Steve Demarest, 60, Philadelphia rock bassist

Steve Demarest became ill during a performance.
Steve Demarest became ill during a performance. (MARK SCREIBER)
Posted: October 10, 2013

Steve Demarest, 60, of Northern Liberties, a musician who played bass with a number of highly regarded Philadelphia rock bands, died Saturday, Oct. 5, from complications of an aortic dissection.

He lost consciousness Friday night during a between-set break at Fergie's Pub with the folk-rock sextet John Train and died the next evening at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, according to band leader Jon Houlon.

Mr. Demarest had handled bass duties for John Train on six albums since 1996. The latest, A Wig and a Wonder, featured artwork by Mr. Demarest, who was also a photographer. The last song he played with the band was Butch Hancock's "Boxcars."

He also was a member of Slo-Mo, the folk/hip-hop band fronted by John Train guitarist Mike Brenner.

"Steve was a very soulful, classy player," Brenner said. "He was old school in the best of ways: a cool guy, understated player, ready to play any gig, a loyal friend. I played hundred of gigs with him and I doubt the pocket will ever feel as good."

Mr. Demarest was born in Camden in 1953 and graduated from Eastern High School and Rutgers University. He worked in sales and insurance, but mainly he was a musician.

His sister, Cindy Kershaw, remembers him playing Roger Miller's "King of the Road" to a packed auditorium in junior high. In the punk-rock era, his band the Hens was a standout on the Philly scene. In the 1990s he played with the Leisure Kings and Burn Witch Burn, a Celtic punk band fronted by Dead Milkmen founder Rodney Anonymous. He also backed Chet Delcampo, Kenn Kweder, and many other local songwriters.

"Bass players are a funny lot," Houlon wrote in a tribute on John Train's website. "The best ones remain in the shadows. . . . A real bass player - and Steve Demarest was a real bass player - adds the 'roll' to the music. Otherwise, it's just rock and it doesn't roll and that's no good, right?" John Train drummer Mark Schreiber said, "Steve was a giving bass player. He didn't noodle and stuck to the soul of things."

In addition to his sister, he is survived by a brother.

A memorial will be held at Fergie's, 1214 Sansom St., at 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 18.



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