“You sound like Ben Weasel when you sing. From Screeching Weasel? They’re a punk band.” This was the nicest thing anyone had ever said to me after I played a show, and it came from someone who had, no less than three days earlier, told me that my music made him wish he didn’t have ears—Blaine Baker. It wasn’t that Blaine roamed the streets being a jerk to people for no good reason, it was more that he was the type of guy who didn’t pull any punches.
More than a few times, I was involved in group conversations with Blaine and heard him tell people exactly why he hated their music. Surprise, surprise…I respected this. And it wasn’t just because I don’t see a point in pointlessly singing the praises of music simply because it was produced by someone you know; it was also because Blaine had somehow reached a status that allowed him to say these things to people and not upset them. Everyone, regardless of their feelings toward the man, recognized that he was willing to stand by his opinions, and that is admirable.
It’s been just about a week since Blaine killed himself in New York City, and as I write this, I’m just coming home from a gathering of those who loved him. It was a lovely evening full of tears and laughter and, like Blaine, nobody pulled any punches in reminiscing. As one former Warehouse 21 promoter put it, “[Blaine and I] went from not really liking each other to really not liking each other and almost coming to vicious blows, then back to not really liking each other…but he wound up being one of the best friends I ever had.”
This was kind of Blaine’s super-power.
I think many of us had a similar, “Who the hell does this guy think he is!?” reaction upon first meeting him, and yet he grew into such a major part of our lives, whether or not we even realized it—especially W21 alumni. Even for those within my peer group who hadn’t spoken to him in years, there is no denying that Blaine was a constant during our formative teen years, and the news is tragic.
I first met Blaine while working for Shakespeare in Santa Fe 16 years ago (so weird to say). One night, he showed up for a performance, and was ever after just kind of part of my life. Like, a lot. Whether it was at Warehouse 21—where he helped write the book on how the nonprofit teen arts center puts on shows to this day—through the countless punk, metal, rock and emo shows he booked and promoted there; or as the longtime boyfriend of one of my oldest and dearest friends, Blaine was a fixture of the local music scene. He helped shape the legendary years when all-ages shows in Santa Fe were the stuff of dreams and could stand up against the very best the bars had to offer and leave them in the dust.
As many of us aged and let our youthful punk-rock ideals fall by the wayside, Blaine held strong the concepts and ethics of DIY. You could find him at W21 silk-screening band
T-shirts for tours at all hours or, in one case, hopping into the van with post-rock trio The Battle’s End at the last second for an extensive US tour.
“I’m in disbelief,” Warehouse 21 Executive Director Ana Gallegos y Reinhardt says. “Blaine had too much light around him to be gone so soon…I see a photo of him and it’s like he’s still here.”
For those who lived and breathed local music alongside Blaine Baker in the late ’90s and early 2000s, I’m sorry for your loss. And for everyone reading this, I urge you to love your friends as hard as you can. It’s important.