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Zach Ross, drummer in Superior band Crescent Moon, dead at 28

"I don’t have the words right now to describe what we are going through," band leader Shane Nelson wrote after drummer Zach Ross died in a car crash.

Crescent Moon drummer Zach Ross plays on Barker’s Island
Crescent Moon drummer Zach Ross plays on Barker’s Island in August 2020 in Superior. Ross died in a car crash on July 29.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
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SUPERIOR — Zachary Ross, drummer in Superior band Crescent Moon, died on Friday after a single-car crash in the town of City Point, Wisconsin. According to Crescent Moon frontman Shane Nelson, Ross was on his way to a show when the fatal crash occurred.

"My heart is broken, a piece of my family is gone, and I don’t have the words right now to describe what we are going through," Nelson wrote on Facebook. "Zach was a hard-working musician who took care of his mom and family."

According to a news release from the Jackson County Sheriff's Office, Ross was driving alone, westbound, on state Highway 54 early Friday afternoon when his vehicle entered the ditch and rolled. Ross, 28, was pronounced dead at the scene.

"It was just the two of them living together in the home that he purchased for them," Nelson wrote on Facebook regarding Zach Ross and his mother, Andrena Ross. "We will be hosting a celebration of life and event later on down the road, but if you want to help out now, she could really use the support." Donations are being accepted at gofundme.com/f/zachary-ross.

Crescent Moon have been active in the Twin Ports for over a decade, playing originals and cover songs at a steady stream of gigs in the local area and the broader region. Nelson told the News Tribune that he and Ross started playing together after meeting as students at Superior High School in the late 2000s.

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Ross' musical prowess was apparent from a young age. "He would be sitting there," remembered Nelson, "during a math assignment or a test or something, and he would be air drumming with pencils. I saw it in him right away, and I wanted to be a part of that."

Andrena Ross told the News Tribune "I never met anybody that loves music more" than her son, even as a young child. "We always played music in the car, and he would kick his feet to the actual beats of the music."

Man with long hair, wearing black t-shirt and green baseball cap, sits and drums and turns to smile at camera with green grassy field in background.
Zach Ross was a founding member of the band Crescent Moon.
Contributed / Andrena Ross

By fifth grade, the boy had his own drum kit and was a regular at Music Go Round. "Just like on 'Cheers' when everybody would go, 'Norm!'," remembered Ross' mother, "Zach would walk into Music Go Round and they'd go, 'Zach!'"

For a year, Ross took lessons from professional drummer Eric Pollard. The lessons ended, said Andrena Ross, when "Eric called me up and said, 'Andrena, this kid is a human metronome. There's not much more I can give him.'"

While other band members helped shape Crescent Moon's sound over the years, said Nelson, he and Ross remained the only absolute constants. "I don't know that there's anyone else that I'll ever meet again in my life that has the same dedication towards music," said Nelson, "and not only that, believing in my songs the way that he did."

Andrena Ross said that from the very first time Nelson came over to jam with Zach, "you knew something was just going to happen ... it was magic. I knew it. (They) clicked right away, and they became fast friends."

While Zach Ross had a longstanding love for technically ambitious heavy metal music, said Nelson, the drummer developed a unique style to complement Crescent Moon's more mainstream rock orientation. "His technical ability in playing drums was unmatched," said Nelson, "and his creative thinking."

Nelson described Ross as a quiet person offstage, happy at home with his mother and two dogs, Odin and Packer. Zach Ross' survivors also include his brother, Dylan Ross, and father, Kyle Ross. Dave Ross, who served as mayor of Superior from 2003-2010, is Kyle's brother and Zach's uncle.

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Onstage, Ross rocked out. Andrena Ross remembered attending Crescent Moon shows with Nelson's mother as well as the mother of Mike Gray, the band's longtime bassist.

"Mike's mom, Tammy, she had longer hair" like Zach did, said Andrena Ross. "Tammy would give a look to Zach's direction, like, 'Are we going to do this?' She'd walk right up to the band and Zach would pull that hair tie out of his hair." He'd start playing an AC/DC song, "and he would swing his hair around and head bang while he was playing the drums, and Tammy would do the same thing right in front of the drum set."

Traxx Nelson-Kavajecz is Shane Nelson's nephew and plays guitar in the Superior rock band Born Too Late. Nelson-Kavajecz said Zach Ross "was always very encouraging to me, and to everyone else. He was a great guy, and a fantastic, very talented musician as well."

Crescent Moon "really helped us, as a band, get our feet on the ground," said Nelson-Kavajecz, who said Ross would let him sit in on drums with Crescent Moon as a form of encouragement, and inspired the younger musician to grow his hair long. "He cared about everybody, and he only ever wanted to see me and my band and everybody else succeed."

Ross continued to play Crescent Moon gigs, said Nelson, even after moving last winter to the central Wisconsin city of Nekoosa — a 250-mile drive each way to Superior and back. "Every weekend, he would drive up here and lose money," said Nelson. "It wasn't even financially viable, but he did it because he wanted to play music."

Speaking by phone on Wednesday, Nelson said he planned to carry on with a scheduled Crescent Moon show that night in Hayward. "I'm just mustering up the strength to go and do it by myself," he said, since Ross would have wanted him to carry on.

"He gave everything for music," said Nelson. "I've never met anybody like that ... Zach was my best friend, and this is what we did."

Related Topics: SUPERIORMUSIC
Arts and entertainment reporter Jay Gabler joined the Duluth News Tribune in February 2022. His previous experience includes eight years as a digital producer at The Current (Minnesota Public Radio), four years as theater critic at Minneapolis alt-weekly City Pages, and six years as arts editor at the Twin Cities Daily Planet. He's a co-founder of pop culture and creative writing blog The Tangential; and a member of the National Book Critics Circle. You can reach him at jgabler@duluthnews.com or 218-279-5536.
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