ROCKAWAY BEACH — When Jimmy Sinisi, the lead singer of the popular Queens hip-hop band the Wordy Bums, was killed last year by an alleged drunk driver, his family and friends were devastated.
His bandmates said the group would never be the same again, and didn't know how they could carry on.
But three months ago, they started picking up the pieces and began to rehearse again with Sinisi's wife, still reeling from her husband's death, as one of the singers.
On Saturday, the Wordy Bums will play its first show without their "catalyst" and lead singer at the Rockstock & Barrels Festival in Rockaway.
Sinisi and his close friend and bandmate, Mike Palmer, were driving through Howard Beach early on Nov. 30, 2013 when another driver slammed into their car after allegedly going through a stop sign, according to reports.
Sinisi, who also performed as Marvin Gardens, suffered severe head trauma and was later pronounced dead at Jamaica Hospital, just a few weeks before his 38th birthday.
The driver, James Celauro, was charged with vehicular manslaughter and driving while under the influence of alcohol, according to the NYPD. He died in April, according to the DA’s office, before being brought to trial.
After Sinisi’s death, the band posted on their Facebook page that “the Wordy Bums can never be the same without such an integral part of this machine.”
“Jim was the nucleus, the catalyst, the engine,” the post read. The band had just finished recording new material and planned to work on an album before embarking on spring and summer tours.
Palmer, 38, said he doubted the band — which formed in 2009 and included many close friends along with Sinisi's wife, Susan — could even stay together after Jim’s death.
At Sinisi’s wake, Palmer said he told the other bandmates, “That’s it for the band, right? There’s really no need to do this anymore.”
But everyone else disagreed. The band’s drummer, RJae Izm, told Palmer, “You know you can’t stop now. You have to be the guy to make this happen.”
Susan Sinisi, 38, sang backup vocals in the Wordy Bums but will front the band for part of their set on Saturday. They're playing all new material, although many of the songs feature rhymes written by Jimmy.
A self-proclaimed “shower singer,” Susan said it was the love and support of her husband — a man she called kind, loyal and brutally honest — that pushed her to perform.
“He saw something in me and he wanted to open it up and nurture it, and I'll forever be grateful for the gift,” she said.
The Wordy Bums started rehearsing again three months ago, with some trepidation, Susan Sinisi said. She didn’t know how they’d all play together without Jimmy, or how everyone else would feel.
“Although he wasn’t physically here and the vibe was different, it still feels like he’s at rehearsal with us,” she said.
The seven months since Sinisi’s death have been hard on everyone who loved him, Susan Sinisi said.
Their home in Howard Beach flooded during Hurricane Sandy. They had re-settled in Glendale, and things were going well.
“We were on a really creative upswing,” she said. “He and I would be recording every weekend, he was scoring a friend’s movie. Musically and personally, our marriage could just not have been in a better place.”
Susan said she’s “not going to pretend it’s not hard” dealing with her husband’s death.
“It’s hard to know what the right thing is to do,” she said. “When you’ve been with someone that long you think of 'we' and not 'me.'”
Palmer, who suffered minor injuries in the accident, has been dealing with his best friend’s death with support from Susan.
“It's tough, for all of us,” he said. “I still wake up some mornings and I'm lost.”
Palmer recently wrote and recorded his second album, something he said was "bittersweet" because he did it for the first time on his own.
"There's this amazing sense of accomplishment and the only person I want to share it with is not going to hear it,” he said. “And if he can hear it I'll never know, and we can't sit down and listen to the tracks."
On Saturday, in their seven-song set, they’ll perform a song called “Rhododendron,” which James wrote before he died. Susan will sing, and the band will play in Jimmy's honor.
“I try to take it as inspiration as much as possible,” Palmer said. “He's in my mind because he's still giving me inspiration.”