Music News

Simon Katz Was One of Denver Music's Brightest Young Talents

Pablo Garduno’s favorite memory of his friend Simon Katz was the time Katz showed up at his house, unannounced, with an adventure in mind.

“He just showed up at my house and we drove 45 minutes to a skatepark because he wanted to watch people skate,” Garduno says. "Simon doesn’t skate, he just wanted to watch skateboarders. We were there for like five minutes and he goes, ‘Okay, what should do we next?’”

Garduno, a Denver School of the Arts student, became friends with Katz after the two met at Denver’s School of Rock program a few years ago. He says that just showing up with a crazy plan, was pretty typical of Katz, who always looking for the next adventure the pair could go on.

“He liked adventuring,” Garduno says. “We never ran out of things to do; he always had an idea.”

Katz, who was a sixteen-year-old student at Chatfield High, passed away on September 21 after accidentally ingesting a s’more made with peanut butter at a Homecoming bonfire. Katz had a severe peanut allergy and died that night at the hospital. Besides his love of skateparks, and, according to Garduno, Burger King, Katz was an active member of the Denver music scene. He was the bassist in local band Boats Without Oars, a participant in School of Rock, and a constant presence at local shows.

To remember Katz, his friends, along with Seventh Circle Music Collective, are hosting SimonFest 2015 on Sunday, an all day concert full of  bands Katz loved.

“As soon as we were all able to process the fact that he'd passed away, the first thought from his closest friends was that they wanted to throw a show to celebrate his life, with all the bands we could line up who knew and loved him too,” says Aaron Saye of Seventh Circle.

The show will be all day, from noon until 10 p.m. The schedule, which includes 17 bands, including the Family Band from Kansas City, ends with a set from Katz’s Boats Without Oars bandmates, Elias Williamson and Alex Sutton.

Williamson says the friends all chose bands that were friends of Katz or meant something to him.

"We actually reached out to Rascal Flatts as a joke because Simon would always sing 'Life Is a Highway,' Williamson says. "They actually responded, which was funny." 

Saye says that Katz was a fixture at the DIY venue, playing dozens of shows with his various bands over the years and attending as many shows as he could. Saye first met Katz when he saw him play at Cervantes in 2013 with Edias. Since then Katz, was always a favorite for him to watch.

“He would thrash around the stage, flinging his bass around his neck, bumping into the other musicians, jumping on and off of his bass amp, grabbing used drumsticks out of the ceiling and playing his bass with those,” Saye says. “He was a force to be reckoned with.”

Katz talent with the bass is what made him famous in Denver music circles. He had infectious energy on stage, and was, according to his friend Zack Marshall, a huge guitar pedal geek and “had the biggest pedal board ever.”

“I think probably my favorite memory of him was when I gave the pedal that I made,” Marshall says. “About a month later he texted me, ‘Hey you know that pedal, well, it's kind of really broken.’ I came to check out the pedal — it’s completely annihilated. I still have no idea how he did that.”

Marshall says he and other friends designed Simonfest with the idea of creating something “Simon would love.” He and others thought the best way to honor him was to pay tribute to his love of live music.

"Outside of everything else he did, part of the biggest part of his identity was playing shows and being part of the DIY community here in Denver," Williamson said. "People would come to our shows literally just to see Simon play."

Boats Without Oars was in the middle of recording a new album with Katz passed. The bass parts are tracked, and once the rest is finished, the band plans to release it in his honor before pursuing other projects. 

"We want our final release to be with Simon," Williamson says.

While Katz was always showing his friends new bands and new sounds and “playing the goofiest bass,” Marshall says, he’s remembered most for his personality.

“He was unlike anyone else I've ever met,” Saye says. “He was goofy and hilarious, very strange and eccentric, but in the most carefree, positive, compassionate, and fun-loving way. I don't think I ever saw him with anything other than a smile on his face.”

Saye says that Seventh Circle is honored to host Simonfest because “he loved us and we loved him.” Marshall says that Katz “would’ve loved and would’ve wanted” something like Simonfest. He also would just want his friends to keep enjoying the music he loved.

“I'm going to miss him,” Marshall says. “All the music I will play in my lifetime will be dedicated to him.” 
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Isa Jones is an editor in Jackson Hole; her writing has appeared all over the Internet and occasionally in print.
Contact: Isa Jones