It's been about three weeks or so since I last saw the artist known as 'dinnerwithjohn'. Having run into one another at a party, we ended up walking together for a few blocks along 18th street in Pilsen. Having worked together in the past on an array of single and video releases and caught each other at events in the interim between them, we'd established a light-hearted friendship that had lasted a couple years. Whenever I walked into a party and saw John I knew I had someone to talk to, crack jokes with. As we walked down 18th I remember asking about the upcoming full-length, we'd discussed the release of his 'dinnerwithjohn' project, a highly-anticipated one that would complete his artistic evolution from John Walt, started about a year previous.
John was always a hard guy to read. Affable, with a quick smile he often spoke in quick sentences, his tough exterior immediately giving way to an endearing laugh and toothy grin. There seemed to be an extra focus behind his eyes that further juxtaposed his style which often consisted of motocross-inspired pants, apocalypse-era goggles and an assortment of Pelle Pelles and jackets for days. More than anything though, he was just a really good person. To have known him for as briefly as I did, I couldn't honestly recall a bad word or sentiment about the guy. Every time we saw one another laughs soon followed. It's weird he's not here.
Waking up Thursday morning, my phone buzzed off my bed and onto the floor. Wiping the sleep from my eyes, I picked it up, flipped it over in my hand and began to wonder why I had so many texts from friends and colleagues. My stomach dropped immediately: no good news in Chicago comes with that much attention. Scanning through texts inquiring about John, some asking how I was doing, I quickly started piecing the puzzle of what had happened. A few minutes later, a video link appeared and I watched as Kevin Alexander stabbed my friend, client and colleague in the chest before running off. Stupid. There's no better way to describe that situation. Like many instances of violence in Chicago, it just didn't need to happen, didn't do anything for anybody.
When talking about Chicagoans, many around the country and beyond often refer to the fact that we seem to have a chip on our shoulder, a certain sense or understanding that something will probably go wrong before it goes right; we steel ourselves to the bullshit. It's because of moments like this and the hundreds and thousands of families, friends, parents and co-workers who have had to mourn losses in this city year in and year out.
Thursday night at The Metro with NoName and Ravyn Lenae was the closest thing to church in Chicago. With the tight-knit patchwork of artists, managers, well-wishers, friends, colleagues, and the like in attendance with heavy hearts, we collectively watched as the city's finest did their best to begin healing the wounds from Wednesday and digesting a new reality. For their part, Saba and Joseph Chilliams were unforgettable in their ability to persevere, taking the stage alongside NoName who stopped the show for a moment in John's honor.
No one deserves the kind of violence our collective friend and colleague experienced last week. Our city is already hurting too much. John was truly one of the good ones in a city that sometimes isn't always bursting at the seams with positivity. If last Thursday night was any indication, the community that insulates the music here in the middle of the country has proven strong enough to support those within it when needed.
We love you John, Walt, dinnerwithjohn. To everyone at PIVOT and in the greater scene here in Chicago who found themselves affected, myself and TheseDays are here for you all.