The Riff Rag made a temporary comeback to publish a tribute issue for my brother, Chris Forsythe. This is the piece I wrote for that tribute. The issue is out now all over Colorado Springs. You can find locations on their Facebook page. Thanks to Anthony Welch and Kelly Anderson for putting this together.
Nearly every conversation I ever had with Chris involved music in some way, but there is one in particular that sticks out in my mind. I had moved to Arizona a few months prior, and was having difficulty adjusting to the change. I had lived in or near Colorado Springs my entire life. It was not easy to leave my family and friends, particularly for me. Chris would have made buddies within five minutes of his arrival. I had been in Phoenix for more than a quarter of a year and still didn’t know anyone beyond my husband.
Chris called me late one night. We underwent the normal pleasantries, and then we got down to business. Say Anything had just released their …Is a Real Boy album and we were both smitten. We hashed over our favorite tracks. He was partial to “Alive With The Glory Of Love.” I liked “Belt.” For the first time in weeks, I felt like normal. I told him so, and confessed how much I missed home.
A few days later, a package arrived for me. Chris had compiled cd’s of all the best local bands, and labeled them “A Taste of Home.” I listened to Eyes Caught Fire, Mike Stephens, Abracastabya, The Color Insane, The Dub Project, and many others. I cried my eyes out, but I also basked in the connection to a place I loved.
From then on, I would receive a box like that every six months or so. Chris would pack it with the latest releases from my favorite local bands, merch he thought I would like, and vinyl from groups I hadn’t heard of but who had played the Black Sheep and he thought I would enjoy. My kids sported onesies from The Sword, t-shirts from Peelander Z, and hats from Brass Monkey, all courtesy of Uncle Chris. I may have been hundreds of miles away, but he made sure I knew what was happening in Colorado Springs.
Over the last week, I have heard countless stories naming Chris as the heart of the Springs music scene. There was no better person for the job. He played in every venue, from the old Pure Energy with the huge fish tank, to the now defunct Colorado Music Hall, to his second home, The Black Sheep. At one point he lived in the redone Pure Energy, sleeping on a pool table and showering with a hose in the basement. To some that might seem preposterous, but to Chris, that was just part of the lifestyle. He lived and breathed music.
Music was a gift and he wanted to share it with everyone. But he didn’t just hand over a CD and list a favorite song. He wanted each person to experience music on a personal level. After his passing, friends and acquaintances reached out to describe the moments they shared with my brother that mattered to them. A former high school football teammate described Chris taking off his headphones and placing them over this player’s ears to introduce him to Metallica’s One before a game. My tattoo artist told me about Chris giving his son’s band a chance to play on stage, and taking them under his wing as they learned to navigate the ropes of playing gigs. An old friend told me a tale of playing a show at the Black Sheep. His kids were in the audience, and Chris brought them back to the board so they could work the lights.
One of my favorite memories is taking my sons to the Sheep during the afternoon on a day where no bands were scheduled to play. My older son, Liam, was about three years old and a bit of an extrovert. Chris put a microphone on the floor so he could reach it. He played Twisted Sister’s “I Want to Rock” over and over as my son grabbed the mic and sang along. He noticed my younger son, Kellen, was not so outgoing. Chris set up a snare drum in the back of the club where Kellen felt more comfortable, and let him bang away. Chris ran the lights, and my nieces and nephew sang backup. My mom and I served as the adoring crowd. When I told my sons about Chris passing away, Liam said “but now we won’t get to go to the Black Sheep.” In that moment, I knew that day was special for him too.
Chris was in his element on the stage. A friend sent me a photo this week of me watching my brother perform. I am the picture of adoration. I always loved going to his performances because you could just see there was nothing else he would rather be doing. Whether he played for a house of ten or a crowd of a thousand, when he completed his set, you knew he was happy that he had performed.
My brother started his music career in a glam metal band that played party tunes and were out for a good time. Over the years, I have watched him evolve as an artist. He looked at music as a way to share his heart with anyone who would listen. Chris took great pride in his lyrics. If you are unfamiliar with his gravelly vocal style, you might miss his carefully constructed poetry. But he used his words to bare his soul. One of my favorite songs of his is called “NOLA”, an ode to the city he lived in briefly and loved. Reading over his lyrics since his death, it speaks to how I am feeling now.
All the prayers in the world
Could do nothing to stop
The waves from rising up
And swallowing the streets
I once called home
Chris was my home. I have no doubt there are people who knew him better than I did, and understood sides of him that I could not experience. But as his sister, he is the person I have the greatest abundance of shared memories with. We were born only a year apart. Our existences were so intertwined, some days it feels impossible to think of a life without him in it.
My history with my brother is long. As he was the keeper of the music scene, I intend to be the keeper of his memory. But as I stood among hundreds of people at his memorial, I knew I was not the only one who felt assigned to this duty. As I watched the community rally around my family, I felt the impact of my brother’s legacy. A lifelong champion of the local music scene, it was unbelievably poignant to watch an entire culture come together to celebrate not just his memory, but to band together in support for each other. I hope that outpouring fuels the creation of new music, electric energy at shows, and a sentiment of camaraderie among the musicians, venues, and fans.
I keep trying to think of the perfect words to end this tribute, but I was never the one with the quick wit. Chris was the guy that always had a one liner that would have you doubled over in laughter. Chris, my words are a meager attempt to quantify how much you will be missed. I am lucky to have known you as my brother, an artist, and my friend. Rest well. Your memories are safe with me.