Drummer’s dream shared by fans

BBC News Online’s Robert Andrews examines Feeder’s bond with fans as hundreds mourn at the funeral of Jon Lee

Celebrity artists from south Wales’s close-knit music community and 700 fans descended on Feeder’s home town to bid an unexpected, emotional farewell to a drummer who had shared his band’s zest and energy.

Manic Street Preachers vocalist James Dean Bradfield and Stereophonics drummer Stuart Cable, whose band’s tour was supported by Feeder recently, represented the Welsh old guard.

They paid tributes to Jon Lee, who, together with Grant Nicholas and Taki Hirose, had happily existed on Cool Cymru’s outer margins for all of their 10 years together.

But it was the fans, descended from across the UK, who captured the emotion of the service at a packed-out St Mary’s church in Newport, singing Feeder anthem High and a series of hymns in an otherwise religious, melancholic Requiem Mass.

Of all ages, they dressed informally and in funeralware and were each handed hymn sheets in a full Catholic burial service.

Buried in his home town, Jon Lee, 33, left his Brazillian model wife and young son in hanging himself at their Miami home on 9 January.

Mourning throng

With crying, mourning and often wailing for a rising rock star who forsook an apparent high life, the touching service could almost have resembled the committed outpouring of grief witnessed during the days of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana.

Let in by Lee’s family to pay their respects, the grief on the faces of the massed fans, who claim a special bond with their band, was tragically tangible.

Consoled by fellow fans, they left in tears and watched by a noticeable police presence, though the occasion passed without incident.

A throng gathered around Lee’s grave at St Woolos cemetery and was encouraged to throw earth onto the coffin, whispering prayers and shutting their eyes in contemplation.

But this was Feeder and these were not followers of a band on self-destruct, but of a slow-burning pop outfit living for melody.

That relationship was cemented in the video for latest release Just A Day, in which the most committed fans became camcorder stars, miming the song to hilarious effect.

Their performances echoed the path of their heroes, the ultimate band from the bedroom – but, as Lee was laid to rest, the faces on video watched with fondness and sadness.

The band had moved to Florida, but Newport – once dubbed “the new Seattle” by the NME – which remained central to the trio.

Band manager Matt Page promised Feeder would continue told the congregation: “None of us could have anticipated the tragedy. But a strong bond exists between us all.

“Jon was passionate about you. You buy the records, attend the concerts and put the band where they are today.”

Rock dream

It was Feeder’s slow rise to prominence which allowed Lee and the band to cultivate an small, early fan base around Newport – Wales’ most vibrant rock destination – which was maintained through chart-friendly High in 1997 to Buck Rogers in 2001.

That catchy tune which told the world what Feeder fans already knew – melodic guitar pop was still a winner.

Singer and guitarist Grant Nicholas, who first met Lee on the local band scene, said: “Jon had such a taste for life which makes this whole thing such a mystery to us all.

“He could be the life and soul of every party and understanding to everyone.

“We both realised we shared the same dream of wanting to become rock stars and conquer the world. The dream started becoming a reality.”