An Unfathomable Death: When you go to a DMB concert and never come home

Writing is a way of dealing with grief, but it can also be therapeutic. You sit down, pound a keyboard, enliven your mind, and try to find answers in the dark where a search party quit hours ago.

A family man died at a concert last week and I can’t get it out of my head. Jasen Smith, 44 years old with a wife and twin ten-year-old boys, went to the Dave Matthews Band concert at Hollywood Casino Amphitheater on May 16. The intention was probably the same as it was for me: see a band do what they do best, sing loud, dance often, and forget about the adulting troubles that exist back at your front door.

Jasen never made it back to the car. He never made it back to the car. After the show, he was going back to retrieve his wife’s recently purchased t-shirt, and through a series of unfortunate events, hit his head hard enough to bleed from his ear and eventually die. He took his final breath on the pavilion pavement that separates the seats from the lawn, which is where I sat.

First off, let me just get the obvious out of the way. I didn’t know Jasen and have no clues about what happened to him. I left with my wife, and didn’t think something like this could happen. People don’t go to a DMB concert and get violent. You follow Dave’s advice, eating, drinking, and being merry … for tomorrow we’ll die. In the case of Jasen, it was painfully true.

While I didn’t know, I share a bond with him as a family man. Most importantly, as a father. The minute I heard the details on his death from the St. Louis Post Dispatch, I instantly thought about his twin boys. They are old enough to understand that their dad isn’t coming home, and that life is never going to be the same. It’s like they stepped on a land mine, and will pick up the pieces for a long time. I can’t imagine it having this happen to me.

I think in my head of a scenario where my wife, Rachel, asks me to go back and look for something she left, and I never come back. I don’t come walking back with it, smiling and joking with her to stop being so forgetful. I can’t even think about her then going home to our seven-year-old son, Vinny, and informing him while holding her heart together with duct tape and glue, that I am gone. Forever.

Jasen’s wife had to do that last week. He died the next day in the hospital from injuries that carry an origin that no one can solve. He was supposedly found by a civilian who alerted the medics, who then answered the panicked call from his wife’s cell phone. This is all bizarre and brutally sad.

Part of me wants to drive out there, throw on my concerned citizen badge, and ask questions, looking for clues like someone would in the movies. A three act story line would commence, with mind-bending twists and turns carrying audiences to a crescendo that no one saw coming. Part of me wants to solve this fucking thing. I don’t care if the police are on it. I can’t help myself.

Here’s the thing. No matter what is found, Jasen is not coming back and that’s terrible. It’s the cruel gut punch of inner peace. You find out what happened, but may never get the details. Worst, you never get what was taken away. I hate thinking about it, but since I like to live in the gray areas at times, I am here inside of a tragedy.

Maybe I saw Jasen that night. Maybe I didn’t. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the show. We both watched a band play a show 28 years after their debut.

That night, Matthews played one of his more unknown yet still strong tunes, Grace is Gone. The lyrics are fitting for losing a partner in life.

Take my heart, take my eyes
‘Cause I’ll need them no more
If never again theyll fall upon
The one I so adore

I am one of these people that believes you have ONE true soul mate. Finding another person to love is possible, but we all get one person put on this Earth to truly put up with our shit and make us great. I feel this way about my wife and our son. There’s only one. Matthews alludes to this in the song as well.

My Grace is Gone
Another drink and Ill move on
One drink to remember, and another to forget
How could I ever dream to find a love like this again
One drink to remember, and another to forget…
Excuse me please, one more drink
Would you make it strong
‘Cause I dont need to think

It was said that Jasen was gone for seven minutes. That’s all it took for a life to change, end, and re-route. That’s life.

Since I am not going to play detective and try to solve this, I’ll send out a reminder. You’ve probably heard it before. Treat life like a precious gift and not an assumption. Every fucking day. Every damn second. Earn it and live strong. Don’t fuck around. Jasen didn’t fuck around. He had a great business, wife, and two sons. He fucking lived it up, and was taken too fucking soon.

I am sure his wife would hate to read a stranger write about her most precious person, and for that I am sorry. It’s what writers do. We trap ourselves in a dark room and try to write our way out. Most of the time, we fail. Sometimes, we find something.

Let’s not let Jasen die in vain. Use his memory to make your life better today. Yes, you can do that with a stranger’s passing. Give it a shot.

Now, please bartender, make this next drink strong. I need it.

RIP, Jasen Smith.



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