“The band’s graphic songs mock and make merry with death, like some trailer-park Día de Los Muertos pageant,” murmurs guitarist Kirk Rundstrom, ensconced beneath a fluffy white comforter on a bed in Lawrence, Kansas. He laughs as he struggles to pronounce the Mexican holiday. Then he turns to the camera and quips, “I guess that’s French, I don’t know. I quit school at sixth grade.”
Suddenly, a bald, bestubbled head and tattooed arms pop out from under the covers. He pretends to gasp. “I just want to play one more time,” he says in a mock death rattle. “Can I have a cigarette?”
Rundstrom began his career in 1995 with a twangy industrial band called Scrote Belly. After that burned out, he returned home and formed the equally grotesque Split Lip Rayfield, playing for free beers in dives around Witchita. They soon became known as the rowdiest bluegrass band in Kansas – complete with wild antics, scorching punk attitude and a bizarre instrument fashioned from a Ford Galaxy gas tank christened the gas-tank bass.
The debauchery soon caught up with him however, when in January 2006, Rundstrom was diagnosed with throat cancer. After four months of chemotherapy proved ineffective, doctors told him he had two months to live. But the guitarist refused to go down easy. He had devoted his adult life to his music, so he called off the chemo and spent his last days on the road doing what he loved most.
The documentary “Never Make it Home” will make you laugh and cry, sometimes all at once. It’s an emotion-filled, but fun and raucous thrill ride. Watch it now, free, on SnagFilms: