I moved to Athens, Georgia a few years after Escuela Caribe, knowing I needed to be surrounded by people compelled to create. Around the same time a group of artists moved here from Ruston, LA. Back home they'd formed bands like the Synthetic Flying Machine and the Gerbils, discovered Daniel Johnson and the Tall Dwarfs on college radio, played at the Fun-o-Mat. They'd established a collective, Elephant 6.
Once they moved to Athens, they formed other bands. The Olivia Tremor Control. Neutral Milk Hotel. Always Red. the Marbles. The Sunshine Fix. Their music became the soundtrack of my generation.
Bill Doss (Synthetic Flying Machine, the Olivia Tremor Control, the Sunshine Fix, Apples in Stereo, etc...) was a leader of the Ruston group. He was one of the last people I saw before I left town for July. We ran into each other on Washington Street, in front of Flicker. He was with Peter Alvanos (Fabulous Bird, Sunshine Fix, etc.), one of the many people Bill inspired.
Elf Power and the Glands had just headlined on the main stage. It was the first hot weekend of summer, all of us were sticky from sweat. Velena and I are were headed for the Manhattan's air-conditioning. I told Bill about an article I wanted to write, how his hometown Ruston had inspired him and his friends to be creative, how our community in Athens had done the same. Bill raised an eyebrow, intrigued. We talked about how more than thirty artists had migrated here from Ruston, how back when we were younger, the Olivias practiced across the street from our house. We made plans to talk this month, when I got back.
I returned home Saturday, missing OTC's Thursday show- 500 plus watched them rock out. Tuesday I outlined the article, preparing Bill's questions. After lunch, my son and I walked down to Vision Video. Jim Hicks met me inside. His face was face flushed, eyes rimmed red. He'd just found out Bill had died. Bill was only 43 years old. He was married. He was at the top of his game, touring with the Apples...The Olivia Tremor Control had reformed. The news sent shock waves through Athens, to fans around the world, devastated friends and family at home.
That night, I rode my longboard for a long time ... no helmet, sandals, listening to my ipod...thinking of how Bill embodied the best of what makes life sweetest, always creating, encouraging those around him to do the same. Occasionally, the cicadas drowned the music out.