Musician Peter Fraszczynski, best known as the frontman of popular Long Beach psychedelic rock band, Big Sun, died recently. He was 35.
Fraszczynski died in his hometown of Chicago of undisclosed causes, his friends say. Fraszczynski’s family was unavailable to confirm the date of his death, but according to bandmates Blane Rogers and Chris Loeffler, posts noting Fraszczynski’s passing started to appear on his Facebook page Monday, May 18.
“I asked some people that had posted before me online and one person got back to me with, ‘It’s a surprise and a shock, we don’t know what happened. The family asks for thoughts and prayers right now,’” said Matthew Hill, a longtime friend and frontman of folk-rock band Janie.
Fraszczynski became a ubiquitous fixture in Long Beach’s live music scene during the decade he spent in the city. If you didn’t see him under stage lights, you might pass him smoking in front of Alex’s Bar or spot his mop of brown hair in a mosh pit. In the years before his brainchild project, Big Sun, Fraszczynski performed in Long Beach bands Paper Flowers and Coyote, the latter named after a “colorful character” he’d befriended in New Orleans before moving together to Long Beach, Hill said.
As a performer, Fraszczynski demanded your attention, whether for his prowess as a classically trained pianist, or his wild, mic-twirling, arm-flailing stage presence.
“You could see the calories being burned off his fingers when he played,” Hill remembered. “He would play old, ragtime songs on my piano, and if I had anything on top of the piano, they would start to shake. I had a picture of my mom; it fell off. There was a beer there once; it fell off, got everywhere.”
The tall, broad-shouldered musician was known to sit down at a piano, breeze through one of Beethoven’s darkest pieces, then launch into some ragtime or Dixieland ditty. Strapped with a guitar, he might strum a Pixie’s cover, then zone out on a psychedelic composition of his own.
“He was a virtuoso,” Hill said. “A true virtuoso.”
Big Sun, the five-piece, genre-blending rock outfit that fused elements of psychedelic rock, groove, pop, stoner and hard rock, formed in Long Beach in 2014. Their debut album, “Spacelift,” was met with acclaim and garnered the band a strong local and regional following.
The momentum that followed crescendoed in a live performance for the Downtown Long Beach Alliance’s Live After 5 music initiative in 2016, said to be the band’s biggest performance.
The band’s original lineup disbanded after Fraszczynski moved to Kansas City, Missouri three years ago, but, before his passing, there were plans for them to release a new album this year.
In his 35 years, Fraszczynski lived in cities all over the US, from Boston to California, supporting himself as a piano and guitar instructor as well as working odd jobs to pay his rent. Born to Polish immigrants, he was fiercely proud of his heritage, preferring to use the Polish spelling of his name, “Piotr,” and was trilingual, speaking fluent English, Polish and Spanish.
“He was just a citizen of America. I mean, that’s exactly how he described himself,” Roger said. “He didn’t feel like he belonged to any one city because he was everywhere. He was a nomad.”
Fraszczynski is remembered as goofy and charismatic, able to befriend anyone, anywhere. His love for music was vibrant and infectious, fueled by an insatiable appetite to create. Those who worked with him remember his strong-will and sharp ideas.
“He wasn’t afraid to argue,” Hill said. “Just because he actually wanted something done a certain way is only because he had a vision, whether it was a music video, whether it was a song or a performance.”
Of the many things Fraszczynski’s friends said they will miss about him was his love and devotion to his family. At weddings and birthday’s, Hill said his nieces and nephews would be climbing all over him, pulling him left and right.
When Fraszczynski learned that his father had been diagnosed with cancer, and his family needed his help, he went back to Chicago, Loeffler said.
Up until COVID, Fraszczynski would drive down to Kansas City about twice a month to work on the Big Sun’s upcoming album. The band, which includes Rogers on bass, Loeffler on drums and keyboardist Roman Charmello—Fraszczynski sang and played guitar—had nearly finished the project.
Loeffler says they still plan on releasing the album, “but it won’t be the same.”
Fraszczynski is survived by his mother, father, brother and sister.
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