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A heartbreaking turn

Benefit show at Dante's will commemorate local band members whose punk dreams were cut short

The Portland rock community was dealt a terrible blow early Sunday morning, when the van carrying the members of local punk-pop band the Exploding Hearts overturned north of Eugene on Interstate 5.

Singer Adam Cox, 23, bassist Matt Fitzgerald, 20, and drummer Jeremy Gage, 21, were killed as a result of the crash.

Guitarist Terry Six, 21, and manager Ratch Aronica (legal name Rachelle Ramos), 35, survived the accident and were treated and released from Sacred Heart Medical Center in Eugene. Aronica was the only one in the van wearing a seat belt. According to police on the scene, the accident happened shortly before 6 a.m.

The band members were returning from San Francisco, where they played at the Bottom of the Hill on July 17 and headlined a show at Thee Parkside club on July 18.

The Exploding Hearts had released their album 'Guitar Romantic' in March on Seattle's Dirtnap Records. The record was an exuberant and tuneful piece of 1977-era punk, recalling groups such as Generation X, the Buzzcocks and the Undertones, and had received flattering national and international reviews. The band had plans for a nationwide tour in the fall.

'They were an enthusiastic group, and I think that really came through in their music,' says Ken Cheppaikode of Dirtnap Records. 'They were great to work with.'

'I saw them play and was blown away,' says Larry Crane, owner of Jackpot Studio, where the band had done some recording with their producer, Pat Kearns. 'For this to happen to such a young band is a terrible thing.'

Exploding Hearts manager Aronica says the Bay Area label Lookout Records was interested in working with the band and that other positive developments were happening, too.

'Things had been going really well for the band,' Aronica says. 'It was amazing. I had no doubt in my mind after the San Francisco dates that they were all set. Everything was going their way: The critics loved them, and the crowds loved them. In the five years I've been working with bands, I've never had any group that comes close to the reactions and response they were getting.

'I can talk about this now because the whole thing still seems unreal to me,' she says.

A benefit show to cover medical and funeral expenses is at 10 p.m. Wednesday, July 30, at Dante's, 1 S.W. Third Ave., 503-226-6630, $5.

Coin for the camp

Feeling sluggish and torpid in all this summer heat? You can create some positive breeze by pulling some greenbacks out of your wallet and chilling your sweaty self at the latest benefit show for Portland's Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Girls at the Ash Street Saloon.

Thanks to sponsorships, gutsy volunteers, pending grants and all kinds of national interest, the once-tiny Rock Camp for Girls, which provides musical instruction and rock band workshops for girls ages 8 to 18, has blossomed into a thriving entity and recently completed its third summer campaign.

'We've just wrapped up Girls Rock Camp for 2003, but our fund-raising efforts continue all year,' says camp spokeswoman Liz Riches.

With financial help from D'Addario (the world's largest manufacturer of instrument strings) and Pearl Jam, among others, the rock camp is looking at starting a year-round program called Girls Rock Institute.

'It would be an after-school program starting in September,' Riches says. 'Girls would get the same sort of technical instruction and workshops on things like self-defense and songwriting.'

Bands participating in this weekend's benefit all have at least one woman on board, and event organizer Lisa Peyton says she didn't have to apply too much arm-twisting to get a full roster of talent.

'Everyone was behind it 100 percent,' Peyton says. 'It's a great cause to encourage freedom for women in what has primarily been a male-dominated art form.'

Lisa Furr of the local punk band the Altarboys reckons rock camp is a fine idea, especially during a time when teen options are becoming more limited. 'It might've kept me out of trouble,' she says.

'It's important to be dedicated to practicing on your own outside of a band situation,' she adds. 'We need more women in rock.'

Peyton and Cute Don't Cut It bassist Wendy Chamberlain organized a Rock Camp benefit last summer at Lola's Room that raised more than $1,000, and Peyton is hoping to reach even higher this year.

Musical participants include Little Sue, New York Rifles, Cute Don't Cut It, Smidgen and the Altarboys.

Rock Camp for Girls benefit is at 8 p.m. Saturday, July 26, at Ash Street Saloon, 225 S.W. Ash St., 503-226-0430, $6.

Contact John Chandler at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .