by J. Maggio
My first memory of Jamie Garvey was when I kicked him out of a punk show at the old Common Grounds for drinking under age.
Even as I kicked him out he still was smiling and laughing. His laugh was almost a kind of hiccup, a punctuation mark on his various quips and profanities.
I was working the door that night, and after a few minutes he came back with a sly smile. He pulled up his sagging shorts, and wiped sweat off his torn Asssuck t-shirt. As he sat on the window ledge, he just laughed again and said: “hey, can we agree we were both assholes and that you should let me back in the show?”
The only thing I could do was smile. We chatted for a few minutes about bands, hip hop shows, Taco Bell and various other things. He told me he heard a little Chuck D in both Levon Helm and Elvis Costello. I remember thinking that this was such a brilliant and audacious claim. Eventually he charmed me into letting him back in. That was Jamie: When you didn’t want to kick his ass, you wanted to help him out.
Jamie was uncompromising in almost every way. He categorically would not compromise—socially, emotionally, stylistically, musically. Every tear in his t-shirt represented another scar in his battle to stay “true.” Jamie created a façade that was abrasive, hyperactive and often difficult to muddle through. Yet his passion was tied to a belief that we all can be better, purer, greater, and more honest. It made him fiercely loyal and energetically determined.
Jamie was simultaneously self-righteous and humble. He had the passion of a zealot and the insecurity of a Zelig. He was always getting kicked out and charming his way back in. If Jamie Garvey hadn’t existed someone would have had to create him, or write him. Completely disturbing, challenging, hysterical, provocative and purposeful. He just had to be. Jamie’s laugh alone was a statement of purpose.
It is also important to remember that Jamie did stuff. He did lots of stuff.
Jamie was The Scapegoat. Rachel Shorr noted with concision: “Jamie was a real ass mofo, always stood up for what he believed in.” Jamie rode his skateboard and played in bands. He helped out at local collectives and organizations. He booked shows, he put out records by other peoples’ bands. He went to shows, lots of shows. He worked slapdash crappy jobs to cover the covers. Jamie strove to make Gainesville a better place to be, a better place to create — a community that looked itself hard in the eye and pulled no punches.
Over the last decade he fronted the hip-hop act Scum of the Earth with his good friend Bobby aka DJ Wax Atom. With Scum of the Earth, Jamie developed into an extremely confident emcee. The contour of his voice allowed his rapping to be both entertaining and subtly mature.
Kelly D’Elia remembers, “When he first started rapping I was really floored. It was the perfect medium for him, for how fast his mind worked and how big his attitude was. He had so much to say. And he did.” Though Jamie loved hip-hop and his hip-hop records, he was always skeptical — to put it mildly — of the hip-hop “scene” and of up-and-coming acts. He consciously tried to inject a punk rock ethos, as he understood it, into his shows. He sometimes failed and pissed people off. He would have it no other way.
This is not the place to comment or to speculate about what caused this tragedy. We all know — and Jamie knew — that we can do better. The cracks in the system now seem cavernous. Let’s not focus on that right now. That is for later.
Let’s remember Jamie the friend, Jamie the punk, and Jamie the madman. He was complex. He was deep, probably a little too deep for this world. I am certain Jamie would laugh at all these words and say it was mostly nonsense. But, even as he was dismissing it, his laugh would acknowledge that, really, he understood. Again, it was that laugh: His laugh implied it all.
Just thinking that we will never hear that laugh again makes many of us hurt inside. Yet the memory of that laugh has to sustain us, to help us say goodbye. And even though it hurts, we can honestly say: Jamie Garvey was here.
He changed things. He lived. Jamie Garvey mattered.