A row of candles propped the door open, lighting the entryway, flickering the words “4 OLAN.”
On Friday, Oct. 15, just a day before the show, Olan Martin died. Martin was a loyal member of the punk rock, hardcore and metal scenes since age 13, gone at the much-too-young age of 19.
“I woke up to find one of my friends had taken his own life,” wrote Cashing In guitarist Sean Cole Silagy before posting a snippet of himself playing a piano version of “You’re not Alone” by Saosin on Facebook. “I won’t make this super long and dragged out as there are many things I’d love to say on the subject of mental health — but I’m hurting on the inside deeply, today … I feel so awful. Because I just wish I could’ve helped in some way.”
At the age of 17, Martin and his friends formed the hardcore band The Kinky Bastards, realizing a dream he had shared with his close friend and bass player Zane Daniel.
“I’m very lucky to have known Olan at such a young age, so I could watch him grow up and do so many great things,” Daniel tells the Observer. “I remember how stoked he was when I took him to his first hardcore show — Turnstile — and from there, it seemed like an addiction for him.
"Playing in The Kinky Bastards with him felt like a full circle in our life, after years of talking about doing a band together — which is actually how we became friends — we finally had a band. This kid was like my little brother, and I’m so proud of all the good he did in this world. I’m glad that the light outlives the star.”
Martin’s presence at hardcore shows was felt, both physically and emotionally, by fans, bands and photographers alike. Martin had a reputation for being the hardest mosher and highest stage-diver with the best style, and his enthusiasm for music was so contagious that everyone from the back of the stage to the back of the audience was infected by it.
“Such a bright and shining light in the world and this scene,” Dallas death metal band Frozen Soul wrote in a statement on Facebook. “We will miss seeing you at every single fucking show going so hard making every band feel special. Thank you for giving us and so many others every ounce of your support and most importantly thank you for being part of our family.”
Punk and hardcore bands accustomed to seeing Martin at shows throughout the years immediately felt an absence in the scene Martin loved — and in which he loved to stir the pot.
“Olan was a force to be reckoned with,” former Blot Out, current Hard Detox vocalist Zach Abrego says. “He knew how to get the crowd moving, and if the crowd wasn't moving, he would be the guy thrashing full force by himself, not a care in the world, besides causing some chaos in the pit, of course. His passion for music and fierce energy at every show is something that is extremely rare, and, well, completely unique, really. We are all going to miss him.”
When off the stage, his style of moshing caught the keen eye of music photographer Vera “Velma” Hernandez.
“I have never seen anybody match his energy, ever," Hernandez remembers. "Even if he got kicked out of venues, you'd find him minutes later jumping off the stage, or off of people into the crowd. He'd get this certain look when he was about to go off, but nobody could ever stay mad at it. Olan would get the crowd going mental; it was amazing.”
Three Links owner Scott Beggs remembers watching Martin grow up in the Deep Ellum punk rock venue establishment, and he looked forward to seeing more of what he would contribute to the scene as a fan, a frontman and a producer.
"I feel like we've watched Olan grow from a child to a young man at Three Links," Beggs says. "He always impressed me that he knew the lyrics to some of my favorite bands better than I did. And he never got tired of stage diving even when some in the crowd might have. Of course, as he moved more into the hardcore scene he would make fun of some of those bands he was singing along with a couple years before, but who of us haven't as we grew in the scene?
"But then he began to form his own bands and produce his own shows, and I was looking forward to what he would bring our scene and the city as he continued to grow. He was on course to really make a difference and that's what hurts the most about this."
While Martin’s show antics were already the stuff of legend, his frenzied, socially conscious work as the frontman for The Kinky Bastards caught the attention of music writer and Morocco drummer Forrest Cook, who wrote a review of the band’s demo release Are You Kinky?
“He was making big waves in our small pond,” Cook says. “So much so that even some of us older cats would piggyback on the jokes he was making. The kid was literally the talk of the town at times. He was definitely one of the cool kids, and I hate to see that he lost the battle with his own mind. The hardcore/punk rock community lost someone special the other day.”
Martin’s passion for music had a national reach. As news of his death spread in the same online communities in which he was active, tributes poured in from punk scenes from around the country. His longtime online friend, Grey Gordon from Fort Wayne, Indiana, finally got to meet Martin just recently at Convulse Fest in Denver.
“I was lucky enough to meet Olan in person last weekend at a punk music festival after being acquainted on the internet for some time via a shared love of music,” Gordon says. “He embodied the sort of wide-eyed enthusiasm for hardcore punk that so many of us age out of and desperately want to recapture. He radiated an effusive eagerness and zeal that was genuinely inspiring to be around. … It was clear that he still had so much to offer the world and so much left to experience, and the fact that he won’t get that opportunity is inarticulably tragic.
“I think the fact that he’s not here to see [the outpouring of love and support] is the hardest part of this whole thing.”