Looking at photos of Blake Fowler performing with Time and Pressure, it’s not hard to see how his charisma and energy resonated with so many people in St. Louis and the many cities across the country where the band performed. constantly two feet above the ground, jumping, kicking and giving it all in every club, bar and basement lucky enough to have him.
But like many of the most gifted performers, Fowler was a complex and versatile individual, one whose tremendous stage presence was accompanied by an inner pain that often weighed on him offstage.
On November 30 last year, the bassist died by suicide at the age of 22. Many are mourning him, including members of the St. Louis hardcore music community, who will gather on Off Broadway this Saturday 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 until 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 created to help Fowler’s family with funeral expenses.
Before becoming a fixture in the St. Louis hardcore scene, Fowler grew 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 graduation, Fowler took classes intermittently at Southwestern Illinois College.
It was then that Fowler joined Time and Pressure, which played locally in St. Louis and at locations across the country. They regularly performed at the Sinkhole, a South City bar known 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 performances included shows in Louisville, Kentucky, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and Grand Rapids, Michigan.
When Time and Pressure finally broke up in late 2021, Fowler left school and moved to Philadelphia. He got his forklift driver certificate and started working at an Amazon warehouse. He eventually returned to the Metro East and continued at Amazon. He recently worked on material for a solo project.
“Blake was kind of the [hardcore] the scene’s little brother,” says Time and Pressure guitarist James Carroll. “He was 10 years younger than me, so he learned a lot of what he loved about hardcore by being around us, going to local shows and touring the country.”
Fowler was also an active parishioner at Grace Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois, attending services since he was a teenager. He started playing bass guitar in the church band.
“As a mother, it was breathtaking to watch [Blake] on stage, doing what he loved,” says Parnell. “Seeing him play in church and seeing him play Time and Pressure – they were two completely different genres of music, but he was still [energized]and you could always see that.”
Parnell recalls how Fowler’s love of music developed at a young age – at the age of four he loved watching KISS play the Australian Symphony on TV.
“He was like, ‘Mom! They’re cool!’” she recalled. “He was addicted.”
Parnell brought her son to see KISS perform at the then Hollywood Casino Amphitheater in Maryland Heights when he was in high school. Fowler began learning to play bass guitar at the age of 14, and later that same year began playing with Grace Church’s praise team.
Fowler began developing his interest in hardcore music in high school, gravitating towards bands that shared his faith and passion for Christian music. Parnell guided multiple trips to the Vans Warped Tour, where Fowler developed his love for Christian metalcore bands such as For Today, As I Lay Dying, and Silent Planet. Fowler developed a close relationship with Silent Planet vocalist Garrett Russell, who once stayed at Fowler’s house while the band was on tour.
“Blake loved representing St. Louis and championing the hardcore scene,” says Chemical Fix lead singer Bren King, who describes him as a frequent concertgoer who supported local and touring bands.
“He was a great representation of St. Louis hardcore as a whole,” added 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 soldier who came in full military dress.
“He had friends from all over the world,” she says. “He had never met Blake in person, but he said he was just touched by what a nice person he was and that he should come and pay his respects.”
But for all the good in Fowler’s life, there was also darkness. His family and friends describe their constant struggles with processing how a person so vibrant and loved, one known for his ability to “talk others off the ledge,” would commit suicide.
Despite his outgoing attitude, Fowler struggled with depression, says Parnell. He was a victim of bullying in his childhood and adolescence, and she believes this contributed to a sense of alienation and hopelessness that haunted Blake into his adult life. He also had a concussion 10 days before his suicide, something his family said was a contributing factor.
Fowler took his own life a week after Thanksgiving. Among friends and family over the holidays, he showed no clear sign of the inner turmoil, she says.
According to Parnell, Fowler had abruptly stopped taking his antidepressants in the weeks leading up to his death and had become increasingly dependent on cannabis use to manage his depression and anxiety.
The two had a conversation about suicide the night before his death – a topic that had been brought up before.
“He used to tell me, ‘You know, Mom, I would never do that because I’ve seen what it does to families,'” she says. “I had texted 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, can’t wait to see you!’ And he answered back, “I hope.” And I said, ‘What do you mean, ‘I hope?’ I’ll see you friday.'”
“Within about 20 minutes I got the following text message and I knew we were in trouble,” Parnell added. She didn’t elaborate and said it was too painful for her to tell.
As a mother grieving the recent loss of a child to suicide, Parnell sees herself as beginning a lifelong emotional journey. She described the complex and sometimes contradictory mix of guilt, anger and sadness associated with suicide.
“For people who are left behind, you have no closure,” she says. “You keep blaming yourself. … If you know someone has cancer or has been in a car accident, you have closure. If it’s suicide, your family and loved ones and friends who are left behind have nothing but constant questions.
“There are countless people who have asked 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 in such pain.”
Parnell describes the outpouring of support in response to his death as “overwhelming” – attendances at his memorial service numbered in the hundreds. The bands playing on Saturday plan to make this event a true tribute to their fallen friend as well.
“Blake was such a kind and genuine soul,” says King of Chemical Fix. “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 come to you when you were going through a tough time, and the last person to leave your side when something bad came your way.”
Wilkinson adds, “We all miss him very much.”
Catch Gateway City Hardcore Presents: A Memorial for Blake Fowler w/ Time and Pressure, Chemical Fix, Prevention, Direct Measure & Squint at 8 p.m. 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 plans to donate any remaining funds to Hope For The Day, a nonprofit organization dedicated to suicide prevention and mental health education.
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