Evan Chronister's name might not sound familiar to the average participant in the DFW music scene. He didn't play in a band. He didn't put on shows or put out records. He occasionally manned the turntables for the Lollipop Shoppe DJ night and would always create a stack of free mix CDs for it. But when word of his death was traded over texts and Facebook posts on Monday night, many hearts broke. And those hearts weren't just people who live around here.
Chronister was in his early 50s and had lived in the Dallas area for most of his life. A manager for a handful of McDonald's locations, he spent a lot of his free time doing music-related things. Whether it was working on old stereo systems, ordering rare vinyl or downloading MP3s, the guy lived and breathed music.
He was an avid blogger under the alias of Captain Groovy, always in search of new music. He would frequently post incredibly obscure music from around the world on his blog, Static Encounters. He was a fan of music, from the simplest kind of pop to the most extremely patience-testing sounds out there. He was a walking encyclopedia about techno and noise rock, but also '60s pop, '70s hard rock and '80s new wave. He amassed friends all over the country, as well as the world, with his knowledge.
Locally, if you ever shopped at Good Records, you probably heard his thick Southern accent and very precise wording, talking shop with its employees. He frequented the Greenville Avenue staple and was a friendly face to its staff. You couldn't have a brief conversation with him, as there would be no shortage of topics, records or trends to detour into. For example, in the past few years, with the exploding popularity of vinyl reissues, he was very particular about the new vinyl he collected. Since he remembered when vinyl was the dominant format and how it sounded back then, you were in for an earful on the topic of vinyl remasters that were a ripoff to the customer.
(Sadly, as it turns out, he was en route to a Good in-store featuring the Pains of Being Pure at Heart when he crashed his beloved scooter and died instantly of severe head trauma.)
While he could come across as arrogant and prickly, he balanced that with a sense of sincerity. He might have boasted about the possibility of buying a $10,000 turntable, but he wouldn't make fun of you if you had a $100 turntable from Target.
Chronister was the ultimate blend of an older brother, a trusted record store clerk and a music critic who'd seen the various cycles of music trends over a handful of decades. Many friends of his would consult his opinion first on where to start with a band's massive back catalog. He'd tell it to you straight, but not like Jack Black's character in High Fidelity. He would present you with a map and let you choose your own trail.
Chronister was happy, living a financially secure life that afforded him toys he couldn't have as a record store employee. He never married or had children -- life events many consider keys to happiness -- but he never seemed to regret that decision. He had his circle of friends and former girlfriends and didn't pine for having more than that.
When word spread about his death, friends gathered at the Single Wide to console and comfort one another. DJs like Marcos Prado from the Smoke, Lisa Bush from Wild in the Streets and Gabe Mendoza from Away from the Numbers, along with jack-of-all-trades (and Observer contributor) Wanz Dover, guitarist Darin Robinson from Punk Rock Karaoke and At Night's Cameron MacPhie all shared a sense of disbelief and sadness. Jimmy Holcomb, a regular at the Smoke and Lollipop Shoppe, remembered when Chronister worked at long-gone Metamorphosis Records back in the late '70s. For them, just trying to wrap one's head around the death of a hero/father figure was difficult and raw.
As shared with those friends, as well as posts on Chronister's Facebook timeline, the topic of how Chronister loved to share music was brought up. If you were looking for an out-of-print Scott Walker record from the early '70s, he'd try to find it for you. If you wanted Genesis' first seven studio albums, he'd hook you up with them as well as live records. And he'd even try to track down new records right as they leaked onto the Internet.
Whatever the artist was, you didn't have to worry about any judgment coming from his mouth about your taste in music. He didn't blink if you shared how much you loved Killswitch Engage or the Bee Gees. He saw the love of music as a lifetime passion, not something that could push you into a category with armchair sociologists.
He saw a lot of shows. The kinds of shows you could brag about for the rest of your life. While he did tote a line of "You had to be there," he had a great way of describing the visceral and physical experience. When he talked about seeing Hüsker Dü, the Misfits or Echo and the Bunnymen, he would frame his story like you were there. From describing the condensation streaming down the walls to how loud the band played, you got a great sense of what you missed because you were too young or unaware to understand the importance and greatness of bands like that.
I met Evan through blogging before I met him in real life. He'd leave the occasional comment on my blog and the comments were usually pretty spot-on. Eventually I met him at a Lollipop Shoppe one night and he struck me as being a rare kind of person. He wasn't trying to impress me with his musical knowledge. He'd share stories in vivid detail, but he would give me the floor and let me answer, too.
Of those conversations he and I shared, I'm forever grateful for the lengthy interview we did back in 2012. In advance of Rush's show at the American Airlines Center, I sat down with him at his apartment and he went on and on about his experiences seeing Rush over the years. I had known him for a handful of years at that point, but I never knew he was such a Rush fan. The guy usually talked about Hawkwind at length, but never about Rush, until I hit the record button.
Dallas lost one of its most-opinionated and well-spoken advocates on Monday night. Chronister will not be forgotten by those he affected, whether it was someone who DJ'd with him or overheard a lengthy conversation in a record store. His physical presence will be missed, and his personality will stay with those who knew him for the rest of our lives.
A HARD DAY'S NIGHT will play a public memorial for Evan Chronister with DJ sets from Patricia Rodriguez, Gabe Mendoza, Lisa Bush and others at 1 p.m. on Sunday, November 16, at Lee Harvey's, 1807 Gould St. Free.
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