When Thomas O'Shanick — known in the punk scene as Tommy Osh — was killed in a car wreck last February, it was tough on lifelong friend and Ultimatics bandmate Angelo Amantea.
"I had been out with him the night before the accident," Amantea recalls. "He got in the car late that night — early that morning, really — and that's when it happened."
It wasn't the first time Amantea had to deal with losing a close friend; Ultimatics guitarist Ray Chmielewski died at age 30 of a heart attack. "Nobody escapes this stuff," says Amantea. "But it's been a rough time for me."
O'Shanick, 47, left behind family — a daughter, a young grandson and his own mother. Helping them cover funeral costs and get back on their feet led Amantea to put together a tribute show and benefit, which takes place Sat., June 14, at the Rex Theater. ("The cost of dying keeps going up," says Amantea with a wistful laugh. "That's a good line from an old punk band, but it's true.")
Amantea and O'Shanick grew up together in South Oakland, went to Central Catholic together and were initiated into the rock scene at a young age, going to Metropol to see acts like Norman Nardini. They started their first band, Outta Hand, in the early '80s, then went on to successive bands including The Addicts and The Social Wrecks. "It was all this incestuous scene," explains Amantea. "It was all the same group of guys in a bunch of bands."
"Me and Tommy were the motivators," says Amantea. "He was an artist, and he would come up with these ideas. We'd develop our own merch — little pinball machines, trading cards for our band. We were always go-getters, we weren't bashful at all about self-promotion. I think that's why we were as successful as we were."
O'Shanick and Amantea reached their greatest popularity in the mid-'90s, when Pittsburgh punk had its shining moment, and The Ultimatics hit the national limelight. Then the band broke up, following Chmielewski's death. More recently, Amantea was playing in The Dirty Charms, while O'Shanick played in The What Else, and in Tom Kurlander and Pale Blue Sound.
For the show on Saturday, Amantea pulled out all the stops: The Dirty Charms will play (though the band is otherwise on hiatus) along with several bands that O'Shanick was previously involved with. The Ultimatics will reunite, as will Trash Vegas and Torn 'n' Frayed. Norman Nardini will play, along with Motoropsychos, The Cheats, The Bessemers and O'Shanick's most recent band, The What Else.
"He would want us to be celebrating right now," says Amantea. "He wouldn't want us bumming around any more than we already have. This is gonna be a party, not a wake."