Sean Doty, lead singer/guitarist of alternative rock band Veil of Ashes, which was a regular in the San Francisco Bay Area club scene in the late 1980s and early 1990s, died this past Friday from a brain hemorrhage. Doty was in his late 50s.
Quoting from the band’s old website:
“Though Christians, they felt that they wouldn’t and shouldn’t be confined to the church circuit, making them one of the first Christian bands to play a constant string of clubs and to appear with some of the major artists of the day. They helped pave the road for many of the Christian bands that are in the secular arena now. (Veil of Ashes) headlined Bay Area clubs such as The Omni, the Stone, Bottom of the Hill, the Berkley Square and Madame Wongs in Southern California. Their very first show was at the legendary Mabuhay Gardens. Veil of Ashes also had the opportunity to play Cornerstone Festival twice, Great America, Waterworld, and Knott’s Berry Farm. They appeared with bands like The Choir, The 77’s, Undercover, the Violet Burning, Tonio K., Mad at the World, the Altar Boys, Dead Artist Syndrome, Chris Isaak, Social Distortion, the Psychedelic Furs, the Call, the Ocean Blue, 4 Non Blondes, the Graces (3 members of the Go-Go’s), Grapes of Wrath, Concrete Blonde and many others.”
I first met Doty in the late 1980s. At the time, I was an active music journalist covering the Christian pop and rock scene for different publications. Doty’s day job was running the music department at a local Christian bookstore. We became good friends. For whatever reason, even though we often talked about Veil of Ashes, I never listened to the band until one day in 1989 when the record company distributing the small label to which Veil of Ashes has recently signed sent me a cassette of Pain, the band’s third release and first full-length record following two independently released EPs. Hoping this would be good so as to not upset my friendship, I popped the tape into my player. Thankfully, it was more than good. It was legitimately brilliant.
I immediately started championing the band, constantly begging the different publications I wrote for to please let me feature them. Although I was able to get in a review of Pain and a compilation CD titled The Young and The Reckless, which put together tracks on the aforementioned independent releases plus an unreleased demo, in Pulse! Magazine which was distributed by the Tower Records chain, I was continuously frustrated by not being able to properly promote street-worthy music in a world dominated by Amy Grant.
Doty, sadly, was his own worst enemy. A long undiagnosed bipolar issue coupled with a near insane obsession over politics and his own sexuality (Doty was gay, something he repressed for years) often led to lashing out at those who once supported him, including this author. Still, I hoped one day he would sufficiently calm down to where we could once again be friends. This did not happen.
This said, I prefer focusing on the good memories. The many, many superb shows I saw Veil of Ashes play, be it as opening act or headliner. The still cherished, still brilliant CDs forever capturing Doty’s superb voice and songwriting. The laughs and moments of bemoaning the state of matters within the Christian music industry we shared.
A part of my life has gone on ahead of me. The laments over how things fell apart will in time fade. But the music, and the cherished memories of what once was, will remain.
God speed, Sean Doty. As irascible as you were, you never left my heart. You will be deeply missed, but I’m glad you’re finally at peace.