Elijah Von Cramon simply needed a beer.
It was a little after 9 p.m. the day before Valentine's Day, and the leader of Charlotte's scrappy Paint Fumes had just ended a heated argument with his father. They rarely speak, and his rage was in need of dulling. He bolted to a corner store to purchase a cheap brew, planning to consume it on a nearby church stoop. That had been his customary way of winding down.
But there would be no beer for Cramon. As he crossed the street, a car going about 40 mph struck Cramon, sending him flying several feet and knocking him unconscious. When he came to, he was coughing up blood, with a crack in his skull. Cramon spent the next month and a half in the hospital, recuperating and enduring the first of three surgeries, this one to repair the fractured pelvis that nearly left him bleeding out. Subsequent procedures repaired Cramon's knees, then a mess of torn ligaments and broken bone. That's not to mention the chips to his teeth and right shoulder.
He was, by all accounts, lucky to survive.
The accident occurred only weeks before the Fumes were set to embark on an extensive U.S. tour. The dates would have supported Uck Life—a full-length debut of trebly verve and hard-hitting swagger released last year by Slovenly Recordings, an imprint packed with beloved cult garage acts such as Acid Baby Jesus and The Spits. They'd scheduled a first-ever European trek, too.
This was supposed to be the band's big moment, but Cramon was left to scrape by on pennies as his medical bills mounted. You might expect Cramon to be bitter, but the gruff and affable dude relates the tale with a surprising amount of enthusiasm.
"I'm just trying to keep a positive mental attitude about it, even though I'm totally all negative all the time," he offers. "This is like the first time in my life that I've actually ever been like, 'Yeah, shit's cool. Life's not that bad.' Even though it's totally bad right now. I did get brain damage. Maybe that helps."
An outpouring of support from North Carolina's rock 'n' roll community has been cruical to Cramon's bright outlook. A month after his injury, more than 10 local bands took over Charlotte's Tremont Music Hall, raising about $1,200 to help him subsist. This weekend, Slim's in Raleigh will host an even bigger benefit, dubbed LIJApalooza. The event will include indoor and outdoor stages, with a 15-band bill that features some of the area's most thrilling rock outfits. More intriguing still is Waste of Time: A Tribute to Paint Fumes, an 18-song set that finds a wealth of Triangle-based talent and a few national acts covering Paint Fumes.
"The most uplifting, solidifying thing about this is that everybody stepped in because it's a music community," says Lauren Reynolds, LIJApalooza's lead organizer. She hopes LIJApalooza will raise more than $5,000. The Fumes owe about $3,000 for unused tour plane tickets.
Reynolds hosts house shows at her Durham home, Chateau Moby Dick. She has been a friend and fan of Cramon ever since she first saw Paint Fumes play on his birthday several years ago. Prodded into action by Montgomery Morris, frontman of Paint Fumes' stylistic peers in Flesh Wounds, Reynolds launched this benefit for her pal. Between wrangling all of the bands for the compilation and the shows, the task wasn't without its difficulties.
"Nobody could discern the lyrics by listening to the songs," Reynolds explains, laughing at the inscrutable nature of Paint Fumes' fuzzy burners. "Of course, Elijah, who's laid up in bed in Charlotte and on like 15 billion painkillers and trying to just be able to piss by himself, is having to send all these lyrics. 'Can you just send me all your lyrics?' He's like, 'Well, that's funny because I've actually never written 'em down, so I'm going to have to go back and see if I can figure out what I'm saying.'"
Though still wheelchair-bound, Cramon will be there this weekend to pick up his copy in person and to celebrate his 24th birthday on Saturday. His injury may have derailed Paint Fumes' plans, but it hasn't slowed his musical drive. He's currently recording new material written while he sat off the road and out of work. His hope is to do a short tour with a group of guys who will all play in wheelchairs—save for the drummer, who will use Cramon's bedside toilet as a drum throne. Potential names include King Cripple and His Friends or The Cripps. Clearly, the accident didn't kill his sense of humor, either.
"This damn music community's the fucking best," Cramon gushes. "People have been so generous with donating money too because I can't work. It's just amazing to me that people actually care that much."
This article appeared in print with the headline "Recovery rock."