You end up writing too many obituaries in this gig. Although even when it's about an artist you love, you can manage to find some small measure of objectivity. There's some comfort to be found in the barrier that separates them, the performer, from you in the audience. It's never entirely real. Having to do this for one of our own is far more difficult. Former Punknews contributor Brittany Strummer is no longer with us. To try and make some sense of this, and to attempt in some incomplete way to capture how Brittany's enthusiasm and love for music impacted all of us, we asked a few of her friends to share their stories.
(Photo by Jackie Wilding)
I just wanted to drop a note about Brittany, like most other people she was friends with music brought us together. Her passion for music is what I loved most about her. She was beautiful, kind, and a fun time. She was a gem a Punk Rock Queen!
I don't even remember how we met but I've always remembered Brittany being around because of her love of The Clash. I love the Clash and I thought it was so cool that someone out there loved them just as much. In the various bands I'd have/had been in, Brittany always post things for me on punknews no matter how bad it probably was/is. For someone who never feels that cool, she made me feel like I was cool. We met for the first time in Orlando when Rebuilder gave her a ride to Fest. I was so happy we got to finally meet after years and years of corespondents. I remember both of us screaming to the top of our lungs "Death or Glory" at Fest during the Clash cover set. It's one of the things I always remember about her. I sent her a message recently telling her how much I appreciated her and hope I'd see her soon. Rest In Peace my friend.
Brittany was, for a long time, my best friend. When we were closest, I never thought twice about my deep social anxiety. She had a way of including everyone in her excitement, it was some kind of gift.
We didn't have to have identical taste in music to ramble on and on about music in general. The bands we did have in common, man. She could find you in a sold out venue to sing your favorite song together. She was a magnet to that energy. I don't think I'll ever meet anyone that enthusiastic and funny and light again. She was a firecracker and I miss having her around to bring me out of my shell.
I miss you, so god damn much.
I first encountered Brittany Strummer in the Mosh Pit, a message board on a primitive version of the Alternative Press website that I was put in charge of maintaining in the early 2000s. The Mosh Pit was full of bright, funny and well educated people who created an incredibly tight-knit community based around their shared passion for music. Brittany was probably the youngest member of that forum, maybe 12 or 13 when she joined, but she was instantly cooler than pretty much everyone else there. She had compelling opinions, great one-liners and impeccable taste in music. I hesitate to call her everyone's kid sister, because that could be viewed as diminishing — she was treated as an equal to everyone else there. Secretly, she was better than all of us, and we all knew it.
Many of those Mosh Pitters ended up finding Punknews.org and digging deeper and deeper into the Orgcore/Fest scene (hell, one of 'em plays bass in Worriers), but Brittany was always the brightest star in the bunch. She became a fixture in Denver's punk scene and forged friendships with musicians from coast to coast. She began contributing to Punknews and other websites. She was still funny as hell, and an ardent supporter of the underground. She was essential to this subculture we all consider our home.
I wish we could have had a million Brittany Strummers, but I'm eternally grateful that we even got one.
If you are dealing with suicidal thoughts, please call 1-800-273-8255. It is free, confidential and available 24 hours a day. Crazy as it sounds, we need you around.
I know there is sometimes this weird stigma about internet friends or that the friends you meet or only know from the internet are some how less legitimate than your in-person friendships. Anyone who had the privilege of knowing Brittany in any capacity would know this to be completely untrue and quite frankly, a load of bullshit.
I met Brittany a very long time ago (in punk years anyway) when we were both teenagers posting on the Alternative Press message board, affectionately known as the Mosh Pit. Not just Brittany, but a lot of other folks I am also still good and close friends with to this day. I was immediately drawn to and bonded with her over Against Me! and cheesy pop punk. Growing up in a small town, I didn't know a lot of people who liked the same music or things that I did. It was refreshing to get to talk to someone with even more enthusiasm than I did for the bands that I also loved. I would log on every day and talk to Brittany and all of the other Pit members, getting to know these folks and essentially growing up with them and all the various ways we stayed connected, be it MySpace (back then), Facebook, and even other punk message boards and communities like Punknews. It got to the point where it became more than just about the music we were listening to. It was about the person on the other side of the screen listening to that same music. Sharing your life with them, good news, growing pains, break ups, new jobs, and just random good old fashioned shitposting. All of it.
One of those people consistently in the picture in that decade, plus of time was Brittany. Brittany had such passion for music and the bands she loved and the people she loved. It was infectious. If anyone could make you fall in love with a band you never listened to before, it was Brittany. The things she posted and wrote, the conversations we had, brought such immense joy and brightness in my life and to the lives of others. When we finally got to meet up in person (appropriately at Fest, 10 if you were curious) it didn't feel like meeting someone for the first time. It felt like reuniting with an old friend I hadn't seen in a minute. That's the aura Brittany had. She was so warm and welcoming and kind. She was the kind of person I wish I could have spent time with in person regularly. To those of you who got to, I know you know how lucky you were. These days, we spend so much time connected now through the internet that those lines have blurred so much. It's because of this Brittany was able to connect to so many people through the bands and music she loved so much. The music brought a lot of us together. But so did she.
I hate that when I log on now, I will never get to see another Brittany post. I hate that I won't get to see her gush about the band she got to see the other night. I hate that I won't get to read anymore of her cute jokes. I hate that I won't get to see her spread love to her friends. I hate that I won't get another sweet message from her. She left a huge void when she left this world. I think the best thing we can do is try to fill it with the same energy she had. Let's fill that void with the same enthusiasm she had. Love what and who you love as hard as she did. Play one of her favorite songs and sing it loudly. Play one of your favorite songs and sing it loudly. Carry that same spirit and passion she had, this way she will always be with you, with all of us.
I really hope there is an after life and I hope Joe Strummer was waiting there to meet her on the other side. You'll always live forever in my heart Brittany fuckin' Strummer. I will never forget you.
I think I first ran into Brittany Strummer in the Punknews comments section when I was 14 or 15. That means I've known her for half my life. We both loved the Lawrence Arms and None More Black, The Lion King and Pokemon. We didn't talk regularly but she was somehow always able to sense when I was having a hard time, and would send a text saying she loved me and she was there for me. We only got to hang out in person once. We got to sing our favorite Lawrence Arms songs arm-in-arm with our friends. She was so full of love and life, it's still incomprehensible to me that a life so vibrant could come to such a sudden, devastating end. I wish she could have seen how much we all loved her and were affected by her life.
god damn i miss my dead friend. brittany, you were and will always be the most punk rock person i ever met. your presence shook our scene in the best way and your absence shakes it in the worst way. you were filled with vibrant warmth, immense passion, and more joe strummer knowledge than anyone else on earth. you walked into a room and everyone fell in love with you. you were a shining star of death or glory. you were 100% yourself and never for even a second tried to be someone else. you were the realest babe i ever did meet and i'm eternally grateful that you let me be your friend. i'm so so so incredibly sorry that you were in so much pain and we couldnt help you. you deserve so much more. i hope you are hanging with joe strummer out there in the cosmos my sweet friend. death or glory. you are more than just another story.
Love always, your Georgia peach
If we were to consider Punknews staff members as waves, I guess I was a member of the second wave. I did mostly video content, long before Youtube was really a popular medium, long before everyone had a phone that shot video.
Brittany joined the staff shortly after me and her energy and enthusiasm was beyond refreshing. Everything was exciting to her, everything was worth listening to, worth reviewing. As I slowly faded from my "career" with Punknews, I continued to enjoy Brittany's contributions. We met in person a few times; first while I toured with Gaslight Anthem in Colorado, then again at several Fests. Her smile and laugh could immediately lift your spirits.
We remained in touch over the years via Facebook, usually to debate a record or to share a memory, and she was always the first to "heart" a picture of my dogs. She was also one of the last people I'd ever suspect was suffering from depression. The next time an Against Me! song randomly pops up, turn the volume up a few notches for Brittany and sing along.
While I never met Brittany in person, we interacted online. It was obvious she affected a great amount of people in her local scene and abroad; she was the definition of cool.
She influenced me massively in regards to music - my playlists are filled with her recommendations, and she also enlightened me to the things that affect women in the music scene and beyond.
I always hoped to meet Brittany one day when I finally made it to the States, and I'm gutted I can't.
I have never in my life met a purer soul that Brittany Strummer. She got stoked on the same stuff as the rest of us, but there was none of the self-regulating, trying to be cool stuff with her. She felt what she felt, and that love for punk rock, and for her friends, many of whom became her family, it just shone out of her.
She knew every word to every song, half the time she knew the bloody band, and she was so stoked on all of it, and wanted to share it with you.
She was the beating heart of the Org, and she looked out for everyone she knew. Brittany was the purest soul, and it's a privilege to have basked in her light, if only for a little while.
These days it's rare to meet a human being that spends more energy finding things to be enthused about--finding things to be in love with, than finding things to snarkily decry or hate. It sucks to lose a fighter in the battle against our pervasive culture of smug shittiness. Brittany was a good friend and a true enthusiast and supporter of the things she loved. Sadly, that's a rare quality. Even more sadly, with her passing it's become even rarer. this sucks. I have nothing to add beyond that the world is just a little less pure today. Thank you for everything. RIP.
So unbelievably sad to hear of the passing of Brittany Strummer. Such a bubbly soul whom always had a smile on her face and was at every show when I came to Denver. She loved the clash(hence the strummer), against me, btmi/Jeff Rosenstock, and supported so many bands.
She helped pick Maura and I up at the airport when we were in a bind, hooked my bands up with free burritos at illpetes. And it's just friggin sad. So so sad I don't know what to say.
I've done this before and hope you will take me up on this. Here's my phone number. 4088367672. Text me if you need to talk to someone and I will call you back. Please know that people care about and love you.
I knew Brittany since what seems like time immemorial, through message board and Punknews, where we were both writers for a time, and hang outs and high fives at Fest. She was in many ways my opposite, where I fell into the "strange, slow, and old" curmudgeon stereotype, she had an unending passion for this music and this scene that we both loved, and that was infectious and affirming. She often reminded me why this whole thing meant so damn much. Nothing seems right, but we are all better off for having had her in our lives. So raise a toast to Saint Britt Strummer. May angels lead you in.
Kate Tyler Wall
The punkosphere enables us to get to know people on all sorts of levels, some intimate and some superficial. I never actually "met" Brittany, but we have quite a few mutual friends (all of whom are devastated at the moment, which says a lot about how she figured in their lives). We live on opposite sides of the country, but her name came up often and I believe we did attend a few of the same shows. I often saw her retweeted or commenting on Facebook threads I was also involved in. She was one of those people I figured I was just destined to run into IRL one of these days. One of the best things about the past decade in my life has been the possibility at every show of someone yelling or waving frantically from across the room, or coming up to me, to say they recognize me from social media or as someone else's friend or just for being all the same shows. It is our community that is our strength. That community now feels it may have failed Brittany in some way. I am all too familiar with survivor's guilt, and with how the demon of depression cuts through the punk world like a knife. We all walk behind it handing out bandages, coffee, hugs, and sometimes we really do make things better. And sometimes we can't. Brittany's (possibly) last Facebook post indicates she was not attending the upcoming Laura Jane Grace show; I'm sure I'm not the only one now interrogating that decision and post as a statement of intent, a cry for help, or just an acknowledgment of fact. I've seen too many other people reach out on social media in despair; I've urged people I've never met and people I've come to know quite well despite never meeting them to hang in, to hang on. I've been on both ends of despair and know the hopeless feelings that stand in our way, crowding out everything and everyone else, shutting the door on both the past and the future to convince us that only the horrible present moment exists. Depression is the one area of life where being in the moment is a really bad idea. Punk helps take us out of that moment and into another. If you have a choice between going to the show and not going to the show, always go to the show. Always reach out, whether to help or to be helped. But recognize that sometimes no matter how hard you try, you may not be able to save others (or yourself). The important thing is to try as much as you can. Brittany must have tried hard and often, to have made such a difference in the lives of so many friends and people she never met. I can only offer a shoulder for those who grieve for her now, and an ear for those who want to celebrate the life she led and the people she touched. We owe it to ourselves and each other to allow the music and the friends and the community to make parts of our lives shine and sparkle and give us the strength to navigate whatever personal and universal hellscapes try to drag us down. It's all we have. Sometimes it's all we need. Sometimes it's enough. We live for that sometimes, as long and as much as we can.
I met Brittany at my first D4th of July, right after I had moved to Denver from Los Angeles in 2015. Immediately, we were friends, and I began seeing her around more and more as I got familiar with the city. There were so many things that drew me to Britt, and so many reasons I grew to love her, and I have no doubt that anyone who met her saw all of the same things.
I've been seeing people describe Brittany as a light, and it's true. She was always bright, and smiling. I think that makes it harder, to think that, all of that light must have burned out of her, because she gave it to everyone around her. I hope that all of us that light shone upon can try to use it to shine a little brighter ourselves.
Brittany was someone who loved. She loved her friends intensely. She was loyal, and she wanted everyone to know how important they were to her. I don't think I ever had a conversation with her that didn't include some declaration of love, not only between us, but for some additional parties that weren't even there. She was a constant advocate that telling your friends how much you love them should be normalized, and that love should be more freely expressed. I only wish that she could have known how truly loved she was by everyone. It seems impossible, however, that she could ever get back as much love as she gave. She loved so, so much.
It is unfair to have to speak of her in the past tense. It is unfair that she is gone. It is unfair that she felt life wasn't worth living anymore. And it is unfair that the world has lost so much light and love. Brittany mattered, and she will always matter. The best way to remember her is to love freely, and openly. Shine a little brighter, and sing along a little louder. I love you.
I saw Britt Strummer as a little sister. We grew up in the scene together across the country. I helped her with her first fest trip where we would meet in person for the first time. She was meant to stay in a hotel room with us that weekend but ended up befriending lots of people at the holiday inn and partying over there the entire time. I ran into her plenty of times that weekend and she always had a big smile on her face. We would both join the punknews team and work there for several years. It feels like just yesterday she was asking me how to edit a band page on the site.
I never saw her as often as I liked but I saw her often enough to feel her aura of positivity. It pains me now to know how much she hurt beneath it all. Even more so knowing just last week I had spoken with her and she admitted she wasn't in the best of places. I let her know she was loved by myself and others, that we would do anything we could to help her. She thanked me and was appreciative of the kind words.
I wish she could see how much the scene loved her now that she's gone. Her friends and heroes have nothing but positive things to say about her. All we can really do is honor her memory and tell the legend of Britt Strummer and her fidget spinner.
Rest In Power Britt. I'll always love you
It's always hard to know what to write or say in these situations. The world has lost a kind, wonderful person, and so many people are deeply feeling this loss. Death can break us, or break our hearts wide open; and while I know we are all deeply saddened and shocked to hear of Brittany's passing, we can't let it break us. Brittany was a passionate, caring person, who loved music and loved her friends. The greatest tribute we could ever pay is to try and carry that spirit on in our interactions with each other.
Photos from here.
In my early and mid-twenties I had long-since-shattered illusions of making a living writing about music. I made badly written, rarely updated and poorly designed webzines named after Screeching Weasel songs (in hindsight, yikes) that eventually just became podcast feeds. I had some ideas but lacked direction, and to be sure, my motivations were mostly selfish. I moved frantically from thing to thing hoping something would stick and bailed when it immediately didn't, an unfortunate trait that followed me into my thirties. I am a Sagittarius after all. I was just positive that people just had to know what my opinions were on punk music. I had a few creative successes over the years, but nothing that was remotely financially stable, which was what always caused me to quit and go back to bartending or marketing when the going got tough.
At that old childhood house in 2000 I was looking for more music to steal, likely Asked Jeeves about punk rock and found a website called punkmusic.com. The site had a blogroll and on it was another site, punknews.org. Probably I only clicked it on the account of the .org and how weird I thought it was. But I became enamored with it very quickly: at that point it was really just one guy, Aubin, posting news submitted by readers and riffing on it in a funny-but-also-Canadian-nice way. Every news item had a fake "department" attached to it. There was a poll about "major label punks" on the frontpage. It was so corny. I loved it. Aubin felt like my best friend delivering this news directly to me, and all these people who were submitting news felt like my future best friends. I devoured the coverage, clicking on every interesting-sounding link I could. Mostly I found the site useful—this was pre-smartphone, pre-social media, and the 'Org was how I found out if a band I liked had a new album coming out or was touring to central Florida or how I would discovering new bands through the site's record reviews. Punknews was my Bible. I very, very badly wanted to write for it but I wasn't good enough. I continued to read for years, became a semi-regular commenter and eventually worked up enough courage to submit a review for an EP by a band called The Stickup, which was heavily edited before posting but still, it had my name on it. I honestly don't think I've ever felt more legitimate or elated since. From there I continued submitting reviews and to my surprise, most of them were getting posted. In 2008 reviews editor Brian Shultz emailed me to ask if I'd be interested in being a staff reviewer. A year later I was a news editor and more-or-less the "voice" of the site because I worked nights and spent my entire days looking for news to write and post. I hosted most initial episode of the Punknews podcast. I was relentless. I treated it like a full-time job. My motivations, still, were selfish. After a stint at AltPress in 2011-12 I returned as an editor to Punknews, staying on until the end of 2013. I'd agreed to become the site's reviews editor which unfortunately burned me out far quicker than I'd anticipated. I started to resent having to take these poorly-written reviews and shape them into something coherent. It was a lot of work on top of my real full-time job, and I was just ready to do something else. So I quit.
As I careen into my mid-thirties, I look back on that time now more fondly than I think I did when it was happening. It absolutely shaped the person I am today, it made me care about stuff, and, most importantly of all I would realize, I made lifelong friends in the Punknews community, both from the staff and its readers, along the way. People I love dearly. Brittany Strummer was one of those people. Brittany died this week. There are a million things I could say about her, many of which so many other friends in our little community are saying. She was infectiously gregarious, enthusiastic and wild, full of light. I never saw her without a smile on her face. She loved—LOVED—punk music. In a community where it sometimes seemed like a race to the bottom of a bad joke, there wasn't a jaded bone in her body. She worshiped the Clash, obviously. She loved Brendan Kelly and the Lawrence Arms. She adored all of Jason Shevchuk's bands—when the Former Member record surprise dropped last year she was the first person I thought of, and I made sure she knew it existed. She loved Cobra Skulls. She loved Bomb The Music Industry! and Jeff Rosenstock. She loved The Lion King more than any adult I've ever known. We first met at Fest 10, when Punknews rolled deep and most of the staff attended, which was great, but what I keep going back to is Fest 16, which was the last Fest she attended. We spent so much time together that weekend, more than we ever had. She was thrilled to be there. She took her fidget spinner everywhere. We drank and laughed with my family. We screamed along to Against Me! I can't stop thinking about that weekend and how much fun it was.
She revered Laura Jane Grace and Against Me! and got to go on tour with Typesetter, who were opening for AM!, last summer. That was the last time I saw her. Megan and I went to Ortlieb's where Typesetter were playing on an off-day from the tour and she was just as bubbly and outgoing and delightful as ever. It was August 4—her birthday. She was so happy being on the road with her friends, getting to watch one of her favorite bands play every single night. I loved her like a sister and she adorably referred to me as her big brother, even listing me as her brother on her Facebook profile. Everyone loved her. I hope she knew that we all loved her. I tried to tell her every time we spoke, but, living thousands of miles apart, our conversations became less frequent after I left Punknews. I hate how "busy" we keep ourselves without checking in on our loved ones. I hate how the internet and social media seems to make obligations like that more of a passing thing and less mandatory. What's the point of all of this if we can't share it with the people who mean the most to us. The world is such a cold, unforgiving, terrifying place, we must hold onto the ones we love because our lives do depend on it.
The last time we texted was in February. I let her know that I loved her. She said that things were rough. I told her, as I often did, that I was here for her. That was the extent of our conversation. In the past I'd talked her through really terrible situations. I worried about her a lot. It's a cliche to say I wish I could've done more, been there more, but it's hard not to think that today.
Brittany had a hard life. She wasn't shy about it. She was so strong, so resilient, every time there was a bump in her journey I knew she would bounce out of it, laughing and smiling the whole way. But this time she didn't and I just keep thinking about how unfair that is. How unfair it is that such a good person with pure intentions can have such a difficult life. How wrong it seems that she's gone and so many terrible people who couldn't care less about anyone except themselves seem to just coast through life, never worrying, never wanting for anything. How bad luck and circumstance can just weigh on a person until the weight is too much to bear. She deserved better. While she was here, she found solace in punk rock, in pushing herself to the front of every show, it gave her life the same way it gives a lot of us life. May we never take it for granted, this community of weirdos. The Fest announced their lineup today and it's great but it's hard for me to even get excited about it knowing there's no chance she'll be there, White Claw in hand, hopping into our photobooth photos, wearing a neon rainbow of wristbands, spinning a fidget spinner and laughing the whole way. I love you Brittany. I hope you have found peace.
I knew Brittany for 10 years because we both joined a music message board when we were teenagers. She was the coolest girl I had ever met and never acted like it. We got to hang out twice. One time I went to Denver and we got pizza and beers and she showed me the metal bar in town that has the sign that employees must carve slayer into forearms.
The other time was Fest 16. I didn't have a ride from Orlando airport to Gainesville and she arranged rides for us in the most Brittany fashion, aka riding in the van with Rebuilder (which made me feel a smidge bit cooler). We ended up meeting up again during the Iron Chic set and "bro-ing down" to their songs towards the end. She had a fidget spinner in her hand the whole time.
Love is worry.
Anthony Elliott, Kali Masi
We lost a champion. Britt will be remembered for her inexhaustible passion and her generosity. She was an advocate for underdogs everywhere and the impact she had on our scene is honestly immeasurable. No act of kindness was too big and no gesture of support was too small. To carry on with that in mind would be to honor the legend of Brittany Strummer.
Brittany wasn't a close friend of mine, but I was close enough to know her true last name. Maybe, I was just lucky enough to be logged in to hear her tell it to those few amongst us OrgSummit people to hear it. I don't know. But she was my friend.
The number of times I did hang with her, I know she was always happiest attending a show.
It's been a few years since I've last seen her. The last time I travelled to Denver for a show I hoped to see her working at Illegal Pete's. Working there made her happy. Besides she got the benefit of all the in-store shows happening.
My last known memory with Brittany is going crazy along side her, as Laura Jane Grace took to the stage for the first time for a Denver audience (Riot Fest Denver #1).
One of my first memories meeting Brittany was after The Descendents played in Denver in early 2012. We all went to Illegal Pete's after for the after show party. She asked my sober friend and our group for a ride home, which we provided.
She was so sweet and generous with her love. Above all, she loved doggos most of all, and I hope she gets to play with all the good puppers.
I loved you in our own special way and I will miss you deeply.
"The Britts are coming!" Has been a thing for so many years and to imagine another show, trip, festival, anything without this being the case feels impossible. She was always Brittany, I am always Britt. Together we sang Against Me! At the top of our lungs, together we karaoke-d (is this a word?) to Fall Out Boy, together we traveled to Fest, together we've picked each other up after every breakup, after every bad day, helped in every broke moment when the other was slightly less broke. We have tattoos together, we've lived together, we've fought our demons together. I don't know what the world could possibly look like without my beloved Brittany Strummer.
Brittany contributed to who I am more than she may ever know. Her unending kindness, the generosity, the enthusiasm was what this world needed. It's certainly what I needed. Our birthdays are three days apart, so we're both Leos and we used to ask ourselves all the time "WHY ARE WE LIKE THIS? WHY ARE WE SO MUCH?" And you know what? Never in a million years was she ever too much. Her ability to love was her greatest gift to us all. If you were fortunate enough to be loved by Brittany, as so many were, then you were made better because of it. Her passion, integrity, her intensity for social justice, doing what's right, standing true to herself and others is something we should all strive for. It's also what we should remember of her, it's what should help guide us as we move forward in this new world without her.
Missing Brittany Strummer right now. I can't believe this, she was so young and bright and sweet and just the coolest kid. Of all the Punknews staffers that have come through in my 17 years working there, she was one of only a handful that I've had the pleasure to meet in person, when I toured out to Denver in 2013. She didn't know me well then, but she came out to Seventh Circle to support a fellow Punknewser and I got to know her better online in the years after. She used to call me Old Man Simpson because I had like 10 years on her (maybe more) and I used to give her crap for just being so goddamn fresh-faced and always having the best time mixing it up at Denver punk shows and Festing hard as hell.
When I was about to launch Best Midwestern with Scott back in 2015, she had recently posted on Facebook about Laura Jane Grace giving her her old vest and she was so stoked about it. Brittany took this picture for me of her wearing LJG's vest to use for the BM first logo, which I did a shitty job with in photoshop, but still, this picture of her made it awesome and she was awesome for obliging. Miss you, Brittany.
Stephanie 'Kat' Kitzmiller
Brittany was… a gigantic ball of energy. I remember signing up for a music board at the age of 14 and wondering what the heck a 12 year old was doing on there, now lovingly remembered as the Mosh Pit. She would be posting about her love for the Lion King (more than you love your own mother) in one thread & then 30 seconds later then she'd be schooling some new account poser on Joe Strummer in another. In a close group like how the Pit was, it can be hard to get along, and personalities will clash (badun-tsss.) But, Brittany was the one that got along with everyone. She was cooler than all of us combined then & now. In light of this news, it has brought a lot of us back together. For that I am thankful.
I remember random times & moods of her posts. I remember her boci (our Pit term for boy-of-current-interest) posts, her constant flow of excitement over new bands and releases, ear stretching posts, end of the year album lists, and her angst in general. She was a major leader & force in the Pit's successful mission to get the Gaslight Anthem on the cover of AP. I remember when she got her first tattoo, but most of all I remember her always being the happiest force on that message board. It was a reflection of how wonderful she was in real life. I only wish I had been on the same side of the country.
I was not as close with her as I had hoped, because life hadn't been kind to either of us. I lived (sometimes couch surfed) in Columbus, Ohio during my early twenties and it was like a punk rock pipeline to Brittany. She was contributing for PunkNews at that time. Bands from Cbus had met her while they were out on tours… you meet a lot of people when you're touring- but everyone remembered Brittany. She got me into BtMI! and thanks to her, I last minute caught Jeff & his iPod playing with the Dopamines in some Cincinnati basement. It was one of the most fun nights of my life, and it was because of Brittany Strummer, 2 timezones away. When I randomly got blessed with the privilege of working with TBR to film Dead Saturday, of courseeee she was brought up & there in spirit.
I finally got to meet her on August 1st last summer during her tour travels. I later went outside to smoke, and then she had to leave last minute. We didn't get a selfie, let alone a goodbye hug. I somehow knew that I was going to regret that, and sure enough now I do. I was awkward as hell due to being newly sober & still getting used to shows in bars. We only were able to talk in person for like, 20 minutes. I really just wanted to hug her the whole time. I wish I could go back, pause that day, and sit down with her in the grass. It's still unreal that I won't ever get that chance. She supported my sobriety & boosted me during dark days.
I know so many of us are hiding out right now in her social media profiles- at least I am. I keep hoping that if I refresh my feed, I will see her smiling face & that beaming staple cat eye & red lipstick. She was truly a unique person. Everyone could take a lesson from Brittany in being unapologetically yourself, being kind, and loving others to the fullest. I have survived hospital visits & the darkest pits of depression- I just wish with everything that she had, too.
When she was last here, she went to my favorite restaurant for vegan food. (Another reason to love the place more) So today after therapy, I did the same. On the Uber drive home, the guy asked if my shirt was for black flag. I was wearing the ENOUGH ALREADY BtMI! shirt we both had. I told him my friend had passed and I was wearing it for her. During this ride, he had NPR playing through his phone. He said the radio no longer worked, but the dash display still showed what was on the FM radio. We turned on my street and "'I'm Not Down' by the Clash" scrolled across the screen.
She wants to see all of us succeed & be happy- whether you knew her a lot or a little. Lean into life a little extra for Britt. Tell your friends you love them. Love harder. Do better. Enjoy your favorite music a little extra. Love is worry.
If you ever need to talk to someone, I am here. My email is email@example.com (shut up, it was 2005) and while my iPhone can be on & off in being active, my # is 3305418390. If you also have an iPhone, you can always text me over wifi. I am in Brittany's friend's lists. We can do Facebook calls, kik, Instagram, whatever you need. I work from home & make my own hours. Please email or text or call. You need to stay here. You exist for a reason, and most likely have impacted someone the way Britt has for you.
Brittany, I wish I could kick you in the shin & then give you a massive hug. I heckin love you. Here's lookin at you, kid.
Laura Jane Grace
Laura Jane Grace: I've been trying to think of when the first time I met Brittany was, and I can't remember the exact first time, but I've known Brittany for fifteen-plus years. I know that Brittany was one of the first people to have a presence on the Against Me! message board back in the day, when there was an Against Me! message board or forum. She was just a face you'd see at shows, and then definitely stood apart from everybody else, and crossed that distance from just being a fan to being a friend to being someone you just always saw whenever you're in Denver. But then even beyond that, I would see Brittany all over the country. Brittany would come to Chicago. Brittany stayed at my house a couple times. She was someone who was always there. < p>
I just remember always feeling like there was so much potential and that she had such a spark, and I remember initially when she wrote. I want to say it was initially through MySpace that she wrote, because I would always check the band's MySpace and write back to everyone who wrote in. I remember her writing in, and I remember her talking about how she was trying to play music and trying to get started or whatever. I remember offering to send some broken microphones — not totally broken, but some microphones that we weren't using anymore, if she wanted to fuck around with them or whatever.
I remember her being so enthusiastic about everything she was doing and trying to be a part of it and trying to find her place in the scene. She was someone who — having known her for a length of time — you watched find a place in the scene, and she became an indispensable part of the scene. And that's really rare, frankly speaking. I don't mean that in a way that is denigrating or disrespectful to your everyday fan. It's okay to be just a fan. But it's really rare to have someone cross that border from being a fan to being a friend, and to being a part of it in their own way. That just doesn't happen all the time.
And to see someone be there throughout the years for that long. It's so strange these days how you don't need to be a part of someone's everyday life to necessarily feel their presence or feel their presence every day, just following people on social media. She was someone I followed on social media and always knew how they were doing or what they were up to or whatever.
A couple years back, I knew that Brittany was such a fan of Against Me!, and I went ahead and gave her the vest that I wore on the cover of our second record. It's the old beat-up punk vest from the cover of As the Eternal Cowboy. I was like, "Hey, I'm not wearing this. Maybe you can get some use out of it."
I gave that to her as a present. I think she was visiting Chicago in 2014 when that was. She came to my daughter's fourth birthday party that year. I remember being really thankful that she was there, just to have her company. It was a hard period of time for me, and I appreciated her being there.
I don't know how to better express her transcending that divide from fan to person who I invited to my daughter's fourth birthday party, but there's a gulf there. I'm not just going to invite any random person to my kid's birthday party, if that attests in any way to how special she was.
I think that's like the demonstrative power of punk rock, and so very much what Brit's hero Joe Strummer talked about, you know. You're supposed to start out when you're new to something, you're supposed to start out like a fan like that. But punk rock is supposed to bring you in and make you a part of it. Brittany lived that.
To go from just being a casual fan who came to shows to then becoming a part of the dialogue and becoming someone who's creating the dialogue, being a writer for Punk News and contributing, making a contribution — she did that.
To go from someone who I only recognized from Denver to someone who you just expected to see at all the big punk happenings, whether that was The Fest in Gainesville or Riot Fest or Punk Rock Bowling or whatever. She was just one of those people who is just as much a part of it and just as much expected to be there as anyone in the band.
I don't know how to process it, honestly, you know? It's something that I'm still just really in shock over and totally don't understand. It's so completely unexpected, and I feel completely blindsided by it, and I don't know. It makes me so sad, so really, really sad just to know that she was hurting that much and that lonely and in that much pain. It makes me really…I don't know. I feel the passing of time.
There are few things that happen in life where you feel like there's a before and an after, and this is one of those. There was the time before, when Brittany was around, and now when she's not, which we're venturing into.
I didn't know what to say to any of her friends who were at the show. I didn't know how to process it in that environment, even though knowing that was the context I was used to seeing Brittany in. It was just fucking surreal, and it doesn't make any sense.
Having made the kind of music that you make that does get so raw and so personal, you must have a lot of fans who talk about their issues and struggles.
Honestly, in relation to that, it makes me feel like a failure. That was the thought I had the other day. Not to sound morbid or dark or whatever, but I'm supposed to be the one that kills themself. I'm supposed to be the one who's dead that Brittany's talking about.
It makes me feel like I wish I would have done whatever I could have done to make that not happen. If the show would have been a day earlier, or if I would have written a better song, as stupid as that sounds, or whatever.
I really detest the people who come out of the woodwork when something like this happens and start talking about "Be there for your friends. If someone needs help, be there. Blah blah blah. Be there." It just seems so disingenuous and untrue to how life really is.
If you're someone who struggles with mental health, with depression — I struggle with these things, I struggle with mental health a lot — I know the way I feel is that the people around you, they don't want to hear that shit. They don't want to hear about your problems. They only want to hear about their problems. They only say that shit when you're gone. When it's in the moment — if you're going through something, a really hard time, if you're going through a breakup that's really fucking you up or something like that and you're a mess, no one wants to deal with your fucking mess. And that's the fucking cold reality. That's why these things happen. That's the truth. No one wants to deal with your fucking shit, you know? It's after the fact when you're gone, people are like, "Oh, be there for your friends. Reach out and talk." If someone reaches out to you and they need help and they're a fucking wreck and they're suicidal, people turn them away. That's the way it is. I don't want to be one of those people being like, "Reach out if you need help."
I'll really miss her. And I know that all her friends and the scene in Denver will. I just think it's just a fucking tragedy.