On a chilly moonlit night accompanied by the waves in Matunuck Beach, Ocean Mist brought the scene to life in honor of their late friend, Matt Wunsch, hosting a five-act rock show to celebrate his music and memory, but most importantly: his life.
After receiving his Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Rhode Island with a minor in music, Matt Wunsch went on to establish genuine connections with his career and through his passion for rock and roll. His effect on the community and his role as a father was strong, selling out the show and making for a triumphant night.
The bands that played on Friday consisted of individuals that had played with Wunsch and had personal connections to him. Wunsch was the drummer for one of Friday’s bands, the Jungle Dogs, for 32 years, according to Tom Champlin, another member of the band.
“We’re doing the best we can,” Champlin said. “We’re all trying to play his part, it’s not that easy.”
This was the first time the band had played live without Wunsch, which was not an easy task for the members.
“I’m happy to see everyone, but I’m kind of dreading it,” Tom Kutcher said before the event, an original member of the Jungle Dogs, which he started in 1986.
WUNSCHFEST was orchestrated by the group to raise money for Wunsch’s 13-year-old daughter, Vera. This idea came into fruition at Matt Wunsch’s wake, when Sir Rockingham, who wished to be referred to by his professional name, offered the idea to Andy Wunsch. As somebody who had previously scheduled charity events at Ocean Mist, he felt as though this was an opportunity to give back to the family, according to Rockingham.
“I have a 15-year-old daughter and I’ve always had the mindset that music should help people,” Rockingham said. “When I saw Vera at the wake, it crushed me. I was like ‘I gotta do something.’”
The planning stages lasted for about four months while bands and dates were coordinated, as well as technical designs for the event itself, created by Sir Rockingham.
The acts that performed were Mike Arciero, Chelley, Bill & Dyl, Wunschbox, The Ravers, and then the Jungle Dogs to conclude the show. Wunschbox was Matt Wunsch’s other band that he formed with his brother, Andy, who played Matt’s songs in his honor on Friday.
“Matty was a very kind person, he didn’t like to talk about himself very much,” Andy Wunsch said. “He was always about other people.”
Andy Wunsch expressed that Matt “wore two hats,” one of them being the Matt that played in his bands, and the other that was the editor for the Narragansett Times. Outside of his career in journalism, Matt Wunsch also operated a recording studio for 10 years, where he was able to fully immerse himself in recording and mixing music, occasionally playing his own as well.
After becoming a father at 43 years old, he became a full-time dad and focused his attention on his family, according to Andy Wunsch.
All the proceeds from the event went to Vera Wunsch’s education fund for college, and after selling out the event and receiving additional donations, WUNSCHFEST was able to raise about $13,000, according to Rockingham.
Donations for Matt Wunsch’s family can be made at https://www.gofundme.com/f/vera-wunsch-support-fund .