The short, beautiful life of Alyssa Baye

We read the obits at our house, because we’re at the age where we find our friends and acquaintances featured there with increasing frequency. My wife asked me the other night “did you know Alyssa Baye? It says she was a music fan and liked that Dead Larry.”

I didn’t know Alyssa personally. I have seen her out at shows, and remembered her for her incandescent smile and enthusiasm. But reading her obituary and checking her Facebook Page gives me a vivid mental picture of the kind of person she must have been.

She was the #1 fan of her boyfriend Joe Scarpelino’s band Dead Larry. I can only imagine how difficult it is for Joe and the band to carry on performing without her there, and yet I bet it’s exactly what she’d want them to do. My heart goes out to Joe and the band.

According to her obit, she survived a heart transplant at the age of 12, and since then “lived each day to the fullest, and never took life for granted.” That may sound trite, but if you page through the photos on her facebook page, you can see her doing just that.

Alyssa’s story got me thinking about the community of people who go to shows. If you go out to hear live music in Iowa City you see a lot of the same faces. By my unscientific calculations there are at most 500 to a thousand people out in Iowa City to hear live music on any given night. Most of the people who live in Iowa City don’t bother, and couldn’t name a single local band.

If you are amongst the people willing to go down to the Mill on Tuesday Night, or White Lightning Wherehouse on a Sunday Night, you really are part of small community. You probably know a lot of people by face, and some to say ‘hi’ to, but you might never learn their names. On the one hand, that is a shallow sort of friendship — you’re not sharing secrets, or watching their cat while they’re out of town, or meeting their families. On the other hand, you’re part of a community for which sharing the experience of live music is a crucial, meaningful part of your life. Music matters, the people in the audience matters.

Alyssa was a part of our little family of music fans — a memorable and unique member, who, if there is an afterlife, is probably regretting all the shows she’s going to miss. Reading about her makes me really regret never having walked up and introduced myself, and makes me think that I should do that more often to all the great folks who do musicians in Iowa City the great honor of showing up. Like Archy Tuttle says in Brazil,, “we’re all in this together.”

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