In the wake of Ben Todd's passing, Nashville's Dead's Freakin' Weekend soldiers on in his memory 

Nashville's Alive

Nashville's Alive

This weekend marks the fourth annual Freakin' Weekend — a rock 'n' roll festival organized by local punk blog-cum-record label Nashville's Dead. As in years prior, the Weekend will see performances from noteworthy touring and local outfits: swamp-tech husband-and-wife duo Quintron and Miss Pussycat; psychedelic rockers Black Lips and White Fence; hometown heroes Natural Child, PUJOL, JEFF the Brotherhood, Ranch Ghost and many more. But a cloud lingers over this year's fest, the first without founder and central figure Ben Todd — who with his roommate and fellow punk rocker Cy Barkley opened his former home "Glenn Danzig's House" as a venue for "Ben and Cy Fest," the proto-Freakin' Weekend. After struggling with depression and health issues, Todd took his life on Feb. 12. (See the obituary in the Feb. 21 Scene.) In his wake, the blogger, bassist, DJ, label honcho and punk-scene linchpin leaves a deeply saddened community. But the scene is also determined to celebrate his legacy with the biggest Freakin' Weekend yet. Below, Todd's friends and colleagues share their memories:


I'm not a writer. See, normally Ben would have written this for me just like he did all my important emails and almost all my papers in college. Ben was my best friend in the world, and had been for 10 years. ... If it weren't for Ben Todd, this city wouldn't be the same. I wish I could find all the words. —Bekah Cope, Nashville's Dead photographer and Todd's best friend


Ben and I definitely did not start off as friends. In middle school, I noted him as the overconfident wiseass, and he returned the sentiment by throwing an open Gatorade bottle of dip spit at me for wearing tight CCS skate jeans. However, we became close friends later in high school, because we both had the same goal in our respective friend groups: Make fun happen, make it inclusive, and do it now. —Cam Sarrett, roommate and D. Watusi bandmate


Ben always said he and David [Steine, co-founder] started the blog purely out of boredom, but I've never thought that was completely true. He had interned at Vice in New York in the months prior, and I think he saw something special forming in Nashville, which was a big reason for him to move back. ... I had a fair amount of success [in my band] Kindergarten Circus in high school. Though we were totally appreciative of the opportunities afforded to us, we wanted nothing more than to be involved in the more youthful scene surrounding Little Hamilton, Infinity Cat, JEFF, MEEMAW, Gnarwhal. ... What Nashville's Dead did for me was present this scene in an organized manner, making it more accessible than ever before. Suddenly house shows didn't seem so exclusive, and these bands I loved didn't seem quite so larger than life. ... I try to avoid quoting myself, but as I said in the Nashville's Dead post regarding Ben's passing, "... the party cannot be stopped as long as the Young People will it to be." That sentiment goes beyond Freakin' Weekend, beyond Nashville's Dead. Can't stop something that righteous. Rock 'n' roll forever. —Dillon Watson, D. Watusi bandmate and Freakin' Weekend co-organizer


Ben valued the creation of positive, inclusive social space. A bunch of people built relationships and made art in that space for each other. Anyone with a good heart and sharp mind can help make it happen and sustain itself for themselves, their friends, their family, their city, or alien worlds. I will love and remember Ben Todd forever. —Daniel Pujol, PUJOL frontman


You don't meet many people like Ben Todd. He possessed that rare sort of light that people can't help but be drawn to and warmed by. I have so much respect and admiration for him, the impact he had on this town, and the way he inspired and mobilized the motley crew of friends that surrounded him. —Seth Riddle, Serpents and Snakes Records


I always associate areas of Nashville with specific people. When I go to [the part of town near Glenn Danzig's House], I always think, "Hey, I should visit so-and-so because this is their part of town." Nolensville Road and the fairgrounds area will always belong to Ben Todd. I love you dude, and will miss your arm around my shoulder at shows. —Jordan Smith, Diarrhea Planet frontman


You just can't properly calculate the influence Ben Todd had on this town over the past few years. I went to a lot of early shows at Glenn Danzig's House because it was the only place booking the rock 'n' roll bands I wanted to see in town, and it was the only place doing house shows that I felt comfortable in as a new-to-Nashville middle-aging hipster. ... The change in scope from the first proto-Freakin' Weekend at Glenn Danzig's to that insane blowout three-year birthday bash [Sept. 20, 2012] at Zombie Shop was monumental. I was just looking around myself asking, "Who are all these kids?" It was special and humbling to see clearly where Nashville was going. —Ben Swank, Third Man Records


The second Freakin' Weekend was proof of how big this crowd had grown. Through simply helping with dates and some of the business aspects of things, it was very quickly obvious that this dude had not a care in the world for making money off of any of these shows, and every dime every time went to the artists. ... His constant devotion to the under-18 crowd, creating all-ages events in a town that makes said endeavor very difficult, was proof in itself that he genuinely cared about letting everyone be included. —Jesse Baker, Freakin' Weekend co-organizer


Last year's Freakin' Weekend really solidified its place in my mind as something incredible — and it never would've been possible without Ben. I had just flown back to Nashville from a stint in a hospital in Connecticut while on tour with Diarrhea Planet. ... I got my place right up front to see Ben reunite with the infinitely perfect So Jazzy, one of my favorite local bands. He was as magnetic as ever playing bass for them, always deep in the pocket and sticking his tongue out while he shook his head. At that moment I realized how amazing all of this was, having all of our friends and bands in one place to celebrate hanging out and getting freaky. This was what the Freakin' Weekend was about to me and I have the best time possible every year — thanks Ben, love you buddee. —Casey Weissbuch, Diarrhea Planet drummer


Ben was such an inspiration to me. ... He introduced me, and tons of other kids, to a community that has changed my life. A lot of the people in that scene have become like family to me, and I never would have met them if it weren't for Ben. He always encouraged me to get out and go to shows even when sometimes I would have liked to just stay home and watch TV. But I was always glad I went. I will be forever grateful to have had a friendship with Ben that inspired me to get out and live my life. —Halle Ballard, Infinity Cat Records Merchandise and Customer Service Manager


When [my wife] Candice was sick, Ben/Nashville's Dead were among the first to offer their assistance, after I sent out a few emails asking about benefit shows. It was a fantastic, chaotic benefit show that made us somewhere around $1,000. ... Ben was the kind of guy that regularly went out of his way for everyone, from friends to strangers (typically in the context of shows). This can be thankless, especially when dealing with your average band who wants what they want and may end up thanking you later. But Ben never complained, instead championing bands who most of us had never heard of before. ... One of the biggest losses we have is just a great kid who loved music, actually did and made things happen, had a unique voice that was far more spirited than most could hope to convey, cared a lot about his friends, and didn't understand how completely we needed him. ... I wish there was something I could have done, like everyone else, but I hope he's at peace now. I know I won't forget him or his spirit anytime soon; it's completely ingrained in some of the "kids" I care most about in this city. That's the best fucking tribute I could imagine someone having. —Jeremy Ferguson, Battle Tapes Recording


This town always seemed to have a prejudice against youth, whether it was jealousy or suspicion from the older gang, I don't know. But it did seem like things really were starting to change a few years ago, and Ben was one of the main reasons. Being young at rock shows wasn't something to feel awkward about anymore. It was uncanny and inspiring how much folks rallied around what Ben championed. ... I know this community feels absolutely gutted, and it will for some time. I am heartened, however, by how close everyone has banded together lately, how much more deliberate and genuine the hugs, handshakes and "how are you doing" exchanges have been among friends. This is a really special town and community; there is a lot of good will and positive energy, a lot of going forward while still pausing to honor the past. The best way to honor that is to keep leading by example, the way he would, and continue to be your own town's best friend and champion. Life's too short to do otherwise. —William Tyler, guitarist

Email music@nashvillescene.com.

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