Beloved local musician, bartender, booking agent, friend and man on the scene in Houston’s tight-knit punk circles, Chris LaForge was known by many. So when he unexpectedly passed away from a stroke this past May while attending the Punk Rock Bowling Festival in Las Vegas, shock and sadness abounded throughout the local music community.
While friends and family were struggling to work through their grief, LaForge's friend and fellow musician Bill Greer — of Born Liars and many other bands — had an idea for a memorial show that would help raise funds for LaForge’s family and alleviate the burdening hospital debt resulting from his passing.
That idea has since turned into a weekend memorial event that will cover multiple venues, stages and feature more than a dozen bands. Greer explains that the idea came almost immediately after hearing the sad news of LaForge’s stroke.
“I sent messages to Christian Larson from White Oak Music Hall telling him the [news]," recounts Greer. "He immediately said, ‘Let's do a show for him at White Oak.’ When I [told] Rubio [Cisneros, bassist of 30footFALL] he brought up Warehouse Live and had started putting the idea together too. So [we] got to work before he passed and started putting the logistics together.”
A colossal undertaking, yet Greer had no doubts that the memorial event was absolutely necessary. The way he sees it, the event will serve two needs. “First and foremost, the events are for the scene," he says. "Over the last few years we have lost so many musicians and superfans. Losing Chris was a final straw.
“Second is for [LaForge’s] daughter, Ivy," Greer continues. "The money is there for her in case it's ever needed. We can help [the family] say goodbye this weekend as a group of friends.”
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LaForge's longtime bandmate, friend and 30footFALL front man Butch Klotz elaborates on the importance of raising money for LaForge’s family. “Because Chris was out of town when this happened and like many musicians [who have] no insurance, there are medical bills to be paid," he says. "Also, his family flew out there for the entirety of the ordeal. The money raised will go to them to help cover these costs.”
As for the future of LaForge’s best-known band, 30footFALL, Klotz promises very little will change, including their annual Xmas show. “Right now we're having a single mixed for us by Brian Baker at Sound Arts Studio, a song we've been playing for a couple of years called 'Champion Song,'” he says.
“We have enough songs for an album and we have all of Chris's guitar parts from his computer," Klotz explains. "So when this album comes out it will feature Chris LaForge. We are very excited about it, and he was very proud of these songs. We plan to continue playing. We have plans for Christmas. We don't have plans for stopping.”
Yet for Klotz, the grief remains. In recent years, he and LaForge grew closer and many nights, LaForge found himself crashing on the Klotz family couch.
“He spent the night at my house often, especially after he decided he didn't want to work [an] 8-to-5 and it became challenging to hold down a rented room," says the singer. ”He only wanted to play music and record, and as I understand his love [for music], working a job that did nothing for him spiritually was only an interference. He wanted to be the best he can be as a musician, and that was the most important thing to him.”
Klotz remarks on how he’s dealt with the death of his close friend and what that means for 30footFALL. “I can't even tell at this point how has the [music] scene [has] changed," he says. "My front porch has changed. My couch has changed. The practice space and the way I hear songs on the radio, the records that I play have changed. We miss him. And because of the way our lives have been woven into the places we go here in our hometown there is something of Chris LaForge everywhere.”
The care and concern showed by LaForge’s friends is genuine. Most who knew LaForge described him as a loyal, hard-working musician who was willing to help anyone in the musical community. This weekend's memorial is a way of remembering a friend in a communal way as well as helping those he most cared about.
LaForge was involved in dozens of bands over his lifetime and local musicians are still feeling the pangs of separation after his tragic departure. Local indie zine Noth Zine's latest edition even features an article about the many contributions LaForge made to Houston music.
Greer is confident this weekend’s festivities will honor LaForge’s memory for years to come. “Chris was in so many bands.” he explains, “From the second people heard I was taking command of these shows, people from all over the world have been in contact wanting to play, help or be at the shows. To list them all would take days.
"The guy was a one in million," adds Greer. "I had to sadly tell some bands that we didn't have room to fit them. No one has complained about a thing and no band cancelled out. A show this big always has headaches but so far there has been none. The scene is acting like a scene again. It's refreshing and I think Chris would enjoy the fact that this is coming together so well. He will be remembered.”
Klotz agrees the response from the local music community has been extremely positive and supportive. “I'm very proud of and grateful to the Houston music scene for reaching out and coming together," he says. "I've never had so many hugs and had people tell me, 'I love you.'”
When asked what he wants the world to remember about his friend LaForge, Klotz offers, “Chris LaForge was a good-hearted person, a hilarious Joker, a loyal friend, and a real lover of music. He was never happier than when playing a show and shredding on his guitar. When you remember Chris, please think about him smiling, on a stage with all his friends, everything cranked to 11.”
If you'd like to donate but can't attend this weekend, please visit the GoFundMe established by Rubio Cisneros in honor of Chris LaForge.
CHRIS LAFORGE MEMORIAL, DAY 1
August 25, Warehouse Live ($15; 5:30 p.m. doors)
6:30 p.m. Feels Like Murder
7:15 p.m. Trukstop Assassins
8:15 p.m. Tread
9:15 p.m. Baron Von Bomblast
10:15 p.m. Hells Engine
11:15 p.m. Supergrave
7 p.m. Khobretti
8 p.m. Skeleton Dick
9 p.m. Commie Hilfiger
10 p.m. Latch Key Kids
11 p.m. Junkies Runnin' Dry
7:30 p.m. Patterns
8:30 p.m. Nick Gaitan
9:30 p.m. Taste of Garlic
10:30 p.m. Eyeagainst
11:30 p.m. Tsunami Bomb
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August 26, White Oak Music Hall ($15; 7 p.m. doors)
7:15 p.m. The Cops
8 p.m. Bayou Vimana
8:45 p.m. Venomous Maximus
9:30 p.m. Bickley
10:15 p.m. Los Skarnales
11 p.m. 30footFALL
August 27, Rudyard's (Free; 3 p.m. doors)
4 p.m. Dead to the World
5 p.m. The Velostacks
6 p.m. Whorehound