RIP Blake Fowler, Beloved St. Louis Bassist

The local hardcore community will play tribute to Fowler at Off Broadway on Saturday

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click to enlarge Blake Fowler
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Blake Fowler always seemed to be two feet in the air.

Looking at photographs of Blake Fowler performing with Time and Pressure, it is not difficult to see how his charisma and energy resonated with so many people in St. Louis, and the many cities across the country the band performed in. It seems like Fowler was perpetually two feet off the ground, leaping, kicking, and giving his all in every club, bar and basement that was fortunate enough to have him.

But like many of the most-gifted performers, Fowler was a complex and multifaceted person, one whose tremendous stage presence was paralleled with an inner pain that often weighed upon him offstage.

On November 30 last year, the bassist died by suicide at age 23. He’s mourned by many, including the members of the St. Louis hardcore music community, who will gather this Saturday at Off Broadway to pay tribute to Fowler.

The memorial show will feature performances from several area hardcore bands, including Time and Pressure, which Fowler was active in from spring 2019 through the band’s breakup in fall 2021. All proceeds from the show will be donated to the Blake Fowler Funeral and Memorial Expenses fund, a GoFundMe project established to help Fowler’s family with funerary expenses.

Before he was a fixture in the St. Louis hardcore scene, Fowler was growing up in Belleville, Illinois, with his mother Angie Parnell, father Tim Fowler, and sister Breanna Shimer. He attended Whiteside Elementary and Belleville East High, where his favorite subject was history. After graduating, Fowler intermittently attended classes at Southwestern Illinois College.

It was at this point that Fowler joined Time and Pressure, which played locally in St. Louis and at venues throughout the country. They performed regularly at the Sinkhole, a South City bar famous for booking local hardcore and metal acts. Notably, the band had an opening slot at Murderfest 2019 and PromCore 2019, festivals held in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Other out-of-state gigs included shows in Louisville, Kentucky, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and Grand Rapids, Michigan.

click to enlarge Blake Fowler
Courtesy Photo
Blake Fowler died by suicide November 30, 2022.

When Time and Pressure eventually broke up in late 2021, Fowler left school and moved to Philadelphia. He earned his forklift operator’s certification and began working at an Amazon warehouse. He eventually returned to the Metro East, continuing on at Amazon. Most recently, he had been working on material for a solo project.

“Blake was kind of the [hardcore] scene's little brother,” says James Carroll, guitarist for Time and Pressure. “He was 10 years younger than I am, so he learned a lot of what he liked in hardcore from being around us, going to local shows and touring the country.”

Fowler was also an active parishioner at Grace Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois, where he had attended services since he was a teenager. He got his start playing bass guitar in the church’s band.

“As a mom, it was breathtaking to see [Blake] on stage, doing what he loved,” Parnell says. “Seeing him play at church and seeing him play with Time and Pressure — they were two totally different genres of music, but he was still [energized], and you could always see that.”

Parnell recalls witnessing Fowler’s love of music develop at a young age — at four, he got a thrill watching KISS play with the Australian symphony on TV.

“He was like, ‘Mom! They are cool!’” she recalls. “He was hooked.”

Parnell brought her son to see KISS perform at the then-Hollywood Casino Amphitheater in Maryland Heights when he was in junior high. Fowler started learning to play bass guitar at age 14, and later that same year he started playing with Grace Church’s praise team.
click to enlarge Blake Fowler
Courtesy Photo
KISS helped kick off Blake Fowler's passion for music.

Fowler began to develop his interest in hardcore music in high school, gravitating towards bands that shared his faith and passion for Christian music. Parnell chaperoned multiple trips to the Vans Warped Tour, where Fowler developed his love of Christian metalcore bands such as For Today, As I Lay Dying and Silent Planet. Fowler developed a close relationship with vocalist Garrett Russell of Silent Planet, who once stayed at the Fowler home while the band was on tour.

“Blake loved representing St. Louis and championed its hardcore scene,” says Bren King, vocalist for Chemical Fix, describing him as a frequent concertgoer who supported local and touring bands.

“He was a stellar representation of St. Louis hardcore as a whole,” adds Brennen Wilkinson, vocalist for Squint.

In addition, Fowler was active on the video game streaming platform Twitch. Parnell recalls meeting one of Fowler’s Twitch friends at the service, an Army serviceman who came in full military dress.

“He had friends from around the world,” she says. “He had never met Blake in person, but he said he was just touched by what a kind person he was and that he had to come pay his respects.”

But despite all the good in Fowler’s life, there was also darkness. His family and friends describe their ongoing struggle with processing how a person so vivacious and well-loved, someone known for an ability to “talk others off the ledge,” would commit suicide.

Despite his outgoing demeanor, Fowler struggled with depression, Parnell says. He was a victim of bullying in childhood and adolescence, and she believes this contributed to a sense of alienation and hopelessness that haunted Blake in his adult life. He also had a concussion 10 days prior to his suicide, something his family believes was a contributing factor.

Fowler took his life one week after Thanksgiving. Among friends and family during the holiday, he didn’t display obvious sign of the inner turmoil, she says.

According to Parnell, Fowler had abruptly stopped taking his antidepressant medication in the months leading up to his death and was growing increasingly dependent on cannabis use to manage his depression and anxiety.

The two of them had a conversation about suicide on the evening before his death — a subject that had come up before.

“He always would say to me, ‘You know, Mom, I would never do that because I’ve seen what it does to families,’” she says. “I had been texting him earlier in the day and sent him a funny picture. And I said, ‘I’m going to give you the biggest hug on Friday, I can’t wait to see you!’ And he answered back, ‘I hope.’ And I said, ‘What do you mean, ‘I hope?’ I’m going to see you on Friday.’”

“Within about 20 minutes I got the next text message, and I knew we were in trouble,” Parnell adds. She did not elaborate any further, saying it was too painful for her to recount.

As a mother mourning the recent loss of a child to suicide, Parnell sees herself as being in the early stage of lifelong emotional journey. She described the complex and sometimes conflicting mixture of guilt, anger and grief that accompany a suicide.

“For people who are left behind, you have no closure,” she says. “You keep blaming yourself. … If you know somebody has cancer, or they’re in a car accident, you have some closure. When it’s suicide, your family, and loves ones, and friends that are left, all they have is constant questions.

“I’ve had numerous people ask me if I’m mad at Blake, and my answer is always the same: absolutely not. I’m not mad at him because I know he was hurting so badly.”

Parnell describes the outpouring of support in response to his death as “overwhelming” — the attendance at his memorial service was in the hundreds. The bands playing on Saturday’s show intend to also make this event a proper tribute to their fallen friend.

“Blake was such a kind and genuine soul,” King of Chemical Fix says. “Whether in-person or online, he surrounded himself with like-minded individuals who accepted people for who they are. He would be the first person to check in on you if you were having a rough time, and the last person to leave your side if anything bad came your way.”

Wilkinson adds: “We all miss him very much.”

This story has been updated.

Catch Gateway City Hardcore Presents: A Memorial for Blake Fowler w/ Time and Pressure, Chemical Fix, Prevention, Direct Measure & Squint at 8 p.m. on Saturday, January 28, at Off Broadway (3509 Lemp Avenue). Tickets are $10.

Donations to the Blake Fowler Memorial Fund will be used for expenses related to Fowler’s funeral services. Parnell intends to donate all remaining funds to Hope For The Day, a non-profit dedicated to suicide prevention and mental health education.

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