The strangest thing about being at the Black Sheep on Monday, Oct. 19, was how I kept thinking I saw Chris Forsythe just out of the corner of my eye.
It would be easy for the eye to play tricks in the crowd that assembled to celebrate Chris' life that night; while people came and went, the Black Sheep's interior consistently held about 500, with an additional 150 out in the parking lot. The food donated by Oscar's and Noodles & Company was devoured in short order, and all proceeds from the beer (generously donated, along with staffing of the bar, by Union Station/Peak 31) resulted in over $4,600 being raised for the Forsythe family that night. That complements the more than $13,000 raised via the Chris Forsythe Memorial Fund as of last Friday afternoon. (You can still donate at gofundme.com/5f6e3qxw.)
The size and diversity of the crowd provided a testament to the musician and soundman's wide influence in the Colorado Springs music community, as well as to the deep affection and respect he inspired. The photo slideshow curated by Raymond Bailey, which showed candid shots of Chris that spanned from childhood to his time fronting bands such as Malakai, Tree of Woe, Brass Monkey, Gripped, Godless Promise Mechanism, Erased, Evil Genius, and Seven Year Coma — just to name a few — inspired repeated cheers and enthusiastic devil horns. When the backing music failed to play properly, one of the more bittersweet jokes of the evening was born: "Hey, where's the sound guy?"
Black Sheep general manager Jeremy Grobsmith was delighted by the turnout.
"There are so many incredible memories that I have with Chris," he says. "I've spent the last 13 years of my life working with him at 32 Bleu and the Sheep. There isn't a thing he wouldn't do for his friends and family, and I like to think the staff at Sheep was a part of that family.
"My favorite time spent with Chris was laughing. Stupid videos on the Internet, joking about life and music, hanging out at events, having band practice, listening to records. We had a New Year's Eve party in 2007, and Chris and I watched videos from my first band playing [now-defunct venue] Pure Energy, where he ran sound and mixed my shows when I was a teenager. I remember as we watched, he said, 'Damn, Jerm, we're lifers. You've been down since back in the day.' It gave me such a sense of pride that he accepted me into a music community that he had helped build."
As the hundreds poured in to celebrate Forsythe's 42 years, the evening was filled with reunions of old friends and familiar faces, swapping memories and stories and showing off new "Sizzle" tattoos while fireworks were released in the parking lot.
"We used to refer to his entire family as the Forsizzles," says Grobsmith, explaining the origin of Chris' nickname. "It then morphed into the Sizzles, with Chris being 'Big Sizz.' Last year, when we had the first Suicide Girls show, one of the dancers came up to the stage where Chris and I were sitting, and said, 'I'm looking for The Sizzler, do you know where he is?' Both of us died laughing, and so the last year I had called him 'The Sizzler.'"
Among other anecdotes overheard among friends and acquaintances:
• "We met in 1993, at the old downtown location of Pure Energy. At the time, he was living under the bar, and he'd emerge at night, sling beers, and come hassle everyone."
• "Chris always gave me tapes of any new band he'd think I'd like."
• "When my band first played here, the sound was . . . OK. And that was great, because we sucked."
• "I remember once I was absentmindedly drawing a doodle at a party, and Chris asked if he could keep it. Two years later, he brought it up and said he still had it up on his fridge."
I don't mean to imply anything supernatural, or even to suggest there's a greater truth to be inferred by the many times I thought I saw Chris or expected to hear that familiar, raspy voice at the Black Sheep that night. It simply speaks to how strange his absence still feels. Grobsmith perhaps puts it best:
"There is hardly one musician in this town who hasn't had Chris at the helm of their show, watched him play in his numerous bands, hung out with him while watching a show, et cetera. When we'd be stuck at work while he was off playing at the Nickel or Zodiac, he'd always come in the next day and tell us that the show was 'legendary,' and that it 'went off.' I enjoy that he felt that way about nearly every show he played. Chris' impact on our music scene will be everlasting, and he will be sorely missed at every turn."
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