As if it didn’t already kick you in the guts as it is, grief often has more profound things in store. Everything ordinary becomes a first. The first time since you heard; the first time since you last thought about it; the first time you heard that song since… And every reminder becomes a reminiscence. And everything becomes more (painfully) profound because it would seem remiss if it didn’t. Sometimes all you have are the people who are left behind with you. And you know what? That’s quite a lot. At least you’re all alone together.
All alone together on this evening was a roomful of souls raising a glass and shedding a tear in memory of Andrew Brameld, aka Jonathan Bramfield, aka Brammo, a free spirit and a friend of nature, of the ocean and of music. In August, unable to stare beyond his demons and into the bigger picture of a great many arms opened his way, he took his own life and every day since has simply-yet-cruelly become yet another day to get through for his family, loved ones and friends.
A fundraiser for Lifeline WA, this evening was called Bramfest Vol.2, a gig-gathering for Brameld’s family, friends and musicians to remember him in music. With music. For many it was clearly a surreal experience and an at-times painful one. But it was beautiful and it will, from this evening on, mean everything to those whom it matters the most. The light-hearted name of the show, embraced the emotional complexity of the gathering, as family and friends laughed with memories at one moment and literally held each other up in the next. But it was starkly, painfully, beautiful; an event so unnecessary in one context, yet so needed in the aftermath.
The Jonathan Bramfield Inexperience played that brilliant young man’s songs, giving them, and their writer, a new life. I had last seen them speaking one after the other in the chapel at Brameld’s funeral ceremony, all broken up and set to fall apart at any moment, the only thing keeping them upright being the fact that they were holding each other’s hands. The songs sounded like the beach, or as if you were heading there. In 1977. Benjamin Witt played a moving solo set that strummed at the heartstrings. A second cousin of Brammo, they had grown up together and the bond was apparent, as he humbly played a stream of original songs, both discordant and insanely melodious. His rendition of Tom Waits’ Take It With Me was as sad and beautiful as it gets, yet wonderfully understated at that. It was a beautiful tribute and one that evoked both tears and solace for all of the family present.
This is not a regular gig review, so there’s no band-by-band rundown. This is an attempt to bottle a moment when heartbroken family/friends rise up to give a loved and lost one his due. There was a lot of laughter and tears on this occasion, constantly, and within moments of each other. Music is the floor when grief sends you to the ground. It’s the blanket of warmth as you lie there. It’s the hand lifting you up from the gutter. It’s what we have and what brings us together when our beloved have gone. It is always there; for all of us. Believe that.
RIP Andrew Brameld: even as you’re gone you’re still bringing people together.
For Irene, Stephen, Lisa, Michael, Jane-Anne, Sarah, Christopher, Stephen and all family + friends.
BOB GORDONlifelinewa.org.au beyondblue.org.au