Earlier this morning, I was sitting in a folding chair inside the Reflection Pavilion at Crown Hill Cemetery, waiting for the memorial service to begin for my friend Wendi Wikstrand, who passed away on Sunday, when I heard a guy seated behind me say, "Ok, God, you can stop now." He uttered those poignant words after listing off the number of friends and loved ones he's lost this year, including our friend Wendi, and Gerald Sanchez, a dynamite drummer who also passed earlier this week.
The exasperation in his voice was palpable, and the sentiment struck a sad chord with me. I know where he's coming from. I think we all do by now. In addition to Wendi and Gerald, eight other precious souls left us this year, including Nick Pomeroy from the Garden Weasels, Nick Williams, Johnny Schou, Paul Vee, Amy Fisher, Nathan "Bionik Brown" Woods Kurt Linn from Electric Playground and Sharon Rawles.
While I didn't know Gerald Sanchez (pictured right), by happenstance, I wandered into a tribute for him at Falling Rock that his friends had organized to honor and remember him. And from what folks were saying and from the number of people that turned out, he was clearly well regarded -- and loved.
Just like my friend Wendi.
As I looked around at the faces dotting Wendi's service, I saw a lot of people I hadn't seen for a while. It took me back to the early '90s, a time when the scene was centered a little further north up Broadway at, well, a place called -- fittingly enough -- the Broadway, and across town at Alibi's and Bangles. Chatting with an old buddy of mine outside the pavilion, he confided how he feels so out of touch these days and how he doesn't know any of the new bands or the people in the scene. "The game's still the same," I said. "Only the faces have changed."
The more I started thinking about it, though, the more I realized that's not entirely true. Back then, there really wasn't much of a scene. I mean, the thought of a local band being on the radio or on national TV or selling millions of records -- hell, man, that seemed like a pipe dream. At the time, it didn't seem like too many people were even paying attention.
Wendi was paying attention.
In 1990, her and my buddy Haylar from the Hippie Werewolves and some other friends got together and put out a 'zine called Grandma Dynamite. It was just for fun. "The reviews were a joke," as Haylar recalled today with a laugh. "We were just having fun, you know, being silly." Maybe so, but Wendi's efforts (her family owned the printing business where the magazine was printed, and where bands produced their fliers) meant the world to a bunch of scrappy, upstart musicians. It meant even more when Grandma Dynamite -- as her friends soon coined her -- began hosting the Granny Awards. Chris Dillinger probably put it best at the service this morning when he said, with tears rimming his eyes, "She really made us feel like we were doing something."
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Indeed. Whether she knew it or not, Grandma helped galvanize Denver's burgeoning scene, as evidenced by the reflections of her friends (and that can pretty well include anybody she came in contact with) and family. When she wasn't helping put on shows or getting folks together, she was taking in strays in her apartment, which ultimately turned into a defacto flop house for many a degenerate musician. Despite the fact that Wendi wasn't a musician herself, she was truly one of a kind and had an impact on the scene as we know it today.
If I've learned anything from all of the untimely deaths that we've been subjected to this past year, it's that life is indeed the frailest thing in the world, as Pascal once asserted. Wendi, who fought some tough battles of her own, reportedly used to conclude her emails with the lines, "Be kinder than necessary today, because everyone you meet may be fighting some kind of battle."
Sounds like words for the rest of us to live by.
-- Dave Herrera