At first I thought I had nothing to say about either of these deaths, and I certainly didn’t see any valid connection between the two people, but as my feelings have sorted out a little I am starting to see some weird connection-at least in my life.
I was, like a lot of people, devastated by the news that Chris Haney had been killed in a tragic and seemingly pointless shooting at the Denny’s on Alameda and I-25. I have been touched and a little surprised at how many people knew and loved this gentle man. I am surprised because I was ignorant of the man he had become. Because in my heart Chris will always be the little boy I knew; the kid who grew up a block from the house Jill and I and our kids lived in for over 30 years. He and our son Ben became close friends in 7th grade when they were both going to Merrill Middle School. Along with Caleb Braaten (who now owns the ultra-hip Sacred Bones record label in NYC) they were the Three Amigos. My nickname for him was Hanaroonie. For a short time our telephone message at home was Ben and Chris playing guitars and singing a Suicidal Tendencies song. For a few years there they were inseparable, discovering baseball cards, then music, then mild delinquency, then shaky adulthood together. To me, they were just kids. I remember about six months after I started Twist and Shout, a young customer from South High came in and informed me that his friend Chris Haney was going around telling everyone at school that he and Ben and Caleb were going to be taking over and they’d be running the store because I would have to be retiring soon (I think I was 30 at the time). It totally cracked me up then and makes me smile still. It is also emblematic of the person Chris became. I have no doubt that Chris said it with complete conviction and the best of intentions. He had a wide-eyed infectious optimism and internal sweetness that made me always want to root for him. He didn’t change much over the years in my eyes-he got taller and taller and taller, balder and balder (hmmm I’m beginning to see why I relate to him so well), but when I would run into him at Gothic shows or at Twist or just out he seemed like that same goofy, nice kid. He loved music, and he stayed true to his roots and upbringing. He went to the clubs and he worked at the clubs. He was a fixture at the Gothic and seemed to such a natural part of the local scene-the good part of the music biz.
To me, Barry Fey represented the other side of the music business. And by that I don’t necessarily mean the “bad” side, but rather the “adult” side. As a part of the music business myself I have come to understand that in many ways the biz side is bigger than the music side. Barry Fey was that. He wasn’t about the music really, he was about the business getting done and getting done right. He did it too. When I moved to Denver in 1968 it still called itself a cowtown. Barry Fey was one of the major reasons that changed. With the music came relevance to the counterculture, which in many ways has turned into mainstream greatness as a city, which Denver most certainly has. Obviously Fey did not do this himself. He was an awfully big part of it though. Decades of incredible shows at Red Rocks, arenas, theatres, stadia and clubs left an amazing legacy. For me, he was an abstract figure for years, this big guy onstage at countless shows making announcements. Tales of his terrifying temper were famous. When I got into the music business in the 80’s he was sort of on his way out as a promoter, but that was when I started crossing paths with Barry. He would come into the store and talk to me, or I would make him a mix tape for some bus tour he was doing, or he would fish around to see what his memorabilia was worth. I would see him walking in the park occasionally, or eating in a restaurant. One time we went to a party at his house, but for the most part he was still a pretty distant guy. In the last year he did a book signing at the store and he was really trying to be nice. He seemed frail. Then The Colorado Music Hall Of Fame (on whose board I serve) inducted him at a ceremony in Boulder. He seemed even more frail and walked past me like we had never met. All this might lead you to believe I didn’t mourn Fey, but as news of his death (apparently suicide) has sunk in I have felt a diffuse sense of loss. Live music made me who I am in many ways, and Barry Fey made live music happen in Denver for my most important concert going years. Whatever failings and weaknesses he had as a human being don’t really matter because he made a huge difference in all our lives who lived through his era.
So Barry was the adult, and Chris was the kid, and somewhere in between these two very different poles lies me and Twist and Shout and The Gothic and The High Dive and all the weird corners of Denver and You and your friends and family. Hold them tight.