The first time I met Dave Brockie, my friend kicked him in the nuts.
He deserved it, too. It was 1980 and Dave, dressed in a homemade State of Alert T-shirt and sporting perfectly spiked blond hair on his grotesquely large cranium, was aggressively flinging people into a small mosh pit that had formed during a show at the Vienna Community Center. My friend Marcel wasn't having it. While we watched him writhing on the floor in agony, I had no idea that the guy we were looking at would become one of the most influential people in my life.
Since Dave's passing, I've thought of that moment a lot. The experience encapsulates the relationship we had for the next three-plus decades. Not to say that we weren't friends, because we were, but the pattern of our relationship was set on that fateful night. We'd both be into something, Dave would assume self-appointed command of whatever it was and then I'd have to kick him in the nuts.
That scenario defined our working relationship in Gwar. We were both headstrong, Northern Virginia refugees high on punk rock, skateboarding, underground art, the band Kiss and pissing people off. We weren't the kind of people who took kindly to being told what to do.
Though we were in the same band and had the same inspirations and desires, we would bicker and fight over everything. Because of this, it became apparent that he and I probably shouldn't work together. When I quit Gwar in 1987 to pursue my own creative vision with the Alter Natives, I knew Dave would understand, and he did. Like him, I had to be me.
The one thing I have come to admire most about Dave was his passion. His enthusiasm, his unquenchable zeal for living, defined him. Being around him during these manic inspirational moments was like being high on a drug. He could incite people to do just about anything. And he would do anything too. (This is a guy I once saw get totally naked late-night in a club and sing an a cappella version of Bruce Springsteen's "Jungleland" — just one among countless moments of inspired insanity.)
That full-throttle passion was bursting out of him one of the last times we hung out. He'd just fulfilled a lifelong dream to visit Russia, and he couldn't wait to tell me about it. He spent hours talking about the trip as if the fate of the free world depended on it. Thinking about it now brings a smile to my face.
Nobody burned with more intensity than he did.
I will miss the good, the bad and the ugly of him in ways that even now, those closest to him are still having a hard time coming to terms with because he was a man who embodied the very essence of life.
Truth be told, I doubt I will ever get over his own return kick to my nuts. But I can say without reservation, knowing him made me a better person.
Goodbye you magnificent bastard. I will never forget you.
Chris Bopst is a contributor and calendar editor for Style.