I am shocked by the tragic death of my friend and musical colleague, Devin “Dabbo” Caucci. This week has been terrible in the lives of those who knew him as a a family member and friend. My heart goes out to his mother Florence and his brother Anthony, as well as Justin, our friend, the guitar player in our band, and Dabbo’s former roommate. Over the past week, Justin has absorbed immense trauma with strength, maturity, and so much grace. Thoughts also go out to Heston and Gabe, his other roommates, and everyone who knew and loved him.
Though I am in a state of sorrow and confusion, I’ve tried to organize a few of my thoughts about Dabbo in the hopes that they may comfort myself and others who knew him…
Dabbo joined my band in February of 2010 and throughout that time, I came to know him as a generous, loyal, intelligent, complicated, and talented individual.
Dabbo possessed uncommon levels of generosity. His couch was your couch if you needed a place to sleep; his friend would soon be your friend; and his infectious laughter was also yours. He had razor-sharp wit that could disarm just about anyone, but he was also one of the few people that I could have a serious, emotionally vulnerable conversation with. If you needed to talk or express yourself, he was there to listen and offer insightful, nonjudgmental advice.
As a musician– he was a gifted bass player whose approach to the instrument has inspired- and will continue- to inspire my own playing. One of the last songs we worked on together, “Blackout” had a bass line that I blatantly ripped off of his style of playing- and told him so. Of course, he played it better than I could. A Jamerson nut (he called Standing in the Shadows of Motown, his “bible”) as well as a serious student of slap bass, there was an unmistakable personality to his playing– his feel was always rhythmic and grooving, his note choices were tasteful, and he had a perfectly controlled tone that he enabled via left-hand muting and his beloved bass pedal. In spite of his technical abilities (which far exceeded my own and most bass players I’ve encountered), Dabbo’s bass playing was never egotistical or showy, and he had a hilarious disdain for virtuosic playing. He didn’t view simplicity as dumb, and I never had to justify my music to him. He got it.
As a showman, his stage presence was ceaselessly entertaining. It was a joy to watch him play with Kris Roche and Zac Taylor this past December in Egypt. There is something really wonderful about watching your band-mates shine in other people’s bands, and this was very much the case with Dabbo. He brought something special to every band he played in, especially Haley Jane and the Primates, who it must be mentioned are playing a show tomorrow at the Middle East Downstairs, which I imagine will be wrenching and celebratory at the same time.
The first time I saw Dabbo play was with Sincerely, the Management in 2008 at Harper’s Ferry and I liked the show so much I wrote an article about it in the school newspaper. At the time, I only knew Dabbo as that really good bass player in my Anthony Vitti slap lab who rode his skateboard at insane speeds with his bass on his back. But based on that Harper’s performance, I felt like he had a keen understanding of the role of a bass player in a band context, which is why I asked him to join my group, in preparation of a series of important gigs.
I have many fond memories of spending time with him– both on and offstage. To name just a few: fierce in-flight trivia battles; his incredible mastery of accents; extolling the virtues of Jurassic Park and how it’s the greatest movie ever; revisiting the merits (and demerits) of nu-metal on St. Stephen; him covering me with a towel during a chilly morning by the Red Sea; roaming around 6th street in Austin, Texas flyering for our shows; drinking Rolling Rock on Hooker Street; his big, goofy, reassuring grin from the audience during a disastrous guitar malfunction at the Paradise; cuddling with him and Mr. Zen; playing big stages to thousands of people; playing shit-holes where our audience consisted of a single surly bartender; sharing our tenderness for cats and dogs; hitting up Dunkin Donuts on a regular basis for big-ass iced lattes; taking care of me when I got sick on Cape Cod; recording “Make Up Your Fucking Mind” in Poughkeepsie which he nailed in several flawless takes; working on crosswords together; and of course, the wonderful night we had this past New Years in Brooklyn, in which we reaffirmed our professional and personal commitment to one another.
Dabbo and I danced like fools on New Years and talked excitedly about pursuing our shared dreams of musical success in New York- where he was slated to move in just a few weeks. We were to play a show on Friday at the Bell House in Brooklyn, for which he had given many hours of his time into rehearsing. His overall excitement and ambition about music and the next phase of his life, as I understood it, were too great for me to view his final, permanent act as anything but the result of an impulsive, impermanent state of despair.
There is no sense to be made of such a tragedy except to find greater value in our lives and raise awareness about mental health resources. I find the words of Dabbo’s aunt, Kate, clear-headed, wise, and appropriate:
“This week depression took the life of my talented, beautiful nephew. To honor Devin’s memory, if you have this disease, seek help. And please pray for my sister, Florence, Devin’s mom…Depression is a disease; it works in cunning ways to convince you to end your life and never tell anyone what you are thinking. It feeds off feelings of shame, guilt, inadequacy. If you are depressed, do not believe the lies the disease tells you. Tell someone. Get help. It CAN get better.”
I am in a state of complete grief and look forward to mourning with our friends in Boston this weekend.