Gifted and driven, tall and abrasive, guitarist Dave Wenger was widely admired for his undeniable talent as a musician and lyricist and somewhat envied for his roguish demeanour and excessive lifestyle.

Wenger, a musician who alternated between Vancouver and Montreal, was the leader of what might best be described as an experimental Goth industrial band, Daddy’s Hands – not in any way to be confused with Holly Dunn’s pop country song of the same name.

He was the victim of a hit-andrun accident early in the morning of Nov. 23 while crossing St. Laurent Blvd. just north of Rachel St. He was 33.

“Everywhere he went he caused a scene. He was an extreme kind of guy, but extremely sensitive,” said a guitarist and singer, Tam Pardo, who occasionally jammed with Wenger.

“He was really a sweet guy, but he was trying to emulate darker musical people. He was a scary guy, but a funny one. He had a rebellious attitude, it was his nature to be contrary, but people didn’t always see the sensitive side of him.”

David Anthony Wenger was born in Ottawa on June 30, 1973. Both of his parents were university science professors who moved to Victoria B.C., where Wenger grew up.

“He had this gift from the onset. His passion for music and creativity was always there,” his father, Howard told The Gazette.

“As a child he was unique, reading Hardy Boys novels when he was 4 even before he went to school. He was a good athlete and played good hockey until he was 12 and was an unbelievably passionate Habs fan.

“The place where he was really creative was in his music. To him, the guitar and music were all one. Once he started playing you could drop a bomb and that would not dissuade him.”

Wenger rented his first guitar when he was 11, and while still in high school started a metal band called Moral Decay.

A tall and arresting character, he was a rowdy partygoer, who was known to pick fights and dump a beer over the head of people who annoyed him, male or female.

“He would have never gotten away with half of it if he wasn’t so handsome,” said a former roommate, Nadia Moss. He played the west coast with a group called M Blanket, then in 1996 Wenger met keyboard player Emily Bauslaugh. They had a tempestuous on-and-off*gain affair. The two teamed up with drummer Jonah Fortune and saxophonist Johnny Pollard to start the alternative group Daddy’s Hands.

As part of his act, Wenger wore tights, a dress, a rastaman hat, diving flippers and sang through a gas mask. “We tried to make things as ridiculous as possible,” said Fortune. “We were constantly giddy and trying to amuse ourselves.”

Critics variously described the group as creative, abrasive, inspirational and ahead of its time. It is said to have influenced other alternative bands such as Hot Hot Heat, Frog Eyes, Wolf Parade and Frankie Sparo.

“He was Sid Vicious with talent,” said Montreal freelance writer Martin Patriquin, who saw Wenger perform.

“There was a difference between what he did on record and his live shows. One thing that never stopped was the music. He never stopped writing, no matter what was going on in his life.”

Four years ago, after Bauslaugh died of a drug overdose in Montreal, Wenger’s life took an increasing downward turn, and he began drinking heavily.

“He loomed so large, he didn’t walk gently into anyone’s life,” his older brother, Matthew, told mourners at the funeral in Victoria. “He railed against the organized church. Creativity was his god in the religious sense of the word. He was like a priest, a zen monk. He even shaved his head like a monk’s.

“See, he had no stuff, and having no material stuff is one of the signs that he was a minister or a pope. Well, maybe not a pope, A popester, maybe.

“He heard voices, saw visions and received commands, but unlike regular folk, Dave opened himself up to them, welcomed them, built a garden in his head so he could walk around them until he saw them in their entirety. Then he would bring them to life.”

Wenger is survived by a 3-year old son, Nathaniel, and by his parents and his brother and sister.

Dave Wenger