Friday, July 1, 2011

Several Species Of Small Furry Thoughts - Phil The Fan

Phil (the fan) Hamon died this week and there was an outpouring of fond tributes by local bands and the people who pay to see them. I guess it wasn’t a surprise to see - Phil certainly was a fixture around town. In the days when I went to a lot of shows I saw him at a million of them. Then I saw him do his homemade lights at a number of shows. Even as my own show frequency has dwindled through my 40’s and into my 50’s (sigh!) I would still see plenty of Phil over the years. I’d see him on campus at D.U. where he worked; I’d see him riding his bike around town at all times of day and night. And, of course I saw him here at Twist and Shout. That was really the way I knew him: as an eccentric, persistent, but fanatical music lover. As early as the first year in business I remember Phil coming in looking for one thing or another. Usually it was something gothic or industrial, and no customer bemoaned the loss of that section when we folded it into the rock section the way Phil did. He came across as startling at first. He would sort of interrupt whatever was happening at the counter and ask really loudly “YOU GOT THAT NEW CD BY (YOU NAME THE BAND)” then he’d hesitate about one second and add “HUH? WHERE IS IT? LET ME LISTEN TO IT.” Some employees figured him out pretty quickly, and just knew how to help him, others didn’t. Customers too. He would spend hours listening to stuff and commenting to whomever was nearby about it. If they recoiled he talked louder, and if they were interested then he would really light up. When Phil found someone he could relate to about music, he went from startling to engaging and gregarious - his life was suddenly worth living. He’d be happy, giving detailed gig information and betraying a pretty encyclopedic knowledge of the local scene and the music he’s been into for years. He wasn’t an outsider then. Instead he became a historian and legendary lighting director - an important part of the scene.
And that is sort of the larger point here isn’t it? Phil wasn’t exactly the picture of middle class normalcy that gets portrayed in People magazine. He was an outsider in many ways, yet he was a beloved part of a specific scene here in Denver. He was one thread in the fabric of our city. In many ways, he was the prototypical Twist and Shout customer. Which is to say that Twist and Shout is made up of all kinds of individuals on a life or death quest to get to the heart of music. Over and over, what I have seen is that it really isn’t any kind of unified group of demographically correct youth that shop here, but a rag tag bunch of iconoclasts looking for something to soothe the burning in their head. Music is it! Losing yourself in a big cave filled with music, occasionally seeing some other obsessed soul and exchanging opinions with them, but for the most part being in a big room with music and stuff about music is one of fewer and fewer healing and accepting places in our society. Phil Hamon had a tenuous relationship with society at large - but he found a place in the music and arts community where he could be accepted and even contribute in a meaningful way And here?- he was just another customer looking for some good music. There are lots of other customers - but none quite like Phil.

Read Westword's tribute to Phil on their blog here:

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