There is no me without you. I don't think I ever told you that, but I should have. I mean, you were the guy who—when I was a 20-something idiot writer—I had to look up to. You probably knew that already (you were a genius), but I guess everyone does that futile thing when a friend dies, where they think about what they should've done or said. And even though I won't pretend I knew you as well as some, I knew you, and we saw eye-to-eye.
Even when I was scared to write what I actually thought about a band or when I felt so beaten down by a sea of people who weren't shy about telling me they hated me, I always kind of knew that at least I wasn't the only one who felt what it was like to deal with small-town culture criticism. You were there first, and you affected so much more than just music. See, we all knew you had something special going on even a million years ago, from the minute you walked through the door at Warehouse 21 and told teenaged me and my idiot teenaged friends, "Hey, I'm Rob! I'm the new music writer for Pasatiempo, and I think what you're doing here is really freaking cool, so can we talk about it?"
I'll never forget that.
We'd fought with your predecessor over never paying us attention, and the fact that you reached out before we even knew who the hell you were meant everything. Yeah, it was validation, but it also felt like we finally had an ally who understood that it was actually a big deal that kids were doing anything at all. It was a level of support that didn't go unnoticed. I talked to your brother Scott about this just this morning.
"He was a champion for musicians," he told me. "He found the bands he believed in and really pushed them to do better."
I don't think it was just bands. At least for me, you pushed me to be better without even trying—I wanted to be on your level so badly, so I tried harder. I still push myself to be like you, because how could a writer or music fan ever be as cool as Rob DeWalt? Your "Soundwaves" column taught me (and probably countless other locals) that we could make art, be art, dedicate our lives to art without worrying about the results, so long as we were fucking doing it.
Even years after you unknowingly set me down a path that allowed me to be involved with music on a professional level, you were still that friendly guy who seemed so interested in the art and people around him. After I somehow lucked my way into this job and would get overwhelmed, I knew I could ask you for help or bitch about the particulars. You had this incredible way of commiserating and uplifting—who does that? Most people to whom you complain brush it off, but you knew better than anyone what it was like, and you knew how to make me see it differently, like we were the luckiest people on earth to get paid to write. We really are.
We all knew you cared. Everyone knew. When Max Friedenberg from High Mayhem died, we put together a fundraiser show for his daughter, and you volunteered your services as a chef before we even put out a call for donations. Or there was the night you just happened to hear I was broke and hungry downtown and sent homemade spanakopita for me with your husband, Jason. Who's that good, Rob? Not a lot of people. You brother told me, "Rob was my rock."
And it's been tough. All week people have been asking what happened to you, and I don't know what to tell them. You weren't secretive about your struggles with depression, especially with the videos you made and things you wrote during the It Gets Better campaign a few years back. Even though I think a lot of us knew you were in a great deal of pain, both physical and emotional, I'm pretty sure none of us thought it would come to this.
And we can leave it at that, because I would rather not dwell on misery. I believe it's more important to think about the good you did for the community or the people who loved you so much they can barely begin to process that you're gone. Mikey Baker was just telling me that he'd burned you a copy of Van Halen Live after you had to cancel a trip to see them in Phoenix recently. He said, "I'm still looking at this CD sitting here, and it's just such an intense reminder. … What would I tell him besides, 'Thank you?' … Probably that I wish we'd gotten it together to have that lunch."
There are countless others I could've spoken to about you, and you probably wouldn't believe how many people are hurting right now. Even if you did, you'd probably just try to make sure we were all OK before you worried about yourelf. Regardless, I think I can ultimately sum up how many of us are feeling in the words of Spock (which I know you'd just love): "I have been, and always shall be, your friend."
We miss you terribly and love you very much.
Your idiot friend,
Alex De Vore