When Phil first contacted the band back in late 2007 to express his excitement for what we do, I was floored. Here was a guy that sang for a legendary band that, in one way or another, influenced the direction of our sound. I wore out a dubbed cassette I had made with The Peel Sessions and A Holocaust in Your Head during many walks to and from high school. The tape wore down to the point where it was playing at about half-time, making ENT almost sound like a doom band. It didn't matter....the rage was still there and I'd take Phil and Dean's vocals any time I could.
From that point on, we kept in contact, emailing back and forth frequently. He brought up if we'd be interested in doing a west coast tour with them, which, again, floored me. An opportunity to share the road and stage with one of the most influential grind/crust/punk/everything bands was an amazing feeling. We, obviously, said yes. We were even able to take it one step further and share a split 7" with them, which to this day can still be considered one of our best achievements in my eyes.
I got to meet him face to face in March of 2008 in Colchester, UK while we were on tour with Rotten Sound. He was a quiet guy, much like I am, and were were able to sit and have a great conversation for a little while. We both talked about how excited we were for the tour to start the following month.
After landing back in Boston, we drove from New Hampshire to California in three days to start the tour with ENT. We were beyond fatigued, but the thought of this run was enough to keep our adrenaline on high.
When we met up at the first show in Corona (I think?), it was a relief to have it finally begin. We talked a bit on that first night, but it was such a blur for both bands, we knew the following day would be when we would all be awake and alive to interact and hang out.
For the next ten days, Phil and I found time to sit and talk. Not just about touring, but about life. We spent time exchanging stories of dealing with panic attacks, about being sick (both in head and body), and of everyday modern problems, alienation, etc. Sharing words with him was like sharing words with an older brother who cared. We talked about how this music sucked us both in at an early age and how we've never been able to escape it's grip. He was sincere, and was willing to open up, just as I was willing to do the same with him.
We took a picture together at every show, to, in some way or another, document our time together.
The moment I remember most about the tour was playing Gilman in Berkley. ENT had never played the west coast of the United States. When we got out of the van that day and met up with Phil, he was just sort of staring at the building, almost child-like. He turned to me and said, "You have no idea what it means to me to play here tonight. I've heard about it forever and now I get to say I made it. This place is legendary...". It may have been cheesy, but I patted him back and said something along the lines of, "Well then it's good to know a legendary band gets to finally leave it's mark here." We both laughed it off, but he knew I meant it. And I know he felt the same.
ENT's set that night was everything you'd hope it would be. Gilman turned into a hurricane of chaos. I think almost 400 people showed up, and there wasn't one of them that didn't know how important this show was. Legendary punk band finally played legendary punk venue.
The last day of the tour was the Los Angeles Murderfest, where, again, ENT received the reaction they deserved, which was complete insanity. We had to leave pretty much immediately after the fest was done because we had an 18 hour drive to get to Oklahoma City the next night (I know.....we're masochists). I hunted down Dean and Woody and the rest to say goodbye and was finally able to track down Phil for one last talk. I let him know how much we appreciated that tour, how incredible it was to watch them play to a crowd that had never seen them before, night after night.
Throughout the past few years since the tour, we'd kept in contact with each other, emailing back and forth to check on each other's lives. He always sounded genuinely excited to correspond, as was I. I knew his health was getting harder for him to deal with, and he would let me know any updates on how he was doing before dismissing the subject and moving on to more positive notes. Even when he knew things were getting rough, he didn't want to make a big deal over it, so I did my best to offer support but not drag it out.
When I found out yesterday that Phil had passed, it was a severe shock to the system. I spent the next twelve hours at work trying to not throw a plate at shitty customers or, even worse, blow up our speakers that were subjecting my ears to modern shitty pop and indie rock, void of intelligence, a message, or a fucking soul.
It took until now to be able to form any words that would be enough.
He was not only an amazing singer, full of rage, brains and spirit....he was an even more amazing person. The man dedicated a large part of his life to music, and he leaves behind a discography that will be influential to bands for decades to come.
Our thoughts are with the rest of ENT and for those close to him.
Phil Vane didn't pass away at 46 years old. Phil Vane passed away 46 years young at heart.
We miss you already.