Hawthorne Heights’ Loss Proves Life Can Be A Real Jerk, In Bigger Than The Sound

Casey Calvert's impact is undeniable to fans, fellow musicians and our writer.

On The Record: Our Band Could Be Your Life

Sometimes it’s easy to write this column. This is not one of those times.

In all honesty, I really thought about skipping a week, because really, nothing seems appropriate right now, given the fact that I’ve spent three days writing about the death of Hawthorne Heights guitarist Casey Calvert . It’s difficult to be funny or snarky when life won’t let you. Life can be a real jerk when it wants to.

See, Calvert was the first person I’ve interviewed who has died. I didn’t really want to write that last sentence, because it takes the focus away from the people really affected by his passing: his family, his wife, his bandmates and his fans. And normally, an interview subject dying wouldn’t bother me. It’s sort of an unwritten rite of passage among rock journalists, actually. And to be honest, I never really knew Calvert, because no one ever really knows someone they interview — it’s just a completely fake situation set up by publicists and producers, well-lit and filmed for all posterity. But still, I remember him as a sweet guy; he was funny and kind of goofy and when we’d see each other backstage at the Warped Tour, he’d smile and nod. That was about it.

And as such, I’m not really sure why his death bothers me so much. Sure, it was unexpected, unjust (he wasn’t some kid who partied too hard), he died way too young, etc. In fact, on the surface, the whole situation is kind of like what happens when some kid you had algebra class with dies: You’re sad for a bit, maybe you go to the funeral, then you’re done with it.

Except that I’m not. For some reason, this affects me personally. I think part of the reason is because I’ve been speaking nonstop to Calvert’s fellow musicians, guys who shared stages with him and remember him much in the same way I do: funny, lighthearted, kind. In a lot of ways, he was exactly like all of them. To the best of my knowledge, he didn’t drink or do drugs. He liked playing video games and watching DVDs on the tour bus. He had a personal page on Victory Records’ VictorMe site. His death just reminded many of them how precious, fickle and unfair life can be.

And then there are the e-mails I’ve been getting from his fans: sad notes that extolled his virtues both as a person — he was funny, approachable, always willing to talk to people in the parking lot before a show — and as a musician. His guitar playing inspired them to start bands of their own or helped them get through tough times. And, when you think about it, those are probably the two biggest compliments you can pay anyone who picks up an instrument.

That’s all powerful stuff, to be sure, and it moved me and made me realize that Calvert’s death is much more than most of us in the media understand. I don’t think anyone I know would ever argue that Hawthorne Heights are an important band, yet to a whole lot of kids, they were vital and even life-altering. These are phrases loaded with somewhat goofy sentiment, but so what? That doesn’t mean they’re not also true.

But I think the music he made is only half of it. Kids are mourning Calvert because he was exactly like them: passionate about music, funny, a bit cynical. And I think that’s what bothers me most of all about his death. He was just another of those kids, the kind I see packed against the barrier at shows, the kind who can spot a fake a mile away, the kind who buy hoodies and talk sh– about me on AbsolutePunk.net. And that’s why his death bothers me so profoundly. I knew him in the same way I know most of you. When one of us dies, we all die a bit, which is a little bit creepy but also sort of beautiful when you think about it.

And I know that writing this column probably violates all sorts of journalistic principles, but that really doesn’t matter to me right now. A young kid died on the road while following his dreams. I’m way more sad about this than I really should be, and I feel kind of embarrassed because of that. But that’s the way it is. Life can be a real jerk when it wants to.

B-Sides: Other Stories I’m (Half-Heartedly) Following This Week.

Bands react to the news of Casey Calvert’s death. Quiet Riot frontman Kevin DuBrow, 1955-2007.

Questions? Concerns? Hit me at BTTS@MTVStaff.com.