On the morning of Sunday 14th February 2016, the world awoke to the tragic news that the four members of Viola Beach – Kris Leonard, River Reeves, Jack Dakin and Tomas Lowe – and their manager, Craig Tarry, had passed away in a car accident. The band and their manager were travelling back from playing Where’s The Music? Festival in Norrköping, Sweden, when the incident happened, leaving us all greatly shocked and deeply saddened.
Viola Beach had already been booked to play Sound City before this tragedy occurred: in memory of the five men, the festival kept Viola Beach’s name on the line-up, and will hold a special tribute to them during the slot they were due to play on the festival’s main stage. Between 4.45pm and 5.15pm, a set recorded just before the band died will be played out on the Atlantic Stage, honouring the fact that they truly deserved their place among the festival’s top names.
On 2nd April at Parr Hall in Warrington, the home town of the four band members and their dedicated manager, an event took place in celebration of their lives. A line-up of friends, influences, peers and bands they’d played with came together on the night to mark the occasion, featuring performances from The Coral, Liam Fray, Eliza And The Bear, The Kooks and The Vryll Society. The most poignant moment came when a set recorded by Viola Beach was played to a cheering crowd. As the video played, their families took to the stage and danced to the music that is now the soundtrack of their memories.
Stockport band Blossoms also played at the Parr Hall event, and Viola Beach were due to join up with them to carry on supporting them on their UK tour upon returning from Sweden. Calling them “a great gang and a brilliant band,” the members of Blossoms paid their own tribute to their friends and touring partners. “It’s so devastating and shocking. The last time we saw them was after the Leamington Spa show… We said our goodbyes to them as they headed off to Sweden. On every subsequent date on the tour they were due to join us on, we will mark their slot by playing a full audio recording of their set that was recorded from the Leamington Spa show. We’ll never forget them. Their tunes are forever in our heads; Craig, Jack, Kris, River and Tom – always in our hearts.”
Craig Tarry was a well-respected manager who had just begun to work with Viola Beach and who represented some of the most exciting, up-and-coming bands in the country. Deltasonic Records’s Ann Heston called him “an amazing person” and “the most promising young manager in the country without doubt”. Londoners Hidden Charms, who also played the celebratory Parr Hall memorial, were managed by Craig and were also great friends with him. Hidden Charms’ Oscar Robertson remembers Craig with great fondness: “He loved what he did so much, he was everything to us, a brother, a mentor, at times a mother and a bodyguard. A true angel, selfless amazing hero of a man: but most importantly, a best friend.”
It was, and still is, a truly devastating and senseless loss of lives that had such huge potential. Our thoughts and deepest sympathies go out to the families of Kris, River, Jack, Tomas and Craig, and we hope that they can find some solace in the fact that all five men were pursuing their dreams, and that they loved every second of it. This fitting tribute will give Sound City and its fans the chance to pay tribute to their legacy, standing as a testament to their love for music.