AndyNorva011507I first received the news about Andy after getting home from my gig on Thursday. There was a text on my phone informing me he had passed.  My initial reaction was disbelief, but I knew the way he lived- and the inevitable consequence of those that live fast is that they must die young.

I first met Andy around ’04-’05 through mutual friends- he had a passion for music and we immediately connected. Andy was a percussion player and would sit in with me on gigs- he never once asked for money and in many ways he provided for me. He loved to play and I gave him that opportunity. He gave me a place to practice and inspired me to create- it was a definition symbiotic relationship.

It was immediately clear that Andy lived by a different set of rules- he was utterly fearless and was deeply influenced by the counterculture figures of the 50’s and 60’s. He was like the Neal Cassidy/Dean Moriarty character of Kerouac’s “On the Road” and he worshipped the Merry Pranksters. He envisioned himself as a modern incarnation of that group of proto-hippies and in many ways he pulled it off.

Compared to Andy I was and am a total square. In fact it’s fair to say Andy makes Bob Marley look like a narcotics officer. I was one of the few people that would try to set boundaries for him and we frequently butted heads. I would have simple rules like “Don’t go into a shamanic journey in the middle of a set” and “Please don’t dose the band with LSD“, but Andy is an uncontrollable force and I didn’t have the power to keep him from making every gig his own personal Acid Kool-Aid test. It was this constant friction that caused us to eventually drift apart- but in between were some of the most enjoyable and exciting times of my life.

When Andy played drums his entire body moved in a sensuous rhythm and his infectious smile stretched for miles. I loved his energy and enthusiasm and the most powerful drug he ever gave me was his presence on stage. He could take a lackluster drum circle and single-handedly turn it into a thundering tribal gathering.  Every moment was an adventure and he shared it with anyone privileged enough to be around him.

Andy possessed all the qualities of a child: brash, impulsive, naive, and beautiful. He was an angelic hedonist, he was Dionysus incarnate, and he was somehow able to sustain this state of ecstasy for years before it all fell apart. He gave more freely than anyone I’ve ever known and his generosity was never artificial or self-serving. Many people took advantage of him and I believe that near the end this was part of his undoing.

I don’t want to mythologize my friend- I don’t need to. He was a walking myth and a living legend. I don’t condone his behavior in his final years and I wish that he could’ve practiced at least a little restraint- but then he wouldn’t be Andy. He was not a perfect person and behaved childishly, but he never meant to cause anyone harm.

Tonight I played and imagined him being there with me. It wasn’t hard to do considering his powerful vibes are burned into my cellular memory. I felt his energy again and know that part of him will reside with me forever.

In those moments when I’m feeling like a total square I will channel my friend, that Dionysus with the twinkling eyes, and he will be there dancing freely beside me.