Music » Reverb

Colorado Springs music scene mourns Brian Eastin


Brian’s parents have asked that in lieu of flowers, people make donations in their son’s name to the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region, - BRIAN TRYON
  • Brian Tryon
  • Brian’s parents have asked that in lieu of flowers, people make donations in their son’s name to the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region,

‘How do you grieve when you can’t gather and hug and cry?” asks Spirettes frontwoman Kate Perdoni. “Can memory alone soothe? I don’t think so. We need time, but we also need human connection.”

On Friday, May 8, I learned that a prominent artist in Colorado Springs, singer/songwriter and guitarist Brian Eastin, had passed away. I still can barely process this news, and, like Perdoni, I can’t help but think about what this collective grief looks like in such an uncertain time marked by social distance. Touch and closeness are, paradoxically, both how we express affection and intimacy and how we define our physical boundaries; the way we orient ourselves in the space of the world. When that’s gone, it’s little wonder we feel the disarray, and that feeling mirrors the shock of losing someone so central to Colorado Springs music. Such a loss takes away a major guidepost to how we understand our musical ecosystem, and we find ourselves navigating beneath obscured stars.

From Eastin’s earliest days in Acquiesce to the efforts of his latest group, Had I Known, his presence was a near-constant, and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in the local music scene who wasn’t in some way affected by his music.

“Brian was a warm soul with a heart that felt the weight of the world all too much,” says singer/songwriter Joe Johnson. “An empathetic person who wrote and enjoyed emotional music; he will be remembered fondly by those of us privileged enough to know him.”

“Our friendship and brotherhood meant the world to me, and has been a lighthouse,” says drummer Jameson Becker, Eastin’s bandmate in Had I Known. “I’ve known him since he was a teenager going to shows in the 32 Bleu days. He joined the music scene with us shortly after and got his real start on that stage with his first band, Acquiesce. I obviously saw that he had a gift of music at a young age.”

Indeed, looking back at Eastin’s body of work, there is a vibrancy and intensity unlikely to be dulled by the passage of time. His former band Tango Red Tapestry’s elegant, math rock-inspired intricacy is married with an immediate, engaging songwriting voice — even if you missed out on them at the time, a single listen to “Chair Days Galore” or “The Goodbye Song” shows why they were so loved by musicians and fans throughout Colorado. Another band, The War Parts, placed Eastin’s talents beside a downright formidable lineup of young local talent, including Shane Cahn, Clayton Hull-Crew, Reggie Thompson and Andy Rusk.

Had I Known, formed in 2016, had already garnered significant acclaim and released two high-quality EPs, Pedestrians and Refraction, which found Eastin working with a slew of talented musicians, including, at various points: Daniel Snyder, Alex Ben-Kori, the late Lucas Huffman, Josh Schrader and Jameson Becker. The group was working on material for a full-length LP.

“We had plans to go back into the studio this summer to start recording our new album,” says Becker. “The music we were working on, we poured our hearts and souls into every detail in the songwriting process. I will miss him for the rest of my days, but I’m proud of the music that we made together, and grateful that we were able to.”

“Our local scene is reeling from the news of Brian’s passing,” says guitarist Brian Elyo. “Brian is one of those people I remember the exact moment we met, on the streets of Denver as I performed sounds at a mutual friend’s art show. We left our meeting with, ‘Yeah, hope to see you again sometime. ...’ We saw each other all the time after that. I honestly can’t think of anyone who has seen me play more often and in more settings than Brian, particularly over the years. Every venue, every art gallery, I have at least one memory of him being there, watching me play and us hanging out before or after. He would even coincide his band practice breaks with my set during the Flux [Capacitor] days. He was as prolific and talented a supporter and fan of music as he was a musician.”

Perdoni agrees.
Singer/songwriter Brian Eastin, left, with Rence Liam (Dear Rabbit) - BRIAN TRYON
  • Brian Tryon
  • Singer/songwriter Brian Eastin, left, with Rence Liam (Dear Rabbit)

“Brian came to almost every show I played in this town, in any configuration. He thought nothing of showing up in Denver to support local friends in the scene beyond. More than once, he was about to dart out of Syntax [Physic Opera] or Lost Lake [Lounge], and we’d catch him slipping out the door, or already on down the sidewalk, heading home without the fuss of making himself known.

“I’ll remember his long, elegant scarves, his wistful nature, his shyness, his hesitance to take up space,” continues Perdoni. “Going through old messages, our back-and-forth is full of never-ending supportand notions of ‘Yo, I see you out there. Keep it up.’ Of creating connection. Of uplifting another band or artist. It’s weird to lose someone in this nebulous time. It’s going to be forever before it feels real, and that may never happen. The ghost of our pre-isolated life may very well bear a nostalgia and simplicity we associate with an era it’s unlikely we’ll see again. And then, Brian will be left there, shining in the front row, spindly and aware.”

It can be a trite statement that memories outlive our material existence, or that an artist lives on through their work and their impact on those around them. But for those among us, like Brian Eastin, who dedicate their lives to music, there’s a truth that rings out. Music may reach us in a physical sense, as sound waves hitting our ears, but its real value lies in that liminal space between your headphones; that world of unbound imagination that defies physical impermanence and exists in a very real way. As we continue to listen to Brian’s music, that world of his imagination always remains; his voice always speaks to us and affects us.

To quote one of Brian’s heroes, director David Lynch: “We’re like lightbulbs. If bliss starts growing inside you, it’s like a light; it affects the environment. We all affect our environments. You enjoy that light inside, and if you ramp it up brighter and brighter, you enjoy more and more of it. And that light will extend out farther and farther.”

I have no doubts that the light will never go out, even as we mourn.

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