For Sarah Kirsch…

December 6th, 2012 by

2016 update from Spencer: Four years since Sarah’s passing, a posthumous LP of Sarah’s final band, Mothercountry Motherfuckers, has been released via Clean Plate Records. Donations are also still being accepted in Sarah’s name to the Pacific Center for Human Growth, the Fanconi Anemia Research Fund, and the SF Trans March.

During Sarah’s battle with Fanconi Anemia, we fund-raised an incredible amount of money for medical expenses, thanks in large part to Maximum Rocknroll for helping us get the word out. After her death, a four-day festival titled This Is Not a Step was held in her honor at 924 Gilman St. featuring Los Crudos and many more bands, with proceeds also going to the above organizations. We want to again thank the community for the outpouring of generosity, support and appreciation that was shown for Sarah, both in her time of need and after her passing. It really is a testament to the truly special person Sarah was and how her spirit continues to endure.

UPDATE 2013: There was a Memorial Celebration of Sarah Kirsch’s life on Sunday, January 6th @ 924 Gilman St. Thanks to everyone who was able to attend and make it a truly special event in remembrance of Sarah.

Sarah Kirsch passed away peacefully yesterday, December 5, 2012. She had been gaining much strength in recent weeks in her continuing battle against Fanconi Anemia. Close friends and family were together with her at her passing and we are now mourning this utterly devastating loss.

Nothing I can say in this setting can do any real justice to the impact Sarah Kirsch had on my life and the lives of so many others. She was by far the most inspiring person I have encountered in my brief time on this Earth. She was also my best friend. The experiences of that friendship, and her direct impact on my life, shaped who I am today more than any other person. She had a presence and a spirit that will be well remembered, and I will carry it with me forever.

In the truest sense, Sarah was ahead of her time, almost as if from another galaxy: her talent, vision, creativity, empathy, values, compassion, dedication, humility and unrelenting passion for life — all were truly unsurpassable, and there is no one who I could imagine holding those qualities in greater quantity, and with as much natural force, as Sarah did.

Sarah once wrote, “I believe in people. That deep within the most beaten down of us there is a will to survive, an instinct to rise above.” Though she always put her concern and belief in others first, Sarah herself had that same will to the very end.

Just this past Sunday she and I were sitting in her living room, our guitars plugged into our mini Honeytone amps… It was the strongest I had seen her in months, and it was just like our semi-acoustic songwriting jam sessions of old: playing songs over and over and over again, sharing our ideas about different parts, and singing along together. It gave her strength that day, and I’ll never forget how she laughed while we were playing from nothing more than simply how good it felt to be playing those songs with renewed confidence and excitement.

I will miss her incredibly, and my life really and truly will not be the same without her…

— Spencer R.

Also, Robert Collins wrote in his Terminal Escape blog:

Sarah was more than a guitarist, was more than just a mere inspiration, and even though we didn’t see each other often there was an instant void. I can see the absence on the faces of friends feeling the same thing. When Sarah did things, she did them right. No fanfare, no flag waving, no celebration – just quiet determination and pure conviction. That is her influence, and to me that is her legacy. The records are great (seriously, all of them), but the impact is so much more personal and so much more intense than a few good riffs…even when the riffs are as good as these. It’s the genuine look in her eyes that tells you that everything matters, that you matter, and that what you do is important and to never stop fighting. And to never stop smiling, though I confess that one is pretty tough to pull of today. While her musical legacy is primarily associated with her life spent as Mike Kirsch, Sarah’s personal legacy transcends both gender and sound. Few people in the world of DIY hardcore have been as influential, even as important as Sarah. It’s an impact I honestly doubt she was fully aware of, and a level of genuine respect attained by only the most worthy…these are the things we should say to our friends while they are alive, but rarely do. Never stop fighting.

Sarah Kirsch bandography:
The Skinflutes (guitar and backing vocals, 1988–89)
Fuel (guitar and vocals, 1989–1991)
Fifteen (second guitar on s/t 7”, 1990)
Silver Bearing (vocals on split LP with Moss Icon, 1990)
Pinhead Gunpowder (guitar and vocals, 1990–1994)
Sawhorse (guitar and vocals, 1991–1992)
Navio Forge (guitar and backing vocals, 1993)
John Henry West (guitar, 1992–1993)
Sixteen Bullets (guitar and vocals, 1994)
Torches To Rome (guitar and vocals, 1995–1996)
Bread and Circuits (guitar and vocals, 1998–1999)
Please Inform the Captain This Is a Hijack (guitar/vocals/samples/beats, 2000–2003)
Colbom (guitar and backing vocals, 2001)
Baader Brains (guitar and backing vocals, 2005–2010)
Mothercountry Motherfuckers (guitar and vocals, 2010–2012)

Here are links to a few more pieces on Sarah Kirsch:
And this excellent one by Nate Powell:

Torches To Rome interview from MRR #162, Nov 1996 (click to enlarge)

18 responses to “For Sarah Kirsch…”

6 12 2012
Dave Brown (12:06:29) :

Sarah made a huge difference and is an inspiration to all of us. Rest in peace. You will be missed.

6 12 2012
Thomas Harding (12:55:34) :

Though I never met Sarah Kirsch, her music –Particularly with Fuel and Navio Forge– has been a major inspiration to me and changed the ways I evaluate music. My condolences to those close to her.

6 12 2012
Bernard Conroy (13:14:45) :

I did not know Sarah personally. I only knew her music and loved the tone and resonance she rallied when performing. My favorites are the skinflutes, fuel and her time from Pinhead Gunpowder are prolly the best ever. I lost track of the scene after the mid 90’s but I continue to indulge myself and anyone who doesn’t know them to the greatness of her contribution to music. I know her legacy will continue as long as I am able to play it. RIP Sarah, thank you.

6 12 2012
pod (15:43:30) :

Rest in Peace Sarah K. Thank you so much for being you.

Is there anywhere we could contribute to services or a memorial or anything?

6 12 2012
blake (17:47:42) :

I had played for a very brief time in the very early incarnation of the Skin Flutes with Sarah in 1987/88–and known her for much of my high school time. We lost touch after that. I scanned around the internet off and on to see what else she had been doing since Fuel, and then just today (12/6) I heard of her passing. My thoughts to all her friends and family.

6 12 2012
zelda (18:30:59) :

Erik will miss you and love your forever!

6 12 2012
Lillian (18:55:12) :

Sarah was a wonderful martial arts training partner for many years at Suigetsukan Dojo in Oakland. I had the privilege and honor to know her (then Mike) and train with her during the late 1990s early 2000s. I will miss knowing she is out there doing her thing. To her friends and family, band members, my deepest, heartfelt condolences.

6 12 2012
Justin Allen Davis (19:27:43) :

Sarah made a huge difference to music and to people and was an inspiration with the music that was created. Inspired me and my music and one of my first bands (Flumpnole) her bands was some of the best, such an inspiration and she will be lose never forgotten!

6 12 2012
Robert E. Livingood (20:02:40) :

I was very shocked, and saddened, to hear the news of Sarah’s passing. It had been years since I’d seen her, but I just assumed she was still being the most gentle badass I had ever met. I booked shows in Detroit, and some of her bands came through to play at our venues. When I moved out west, she gratefully slept on the floor, and cooked for me and my housemates with so much heart and soul. I remember seeing her band FUEL at the Capitol Theater, in Flint, Michigan. The theater’s stage was rock star high. Everyone in the audience had to crane their necks to watch the band. Sarah was visibly frustrated with it. Mid way through one song, she stopped playing abruptly, saying the separation between the band and the audience wasn’t working for her at all. Sarah informed all 100 of us that the band wasn’t going to resume playing until we climbed up and joined them on the stage. Of course we jumped up there, dancing away the bullshit of this world as FUEL played. May all of us who were fortunate enough to be graced by her presence carry it on, broadcasting through our lives and our actions the love she embodied.

7 12 2012
cj (00:40:11) :

Heartbreaking news.

7 12 2012
Grant (08:27:17) :

I first heard Sarah’s music from the first Please Inform the Captain LP. At a time when I needed it most, that album completely changed my life. I walked around being that record for an entire year. Shortly after, I collected everything else with the Kirsch name on it that I could find in Kansas and, to this day, every record has the same profound impact on me that it did the first time I listened to them. She is truly, at least in my mind, the most important musician in punk rock, and will be deeply missed.

7 12 2012
Scott (12:14:48) :

Much love and respect to all of Sarah’s family and close friends. Kirsch had such a huge impact on my life that I’m having a hard time processing the information of her passing. I put on the Navio Forge LP for the first time in over a decade this morning while getting my daughters ready for school and it gave me the chills, head to toe, just like it did back in the day. Sarah will be greatly missed.

7 12 2012
Josh Baker (12:29:32) :

So sad to hear about the passing of an old friend. It’s been a long time since we’ve been in contact. I fondly recollect us as young and idealistic friends, creating cacophony in the quiet suburban neighborhoods of Walnut Creek and Benecia, finding our voices, forging our positions in the world. Good job, Sarah, a life well lived, against the status quo, and waaay out of the suburbs.

7 12 2012
James (14:52:56) :

Extremely saddened to hear of Sarah’s passing. Fuel & Torches to Rome in particular were such an incredible influence on me and helped navigate me through the world of punk rock in a time when it was needed most.

Does anyone know where the best place to contribute money for medical bills or memorial should be? Not sure if it should go here still or if there is somewhere else preferred:

7 12 2012
Dk (15:01:34) :

This is extremely upsetting news. Most of the bands she was associated with really tapped into my core, Fuel being the main one. I thought about those lyrics, felt the music in my heart and knew anything Mike/Sarah was a part of would be worth experiencing without any hesitation or doubt. I wish I had known her personally. In an odd way, I feel I did. Rest in peace, Sarah K. Thank you for enhancing my life through your music.

9 12 2012
Gail (01:13:00) :

My heart goes out to Sarah’s family and friends – Fanconi Anaemia has really taken it’s toll on us this weekend – we lost two little ones as well…………. :(
I would ask everyone who knows Sarah to keep fighting this awful disease, spread awareness, raise money and help us to find a cure. RIP Sarah Kirsch, Brian (aged 10) and Sophia )aged 5) …………….

9 12 2012
A friend (22:45:22) :

Thank you so kindly to everyone who has expressed their sympathies. Every heartfelt word carries infinite meaning.

To those offering their support in the form of monetary contributions, much gratitude, as there are many lingering expenses. The donation link that had been in use before was inadvertently taken offline by the provider, but we hope to resolve that in the next day or so. Look for an update here or if nothing else, try the link again.

10 12 2012
A friend (12:34:33) :

Donations link is active again.

We want to stress that ANY amount is greatly appreciated and moreover that we believe, as Sarah did, that your words of support mean so much more than money does.

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