned in and it was hard to take my eyes off him. If you left a show of theirs without sweating, without losing yourself in the joyous abandon of music, it wasn�t from his lack of trying. Standing still at a Split Lip show just wasn't an option. His gift was the ability to let rock and roll well up from its purest emotional state and give it to the room in all its liberating glory.
When Kirk was diagnosed last spring, he was given just a few months. It is a testimony to his incredible spirit that he was performing into this month.
The fans that came out during this time filled the venues with palpable love. To have played a part in this accumulation of affection, in this tight knit community of Split Lip lovers, over the years is truly a humbling honor. He loved playing and it showed, and the fans loved him back.
Kirk is responsible for a lot of people having a LOT of fun over the years; if everyone could have that on their resumes, the world would be a much better place.
He is missed already.
Rundstrom's bandmates posted an elegy in the news section of the band's website.
Also, below is footage of the Kirk Rundstrom Band performing the Bottleneck in Lawrence, Kansas, this past December.
-- Dave Herrera