Mom, friends play music forward in wake of Ben Rowe’s death – Times Union

From his intense listening habits to recording and performing songs across handfuls of projects, booking scores of artists to play and creating a safe space in his popular Albany DIY concert venue the Rat Den, Ben Rowe’s passion was fostering a vibrant local music community.

Rowe was shot and killed June 25 in Albany. In the face of this immeasurable loss, his family and closest friends are working to ensure that his passion is his enduring legacy.

To learn more about the Benjamin X. Rowe Project, Ben Rowe’s creative projects or to make a contribution, visit


Rowe’s mother, Lee, recently founded the Benjamin X. Rowe Project, a 501(c) (3) dedicated to creating opportunities for and providing resources to aspiring artists. With the help of her son Sam and Ben’s former co-promoters, Lee is hoping to use the project to continue Ben’s efforts supporting the Albany music scene.

“Right after he was killed, the next day, Sam said a lot of friends reached out about a GoFundMe for his family,” Lee said. “But we didn’t want this to be for us. We wanted to create a positive thing, a way for Ben’s friends and others to support the music scene and feel that they were contributing to something meaningful.

“Over the next few weeks, we evolved the vision for it,” she said. “We asked, ‘What do local musicians need for a supportive, loving environment?’ We’re looking to purchase sound equipment, and we created a website where we want to feature musicians and help them grow and have opportunities. It’s really been a labor of love, but it’s helped me find a focus because we’re doing it for the community and because it’s what Ben would want, to keep his passion for music going.”

Creating the Benjamin X. Rowe project has been a collaborative endeavor. Lee, a full-time nurse, researched 501(c) (3), navigated the paperwork and bureaucratic red tape and set up the fundraising page. Ben’s stepfather built the website,, and the content and context behind Ben’s recordings and activity were assembled by his brother Sam. Ben’s partners in booking and promoting basement shows for the past 18 months, Zeke Motzer and Shea VanDeusen, are assisting with logistics on equipment and the needs of touring musicians.

“Booking shows came really naturally to him; he was organized and could make sure everything went off without a hitch,” said Motzer. “In just 2023, we booked more than 50 shows together. Ben was the linchpin in making sure things — dates, posters, lineups — would happen. 

“I keep asking myself, ‘What would Ben want us to do,’” he added. “That’s why we’re buying equipment for a sound library; whatever someone needs for a show — a cord, an amp — anyone can sign it out and use it. Ben did that with his own stuff; he’d let people borrow his bass. … He and I would talk about what we wanted the future of Albany to look like, and it was to try to help make more money for artists.”

Over the past eight weeks, the Rowe family has heard directly from countless people about the impact Ben made on their lives. At a July 23 charity show at the Fuze Box, the guitarist for local hard-core band Spiritkiller told Lee that Ben went out of his way to make him feel comfortable at shows. A Canadian artist reached out with a story about how Ben had offered effusive praise and purchased their cassette. Even a musician from Bulgaria whom Ben had befriended and collaborated with over the internet contacted the Rowes with his condolences.

The Bulgarian connection was just one of Rowe’s many musical projects.

“Ben’s two main projects were Miller Time, a metal band he had with his friend Jack Newton, where Ben sang and played bass, and Medical Board, a slowcore band where he played bass and I played guitar and sang,” his brother Sam said. “He was also making music by himself that he’d been putting on Bandcamp for years, Yankee’s Tadium was his drone project, Stuart Ullman was his experimental singer-songwriter. He made two rap albums, too. He was always fascinated by songwriting and creating a finished piece. He used to say, ‘I’m playing to get ideas out.’”

For Lee, learning Ben’s level of activity and impact as a musician, show promoter and particularly as a supportive friend and neighbor has been revelatory. An anecdote she shared that most accurately reflected her son’s demeanor and commitment community was that prior to founding the Rat Den, Rowe went door-to-door to introduce himself to his neighbors and make sure they were OK with a DIY basement music venue operating on their street.

“It’s just who he was. We knew how busy Ben was, but we didn’t know about his willingness to lend an ear and help others,” she said. “He never came to our house and said, ‘I did this.’ He didn’t want anything in return.”

In the coming months, Lee and Motzer are hoping to organize a November tribute show to coincide with Ben’s birthday and a charity album featuring contributions from area musicians. As well as using the Benjamin X. Rowe Project to support musicians, Lee plans on using proceeds to contribute to anti-gun violence and LGBTQIA+ causes. All associated parties are hopeful that through the project, Ben’s generosity and impact he had on others during his life continues.

 “In a way, I don’t think it fully registered with him how much he meant to people,” Motzer said. “We were walking around the Pride parade in Troy and people kept walking up to him and saying ‘hi.’ I said, ‘Wow, are you popular? ’ He just went, ‘I guess so.’

“If you asked him about if what he was doing was a big deal, he’d be like ‘Nah,’” Sam said. “But I think he saw the positive changes he was making for people.”

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