INTO THE GREAT WIDE OPEN


Soundtracking: “The Rain Won’t Help You When It’s Over” by The True Believers. Take the sun from the sky and it’s over. This song was on a compilation called Bands on the Block that Brent Grulke co-produced. I found this record when I first moved to Austin and was staying at Jeff Smith’s apartment while the Hickoids were on tour. The place had no air conditioning and I would just sit in the heat listening to this song on repeat whilst contemplating my new life in a new city, one that Brent would become such a part of.




My longtime colleague and friend, Brent Grulke, passed away on Monday. I found out not long after arriving in London, a city he’d just visited a couple weeks ago, thus my trip to Westminster to recreate this last photo taken of him. I wandered around Big Ben until I finally found the place where the original picture was shot and had a nice think about him all the while feeling how peculiar that he stood here just days ago.

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Brent was the first person I ever met in Austin. I’d traveled down from Dallas in the early winter of 1987 with a Canadian band called 13 Engines. At the time I was a homeless teenager living in Deep Ellum. I’d dropped out of high school recently and was prone to folly like jumping in a van with a bunch of dudes to go check out a new town. Brent was at the show and offered us a place to stay. The next morning he took us all to breakfast, and I had no idea at the time how largely he would figure into my life.

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My funniest Brent story comes from a party that took place about 20 years ago that turned into a bit of a debauched drunken nudie fest. Being the puritan sober person that I am I was a bit shocked and sat there fully clothed watching the fun. At one point a naked Brent parachuted into the pool using a table umbrella. I feel okay telling this story because when I reminded him of it years later he was proud, saying, “I caught air!”

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As colleagues we shared a million nights at the Dog and Duck talking music, philosophizing, and reading the tributes to him online I’m reminded how sincerely enthusiastic he was about any number of subjects. Sadly these are the things I sort of lost seeing in him as the years went on and we spent less time together.

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This past spring, though, we had a good chat at a post-the thing dinner, and I remember feeling how nice it was to share that time. It’s so strange to think he’s gone and stranger still to think that the last Monday I arrived in a major city was Halloween 2011, the day another oldest friend passed away. These events are happening too rapidly and though I welcome reminders to live and to value those we find connections with, it sure would be excellent if these lessons didn’t have to come in such hard ways.

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Brent leaves behind a wife, a son, family, so many good friends and a tried and true Austin legacy.



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