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Touring on a Long Road

Rising rock star Daryl Palumbo prevails over debilitating illness

Email icon  cmp381@nyu.edu

Daryl Palumbo danced around the stage at Asbury Park’s legendary Convention Center like a modern-day lyrical poet overdosed on caffeine pills. At this April show, Palumbo delivered eccentric free-flowing hand motions, jumps, and leg kicks. The jaded, mascara-wearing punk rockers here found Palumbo’s slick moves painfully geeky. At a hard rock show like this one, moshing is way cooler than dancing.

Palumbo breaks convention backstage, too. Instead of knocking back a bottle of Jack Daniels before a show, Palumbo takes a stockpile of medicine every day. When he’s on the road, his pharmacy mails pills to him, along with needles that he uses every other day to inject steroids. Paumbo has Crohn’s disease—a debilitating inflammation of the lower intestines that can cause abdominal pain, internal bleeding and weight loss.

“I can’t live life too crazy anymore,” said Palumbo. I’m modest and smart now. I’ve calmed down my life. It’s worth it.”

Palumbo, 27, is the front man of party rockers Head Automatica, who are on tour this month in Denver, Salt Lake City, Sacramento, Reno, San Jose and other cities, opening up for Avenged Sevenfold, Coheed and Cambria.

Touring with Crohn’s can be arduous. As a result of the Crohn’s, Palumbo has also developed hemophilia, which causes easy and excessive bleeding and bruising. He feels weak every day. Head Automatica has had to cancel shows and even full-length tours.

In 2002, the band pulled out of a UK tour after Palumbo suffered a relapse of Crohn’s disease and was rushed to a London hospital.

There is no cure for Crohn’s disease. Palumbo says he just manages the affliction the best he can. “My least favorite thing in the world is to cancel tours and shows,” Palumbo said. “I just try to eat well, sleep well and take care of myself. I try to sleep every chance I get.”

The stage is a place where Palumbo can leaves his medical conditions backstage and find exhilaration through performing music. Those who see his shows have no idea Palumbo is ill. “I’ve never seen Head Automatica play before, but they definitely blew me away.” 20-year-old Coheed and Cambria fan, Chris Padulano of Howell, New Jersey, said at the Asbury Park concert. “I had no clue Daryl was sick. I think he puts on a really good show.”

Palumbo has been straightedge for a portion of his life, abandoning alcohol, drug use and promiscuous sex, but he has also been a heavy drinker and partier. He didn’t quit for good until his Crohn’s diagnosis in 1996. Palumbo also forgoes the rock n roll road warrior diet of fast food and sleepless nights in favor of a well-rested, healthy eating reserved lifestyle.

If left untreated, Crohn’s disease can cause a fatal internal infection, so Palumbo is on top of his treatments. He has a few doctors whom he rarely gets to see, but they are in contact frequently via cellphone and are able to prescribe Palumbo with the proper medication needed to treat his ailments. If Palumbo gets sick on the road the only option available is to get hospital treatment as soon as possible, even if that means flying home to New York to visit his doctors. When the medicine is unsuccessful at relieving symptoms of Crohn’s, surgery may be necessary. Palumbo has undergone surgery several times, to remove portions of the intestine.

Palumbo remains optimistic. “My disease has become part of life for me, but it doesn’t stop me from living,” said Palumbo. “I love touring, I love playing shows. Even when I feel tired, I give it my all.”

Daryl Palumbo (second from right) of Head Automatica must manage debilitating Crohn's disease while the band tours.

Photo courtesy of Daryl Palumbo