Going Thru Michael's CD Collection

Last summer my friend Michael Blair passed away. I met Michael several years ago at a show via a mutual friend; I think we were watching Far at Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco, during the Noise Pop festival.  We chatted a bit about bands and such, but nothing substantial (though it was clear we both liked a lot of the same bands).  I kept running into Michael (via the same mutual friend) at show after show. Refused at The Warfield, The Promise Ring at Fillmore, Texas Is The Reason / The Jealous Sound at Bimbo’s and on and on.

At every show we’d talk about bands, both of us sharing an obvious love for 90’s post hardcore (though he didn’t like Quicksand…I never got more details from him on why).  

When we were at The Warfield to watch Refused (their first shows in over a decade), Michael was firmly planted in a spot, waiting for the band and seemed dead-set on staying right there until the end of the night. Jokingly, our friend Jennifer said “what if you need a drink? or to use the bathroom?”.  Michael instantly replied “I’ve been waiting fourteen years for this, I’ll hold it and I don’t need a beer”.  

Coincidentally I was standing near the bar and volunteered to buy a round of beverages for us. There was some confusion and I thought Michael and the girl behind him a) were dating — they were not, and b) asked to share a beer — they didn’t. Oops, sorry for the forced awkward moment there, gang.

Refused came on, and in what I would learn is true Michael fashion at shows, he began dancing. Not slam-dancing in a pit, not just the typical head-bob that a lot of us do, but actual dancing — he’d sing every word, and had a huge smile on his face all night.  

Something told me I should make a more conscious effort to reach out to him more often and see if we can become better friends. I added him to my annual “Holiday Mix CD” list.  I’d ping him whenever I was coming to SF to see a band.  Often he was already planning to be there.  

Over the next few years I began chatting with Michael more via Facebook, playing Words With Friends, and of course running into him at more shows.  We talked about the music magazine he used to publish (I was asking his advice on doing something similar).  We talked about bands, travel, interviewing artists.  

A month ago, Michael’s mom asked me to help go thru his music collection, to figure what’s what, if anything was valuable and worth selling, etc.  Last month I drove out to her place; we spent a few hours going thru everything and talking about Michael, sharing stories, and figuring out a game plan for his belongings.

As both a music nerd and friend of Michael’s (whom, admittedly, didn’t know him until just a few years ago), it’s been a fascinating experience going thru the CD collection…

Michael’s preference was punk/emo/hardcore music. Most of the collection is 90’s era punk/indie/hardcore/emo CDs, pretty much nothing more recent than 1999 or 2000, presumably when he switched to all digital purchases.

Michael was truly a FAN of the genre. All the standard discs you’d expect are there (Sunny Day Real Estate, Alkaline Trio, Jimmy Eat World).  But it doesn’t stop there - bands Michael liked, he REALLY liked.  A dozen Belle & Sebastian albums; six Cave In discs; all the “promo singles” for Far’s first major label album; various promos, various rare albums, first pressings.

The collection is truly impressive.  

And there are the occasional presumably “guilty pleasure” CDs — a few Billboard greatest hits compilations, exactly ONE Depeche Mode Album: Violator. Clearly I was not doing my job explaining to him why Depeche Mode is the greatest band of all time.

My favorite part is seeing the truly indie, lesser known bands that Michael obviously loved.  The Grey AM were on a couple compilations I’ve found over the years, but I don’t think of them as one of the “bigger” bands from that scene; Michael owns multiple Grey AM albums.  There’s a CD titled “Where Fear And Weapons Meet” — he’s got about a half-dozen copies of it.

There is one CD from Bureau of the Glorious, an older, very obscure band from Sacramento/Davis that existed during the early 90’s.  No other unsigned Sacramento bands in the collection, just that one.  My assumption is they opened for Far at some point and Michael bought the disc.  Still, it was a very “what the hell?!” moment stumbling across that one.

The more I dug, the more conversations I saw that Michael and I could have had.

There are lots of people that say the “like music a lot”. It’s rare that someone’s collection supports that statement. Even more rare that said person goes to shows regularly, and dances at every show, and clearly has a passion for music to this degree.

Michael was one of those people.  

His friends and family will miss him, and so will the music community that he so clearly supported for many years.

Most of his CD’s are still for sale over here. All the money is going to an elementary school in San Francisco that Michael was passionate about supporting.  Please consider purchasing something to support the cause. People between Sacramento and SF, no need to pay for postage. I’m in both towns enough that we can coordinate a hand-off in person if that’s easier.

Thanks for listening.