In the modern world, news doesn't just travel fast — it travels instantaneously. Even though the 2009 Outside Lands Festival is set in an idyllic portion of San Francisco's Golden Gate Park — among trees and wildlife seemingly far away from the hustle of modern life — the news of the untimely passing of Adam Goldstein — aka DJ AM — spread quickly throughout the festival grounds via Twitter, text and good old-fashioned word-of-mouth. What had been a carefree day full of great music and good San Franciscan vibes took on a darker tenor as people became aware of the news. It seemed like everybody backstage had some sort of connection to him. Every one of the musicians, publicists, band managers and other journalists seemed to have some sort of AM story: A party where they saw him play, a friend of a friend who worked with him, the time he was eating a burrito at Baja Fresh.
Tributes quickly cropped up, as rapper Q-Tip dedicated his late-afternoon set to AM, and one local radio station talked at length about his impact on them (one of the hosts even suggested that AM was the reason he wanted to become a DJ). In a strange way, the news brought people together in a way that hadn't been there for most of the afternoon. While fans wandered around from stage to stage, they now suddenly had a unique connection and a need to spread the news — and the fond remembrances — around to each other. An awful lot is always made about music festivals acting as a way to bring people together, and I've always laughed at that idea. But seeing all sorts of people from all parts of the human spectrum react to the tragic passing of a collaborator, colleague and friend, it suddenly made sense. We're more alike than we know, and sometimes it takes a tragedy to remind us.