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Monday, Nov. 23, 2009

Remembering Brian Barney

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Brian Barney was the only music writer I’ve worked with that bands requested by name. “Can Brian Barney write an article about us?” countless bands asked me over the years, and it’s easy to see why they wanted Brian to cover them. He wrote about other people’s music with the same enthusiasm and passion he had for his own music—which as anybody who met Brian knows, was considerable.

A popular longtime music writer for the Shepherd Express and Maximum Ink, Brian passed away suddenly of a heart attack last week at age 49. Just the day before his death, he was doing what he loved most, recording music surrounded by his friends in the punk band he fronted, The Buggs. He also drummed in the band Guido’s Racecar, and earlier that week he’d had a long, jovial chat about that group with his friend and band mate Mike Hoffmann.

“We had a long talk about our band’s future, and made in-depth plans for how we could go about achieving it realistically,” Hoffmann recalls. “It was the last conversation we ever had, and it was an awesome one, as they always were.”

The only thing that excited Brian more than music was family, and in that area, too, life had been good to him.

“His grandson just turned 2,” Hoffmann says. “Though he was born prematurely and was in an incubator where it was very touch and go for a while, Brian never once flinched. He said he was going to pull through, and he did. His grandson is awesome, and Brian was very proud of that. He was a rock ’n’ roll grandpa, though you never would have known he was a grandpa to look at him.”

In the days after Brian’s passing, the Shepherd Express’ Web site lit up with comments from some of the many grateful friends and peers Brian left behind.

“He was a simple man who was kind,” recalled Michele Le Claire. “He loved his daughters and grandson deeply. He loved cooking, animals and telling jokes. He showed me unconditional love, friendship, and gave me so much positive energy over the years. The first time I saw him play the drums, I was blown away by his gift. He was a gifted songwriter and vocalist as well. He taught me a lot about music and was always there for me as a friend over the years as our lives changed.”

Other friends mirrored those sentiments, remembering Brian as a happy man grateful for life’s simple pleasures. His frequent band mate Dan Reed recalled their countless hours together “just doing the things great friends do: fishing, singing, plotting, writing songs, playing video games, going to see our favorite band (Oh My God), throwing a football (even though it hurt his shoulder), walking the dog, setting off fireworks, cutting out fliers at Kinko's and cooking good food.”

“He is one of my few best friends,” reflected Jim Jahnke, who played with Brian in an early incarnation of The Buggs. “He always said he learned so much from me, but the truth is the other way around … We played Summerfest four years in a row and felt like rock stars each time.”

That may be what set Brian apart the most. He didn’t just carry himself like a rock star; he made everyone around him feel like one, too.

Linneman’s Riverwest Inn will host a benefit concert for Brian Barney on Saturday, Dec. 5, featuring friends and peers from Brian’s bands, including The Buggs and Guido’s Racecar.

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