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Life of Uncertainty
by Cory Perla
The bullet that paralyzed guitarist Tony Lorenzo also drew together a community of friends and musicians—and reunited a legendary Buffalo metalcore band
Yesterday morning Tony Lorenzo woke up in a hospital bed, unable to move the lower half of his body. His morning began the same way the day before, and the same the day before that.
The first thing Lorenzo does when he wakes up is put on clothes, usually with the help of a nurse or his mother, Caroline. He then goes straight to physical therapy, where he lifts weights and practices with a wheelchair. After that he goes to occupational therapy, where he plays games, cooks, and learns to do the everyday things most people take for granted, all from his wheelchair. Then it’s back to his hospital room to hang out with friends, listen to music, and play some Modern Warfare 3. If it’s warm enough, he’ll take a trip outside.
Lorenzo, a guitarist in a local metal band, is in the hospital because three months ago a mugger shot him in the neck while he was walking with a friend through the Elmwood Village, on Bird Avenue near Richmond Avenue. “He asked me for everything I had and then the gun went off,” says the 25-year-old Lorenzo, as he sits in his wheelchair in his room at ECMC.
The man with the gun was trembling, Lorenzo says. Maybe he was on drugs, or maybe he was scared, or maybe he was trying to prove himself to the man quietly waiting in a running car down the street. Lorenzo ponders these questions, but all he really knows is what happened. “I remember getting hit, and then just being on the ground. While I was on the ground it felt like my legs were at a 90-degree angle, like I was sitting in a chair almost, but I was on my back.”
His lungs started to collapse and all he could say was “Call my mom, call the cops.” His friend called the cops and a single passerby happened upon the scene. She was a nurse. “I’m glad I wasn’t alone that night or else I probably would be dead right now,” Lorenzo says.
Lorenzo made it to the hospital and five days later, on Halloween, doctors removed a single bullet from his back, but the damage was done: The wound to his clavicle has left him paralyzed from the chest down. He still can’t feel his legs.
Days after the shooting, Mayor Byron Brown came to Lorenzo’s bedside to assure the young man that the city would “spare no expense” in investigating the case, but Lorenzo says he hasn’t heard from the mayor’s office or the Buffalo Police Department in months. “At this point I’ve given up on the mayor and the cops to try and figure this out for me,” he says, frustrated with the way his case has been handled.
Mike DeGeorge, a spokesman for the BPD, said that the case is still under investigation and there haven’t been any arrests made. The police are looking into a number of leads, and they are urging anyone who thinks they have any information on the case to call their confidential tip line at 847-2255.
“My biggest thing now is getting stronger and moving on,” Lorenzo says.
He still has a ways to go in his recovery, but he is making progress every day and he believes he will overcome this hardship, with the help of his friends.
When I talked to him his spirits were high because that week he’d managed to properly grip a guitar pick between the thumb and forefinger of his right hand for the first time since he was shot. Playing guitar is everything to him.
“When I first got here I couldn’t move my arm. It was stuck here,” Lorenzo says, pointing to his chest. “The nerves were just shot. I pretty much figured I wasn’t going to play ever again.”
His doctors told him that he had a long road ahead of him, but that with lots of hard work he could regain the use of his arm. To both his and his doctors’ surprise, Lorenzo regenerated a year’s worth of nerves in two months. Contrary to his fear, he would once again play guitar—specifically his Dean Cadillac custom Rob Barrett guitar, signed by Barrett and the rest of the legendary Buffalo death metal band, Cannibal Corpse. It is Lorenzo’s prized possession, but he is auctioning it off to help pay for his recovery.
His friends are helping out with expenses, too. His death metal friends, that is, including his uncle, Frank Lombardi, and the rest of Lombardi’s classic thrash band Beyond Death, who reunited earlier this month for the first time since 1988 to play a benefit show with another classic Buffalo metal band, Tirant Sin. Lorenzo was able to leave the hospital for the first time since he had arrived to witness both epic reunions in person at Club Infinity. So many friends and well-wishers attended the show that Lorenzo’s already low energy levels were quickly drained by the effort it took to shout over the booming music to say hello to and thank everyone.
Little did Lorenzo know that while that show was happening, another benefit concert was being cooked up—a reunion of one of the most popular Buffalo bands of the last decade, It Dies Today.
After releasing a string of successful records, which includes their hit debut record, The Caitiff Choir—a metalcore album released on the well known record label Trustkill—the band quietly broke up about two years ago, a year after the original vocalist, Nick Brooks, left the band. As a surprise for Lorenzo, his friends in another Buffalo metal band, xTo This Dayx, contacted It Dies Today in hopes that they might reunite for a benefit show. The band instantly agreed to reconvene what they call their “original power lineup” of Brooks, guitarist Chris Cappelli, bassist Steve Lemke, guitarist Mike Hatalak, and drummer Nick Mirusso—the lineup that created the raw aggressive power of The Caitiff Choir.
“You can’t say no to that,” says Brooks, as the “original power lineup” sits together on a couch in their practice space. “Without sounding overly melodramatic, Tony always stepped up to help us out, so if we could do something as miniscule as take a couple days of our time to help out a good friend who was shot and paralyzed, how do you say no to that? He’s an amazing guy, we have to do it.”
Lorenzo was as close as you could get to being a member of It Dies Today. Following the release of The Caitiff Choir, the band were prepared to ride its success to Europe. But just before the tour was to begin, Hatalak fell sick, and the band needed to find someone who could step into his role as guitarist for the important European tour. Lorenzo was there, ready to work his ass off and learn the band’s back catalog of songs.
“I learned them really fast,” Lorenzo says. “I used to go to their shows when I was younger, so it was really cool for me to be a part of that. It was an experience like no fuckin’ other.”
In so many ways, Lorenzo’s tragedy has brought him closer with his friends; in this case, it has brought his friends closer to each other once again. The last time It Dies Today played Buffalo was back in 2009, at Mohawk Place, without Brooks. Asked how the band feels about playing their hometown again as a complete lineup, Hatalak has one word to describe the anticipation: “Swollen.” The good kind of swollen.
“I am so excited. It’s going to be fun. It is cool to get back in this mindset with this band,” Hatalak says, smiling, his arm wrapped around drummer Nick Mirusso. Hatalak and Mirusso still play music together, now under the name Dinosaur Mace. Brooks has been working on a solo project, and Cappelli continues to make electronic music. When they’re all together, though, It Dies Today lives. The group never stops laughing and joking for the entire interview, during which they decide that an oversized sex toy should be passed around to whomever is speaking, as a sort of conch shell. Though the conversation occasionally moves into grownup territory—like how their respective children and spouses are doing—they can’t help but joke about their past.
“The music sounds heavier now,” Cappelli says, slapping his non-existent gut. “About 40 pounds heavier!”
As for the future of the band, Hatalak says, “We’ve got something planned.” Brooks agrees that he’s down for whatever, and Cappelli jokes, “We’re going to open a neck-tie store: It Ties Today.”
Maybe they’ll write a record, or maybe they’ll start a softball team, but either way, it is obvious that the tragedy of their friend has brought them closer together.
The members of It Dies Today are still in their twenties. They started the group when they were only in their teens, during a time when the metalcore scene in Buffalo was reaching a peak—the perfect circumstances in which to forge lifelong friendships.
Lorenzo has formed similar bonds with what he is now realizing are numerous and expansive circles of friends, who have stuck with him through this hard time—most importantly his mother, Caroline, and his band, Ritual Quarantine. Lorenzo’s ultimate goal is to reunite with the band and play his guitar on stage again. The group has a show scheduled for July, and Lorenzo is hoping to be home from the hospital in time to practice for the gig. He believes that being home again will help him regain a sense independence, which he has lost during his stay in the hospital. “I know I’m not going to have hands there every day for the rest of my life,” Lorenzo says. “My goal is to have enough strength to live on my own. When that day happens, it will be bittersweet.”blog comments powered by Disqus
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