“He would often use the word ‘badass,’” AEG talent buyer Scott Campbell says. “‘You’re such a badass,’ he would say.”
Don, who was well known in the Colorado EDM and bass music scene, died unexpectedly on February 14 at the age of 49. He is survived by his wife, Jean Gallo Miller; his son, Donnie Miller; and his daughter, Morgan Miller.
"Everyone keeps saying he lived a hundred years of life in less than fifty," says Donnie, who performs bass music under the moniker Decadon and combines a traditional DJ set with live guitar playing. "He was a rock star, for sure."
Always a fixture at Colorado electronic-music shows where his son was playing, Don managed Decadon and helped him become a rising star in the EDM scene. Campbell says that shortly before he passed, Don helped his son land a coveted spot on the Lost Lands Festival 2020 lineup. Lost Lands, Campbell says, is like the Mecca of bass music.
“There’s a lot of good dads out there,” Campbell says. “But Don Miller seemed to write the book on being a supportive father and being involved in his son’s life.”
Donnie says that his father was well known in the EDM community because he always took time at shows and festivals to walk around and get to know people. Sometimes it took forever to traverse a dance floor, because his father was always stopping to chat up people.
"Everyone who met him for thirty seconds at one of my shows or at festivals, they felt like they were best friends with him," Donnie says. "He’d give them a small piece of merchandise or take a picture with [them]. He was just a very personable guy, a very friendly person. He was the life of the party."
"The last place my dad and I went out was to the Ogden, about a month ago — to see Sullivan King, actually," Donnie says. "He’s going to be flying back to play with me on Wednesday to honor my dad."
A GoFundMe account was also set up for Don's family to help pay for funeral and other expenses; it had raised nearly half of its $20,000 goal as of Sunday afternoon, five days after it was started. Condolences poured in to the site, and another was set up to announce a celebration of life that happened on February 22 at the Fillmore Auditorium in Denver.
Rich Ross, bassist for the Freddy Jones Band, recalled on Facebook meeting Don at a restaurant. He told Ross that he was a fan of Boulder band the Samples, with whom Ross has also played. The two would cross paths occasionally after that. One day, Don asked if he could bring his son over to show off his musical abilities and get Ross's opinion on Donnie's level of talent.
“I could tell Don was an extremely proud father and family man,” Ross wrote. “I was honored to have them both over to my home. They came to the house, and Donnie set up and started rippin’ right there in front of me. Yep, he was awesome.”
Campbell crossed paths with Don in the course of his duties with AEG, but also considered him a friend and says he was a beloved part of the local EDM community.
“The number-one thing I noticed about Don Miller wasn’t his management ability, which he was very good at, but what a great and supportive father he was to Donnie,” Campbell says, “As a father myself of three kids, I notice other fathers' styles and how they handle their roles, and Don Miller’s style was bright and unbeatable. He was a really, really good dad.”
Campbell says Don would attend EDM shows at Red Rocks Amphitheatre “over and over again” in the summers, because he truly loved music and spending time with his son.
“Don shared his love of music and electronic music with his son and was with him at shows more than you can believe,” Campbell says. “Most parents wouldn’t go to more than the occasional — if that — EDM show with their kids. Don Miller went to dozens of them every year.”
Donnie says the celebration of his father's life at the Fillmore drew at least 1,000 people who came to pay their respects. He took the stage with a group of local musicians who knew his father, and they played one of his dad's favorite Lynyrd Skynyrd songs, "Simple Man," and a rendition of "Hallelujah," by Leonard Cohen.
"Everyone was saying it was the coolest funeral they ever saw," he says. "We sent him off like a rock star."
During the set, Donnie had a message for his father: "I can't wait to rock another show in heaven with you."
Badass runs from 7 p.m. to midnight at the Ogden Theatre, 935 East Colfax Avenue. Tickets, $25, are available at axs.com.