Posted by: Ryan Allen on August 25, 2008 at 2:00 pm


Rob Kenna, front and center.

As kind of an unspoken rule, we hardly ever write in first person on the Detour Website. But when something sad and heartbreaking occurs, sometimes it’s appropriate to toss the rules out of the window and write straight from the heart.

So it is with great sadness that we report last week’s passing of local musician Rob Kenna. Kenna was the lead singer and songwriter for the Farewells — an Ypsilanti-and-Detroit-based pop group that was just starting to get people talking around town. Formed in 2003 by Kenna, the band evolved from a recording project — one that resulted in 2004′s underrated pop gem Suspicious Tones — into a full-fledged live entity, featuring bassist Nick White and drummer Larry Johnson.

A few of us here at Detour knew Rob; some better than others. But when I think of Rob, I am instantly transported back to early 2001 and 2002, when I frequented a indie-rock dance club in Windsor, Ontario called the Loop. Before Detroit kids were hip to how much fun dancing to Belle and Sebastian and Blur was, the Loop was essentially the only place my friends and I knew of where we could enjoy some drinks and the music that we liked without the bother or the pretense of trying to look or act cool in the process. Every Friday, we would make our way to the bar, knowing full well that we’d see some of the same characters week after week, and most definitely lose our shit to the Superfriendz’ “10 Lbs.” before the lights came flashing on, exposing our sweaty torsos and foreheads in all their glory.

One such character that was always in attendance was Rob Kenna, perched comfortably behind the DJ booth, helping the resident disc-spinner pick track after track of awesome music that would have us frequently dragging each other on to the dance floor — even if we were too awkward and shy to get out there in the first place. Besides supplying the right jams at the right time, Rob always delivered when it came to massive hugs and a genuinely enthusiastic “It’s great to see you again, man!” kind of greeting that made you feel like that hour-long wait to get through the Windsor tunnel was totally worth it. His extremely amiable and positive attitude was the kind of stuff that would exhilarate you. In fact, when I first began encountering Rob, his polite and jovial manner — not to mention the fact that I only saw him in Windsor — lead me to assume that he must, of course, be Canadian. I have to admit that I was quite shocked when Rob revealed to me that he was a fellow Michigander; he just seemed way too nice to be from the States. And when it was time for everybody to get the hell out of the bar, and proceed down the street to eat the world’s greasiest pizza, Rob was one of the few that you actually sought out to make sure you said goodbye to. A true testament to a truly great dude.

It goes without saying that Rob Kenna will truly be missed…but, one of the great things about music is that it always lives on, even after we are gone. So with that, we urge you to listen to the Farewells, and put a little piece of Rob in your heart. Rest in peace, Rob. — Ryan Allen

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No Responses to “RIP Rob Kenna”

  1. Jeremy Wheeler on August 26th, 2008 11:05 am

    Wow – this one hurts. The Bang! would never had been if it wasn’t for our trips to The Loop in ’99-’01 from Ann Arbor and GR before that (yeah, we were nuts). I remember Rob, but I never met him. All I know is that he was always a welcome sight to see in Windsor when we strolled into The Loop for a good night of dancing and drunken mayhem, where afterwards butts were stuck in gutters as we digested the sweetest indie rock pizza you could ever taste. It was a glorious time & he had a lot to do with that, whether he was behind the dj booth shaped like a UFO or just chilling on the side of the bar that we never quite went near (ie: the tables farthest away from the dance floor). To hear that he’s gone – and that he had a band so close to us – is pretty sad. I always felt like The Loop was a timeless place where no matter what, the same guys would be there — spinning Blur, The Pixies and Bowie on that fabulously blinding dance floor. This next one is absolutely for you, man…

  2. Zach N. on August 26th, 2008 2:49 pm

    This is really sad.

  3. SubSprawlBlog » Totally sad news on August 26th, 2008 2:54 pm

    [...] in the early 00’s? Well, sadly, Rob, the awesome DJ there, recently passed away. Read me at Detour. Leave a Comment [...]

  4. stephen cramer on August 26th, 2008 2:59 pm

    very sad indeed. rob spun records one night at the 2003 detroit summer smash, which was the only time i ever really talked to him, i think. but i too am endebted to him for those friday night trips to windsor for dancing at the loop. back when the dollar was worth something, and detroiters were still too stuck in the mud to host an indie pop/rock dance night. and it’s true, i never would have gotten to know canadians or americans better were it not for rob and the loop. sadness indeed. rest well, rk, rest well.

  5. joe harry on August 26th, 2008 11:25 pm

    Two Different worlds lost something very special last week , the regular world that we all live and operate in every day , and the world of music. The regular world lost one of the most genuine , openhearted , generous , truly hilarious , and kind people that you would ever be so fortunate to know. The music world lost a truly creative and original voice, a rare gem of a songwriter , an artist for artists , yet Rob’s music was accessable to everyone. In my almost 20 years of writing , performing , producing , and engineering music I have never had a better experience recording a record than I did when we recorded 2004′s Suspicious Tones , an album that I helped produce and played about 60 percent of the drums on. I had several other projects going at that time including a record by a well known, critically acclaimed local band who was signed and getting alot of attention locally and nationally. However, I always found myself not being able to wait to get back to work on Rob’s stuff. Rob was great to work with. He was always open to other ideas from George and I , but he was always crystal clear on his vision of the Farewells. We always had a great time doing the record because we knew that our performances didn’t have to be flawless. In the studio you can concentrate on the feel and the intent of the music and not worry about being perfect, but only if the songs are good , or great. That’s what Rob provided. I can honestly say that I have never been more proud of an artist’s growth from beginning to end than I was of Rob. So as for us in the regular world and the music world, we will miss you greatly. And as for you in the afterworld, Congrats ! You now have one of our very best ! Much love Rob, your friend and cohort, Joe Harry

  6. Janae Cottrell on August 27th, 2008 7:25 pm

    Due to this article, word has started to spread to his high school classmates from Gabriel Richard High School of Riverview, MI, Class of 1995. Thank you for stepping outside your “rules of writing” and sharing this heartbreaking news. Speaking for myself, and the Class of ’95…Rob, we will miss you.

  7. Dale Nicholls on August 27th, 2008 8:50 pm

    Ryan,
    Thanks for this tribute.

    And actually, your hunch was right. Rob was born in Canada, then moved to the States (he lived in Hawaii, Alaska, and California before moving to Michigan).

    He was a true partner in crime.

    This is a link to an album we recorded back in the day (our last show was at the Loop!). I think you’ll enjoy it and all its mid-90s lo-fi scruffiness.

    http://www.spy-island.com/spyisland/Blog/Blog.html

    Thanks again,
    Cheers,
    Dale

  8. arun on August 30th, 2008 5:40 pm

    there is a definitely a fond memory and place in my heart for those LOOP friday nights 6-7 years ago. i got hip to so much cool brit-pop there, and would often abandon my “anti-dancing unless i’m drunk” rule. i’m guessing i was really drunk though.

    RIP rob.

  9. Craig Gloster on September 7th, 2008 11:31 am

    man… rob was the shit…. so inspiring and so damn cool.. love him sooo much! thinking of hanging with him at the loop brings me to tears. too many hilarious stories to mention, including him being the base for a human totem pole to get into my 2nd floor window to rescue booze while peaking on shrooms. good times rob. never forgotten! craig

  10. Kraig Wahl on January 13th, 2009 3:04 pm

    Rob was one of my best friends during and after high school. We kinda lost touch after I moved from Michigan to Kentucky.
    I was stunned to hear the news of Rob’s passing; it just hollowed me out inside.
    I miss you every day, brother! I can barely listen to Spiritualized anymore; it brings tears to eyes because it reminds me so much of you. So does Blur, Oasis, ORB, and a hundred other bands . . .
    Yo sumpy sumpy, my friend, yo sumpy sumpy!
    Godspeed,
    Kraig

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