Mission of Burma was playing the new ICA some years back. You know, the bastion of culture? And what kind of beer did they have for us backstage? You guessed it: Bud. I repeat: Bud. I am a beer bigot and I was utterly distraught. WTF? ICA giving us Bud? I had no idea how I was going to resolve the problem, and, agitated, I burst out of the dressing room door just as Billy burst up the backstage stairs. “Here, Roger!” he announced. And, like a blazing ray of light from above, he handed me a paper bag with two hyper-esoteric beers: one from Lithuania and one from Macedonia. The gig was saved.
I am a performer — my performances last an hour or two. I perform 60-plus shows a year. I’ve done this for a long time. Yet every day, every moment of the day, was a performance for Billy. He was always on, even when he was down. He was always performing. For me to perform that much, I’d have to live to be at least 5000 years old. Basically, Billy whupped my ass. His wild heartfelt lunacy and genuine goodness will be sorely, sorely missed.
DRUG RUG: I don’t think I ever met anyone who cared as much as Billy. He cared about all of the little details: the lyrics to an obscure song written by a musician no one had ever heard of . . . A slip of conversation had in passing, about a band or show from years and years ago . . . The way some unknown young artist could turn a phrase into something unexpected . . . He was open to it; it reached him and he wanted to share that feeling with us. The way he saw things was different. He was stream of consciousness, every second turning his impressions and his love for music into pure, uninhibited, joyful energy. In this sense, he was a living example of the potential we all have to be our most honest selves. Life in the moment, to be grasped, violently kissed, and loudly encored.
Caring about the details is also a nice way of saying that Billy tended to obsess. I don’t think he would like me saying that, and he never would have listened if I had, but now I’m able to get a word in edgewise, Billy. And following in the grand tradition you had of speaking your mind, I say to you, “Hey man, you gotta know when to just chill out!”
And you know what, Billy? Now you are free! On this unseasonably warm fall night, one of your favorites, Nina Violet, is playing down the street, your friends are all gathering to share happy memories of you, candles are flickering in the jack-o-lanterns, and the world is yours now. Its all love, my friend, and you are a part of it. Know that we will miss you, and as you exit this stage, we are clapping and dancing, and wildly applauding, just for you.