When people talk about Jesse Flati, there are several themes that come up over and over: his humor, his thoughtfulness, his wrestling fandom, his dedication to DIY and the Pittsburgh music scene and his willingness to help out.
Flati’s sudden passing on October 26 sent breakers of shock and grief through the Pittsburgh music community. In the high-energy riot-grrrl punk band the Lopez — easily one of Pittsburgh’s most active and hardworking bands — he and his bandmate and wife Steph Flati served as musical ambassadors, always welcoming new people or bands into their orbit, always seeking out new music to share at their regular DJ nights.
In July, The Lopez played a record release show for their new single, “Like a Prayer.” A new full-length record was expected by year’s end.
Emily Crossen, who’s band Blod Maud played a few shows with the Lopez, says that though she didn’t know Jesse well, what stands out is how easy it was to ask him for help. “I didn’t feel like I had to save face,” she recalls. “I didn’t feel like I had to pretend to know things I didn’t know, as a woman musician.”
The duo was deeply invested in boosting and celebrating the work of non-male musical artists, and feminism was a theme that ran throughout the Lopez’s nearly decade-long span. Recording engineer Madeleine Campbell, who worked on various Lopez recording projects over the last five years, and who recorded the duo’s forthcoming LP, recalls one of the first times she met Steph and Jesse. They played a lunchtime set for campers at Girls Rock! Pittsburgh and, she says, “I remember Jesse Playing his noisy guitar leads, leaning his whole body into Steph with a wide-legged stance as she screamed into the microphone, then stepping back in silence as soon as they were finished so she could field questions. Their powerful chemistry and partnership were instantly recognizable to everyone who met them.”
Joe Melba, who’s former band The Maxi Pads often played with the Lopez, first bonded with Jesse over a shared love of wrestling. But Melba also fondly remembers Jesse’s enthusiasm for live music, and willingness to actually go out and see touring bands. “The joke was always, ‘Are you ready to be the old guys at the basement show?” Melba remembers with a laugh.
But he also remembers, during a rough stretch in his life, how much friendship and support Steph and Jesse offered him.
That’s a sentiment echoed by Campbell. “Jesse was completely authentic and unpretentious and kind to everyone,” she says. “He opened up his home to so many people over the years and supported countless other musicians. He really showed up for people.”