by Jake Cleland
Last month cancer stole our friend Adrian Slattery. I say stole not only ‘cos he was a young fella, but also ‘cos he’d done nothing to deserve it, insofar as anybody ever deserves to hear their final siren. It was a random act of destruction, and here we are, the so-called lucky, having to live with the fact of our treacherous bodies.
I first met Adrian through Yeo or Luke Brennan, I reckon, in the earlier days of Big Smoke, when I had no time for country unless it was played through the hands of those friends. I was immediately taken. The guy had an avuncular quality like no one I’d ever met. He was interested in you, he was curious about what you had goin’ on, but you had to stop him talking ‘cos you wanted to know what was goin’ on with him instead.
Adrian’s songs belied his heart, big and wild and brimming with the energy to gallop through every adventure but also laden with the kinda sadness and love which ultimately grounded those songs in pulse-stopping reality. And yet he always seemed to take it easy. Being around him was palliative. He wasn’t shit-talking people, wasn’t hung up on the sewersludge toxic crawl of humanity into self-putrefaction. I’m not saying he was indifferent — far from it — but I always got the sense that whatever goodness Adrian could see in front of him was enough to ward off the terror prowling the edges of one’s outward perspective. Maybe that’s why he was surrounded by so many folks just the same as him: honest, kind, uncynical people. Too rare to afford losing any one of ‘em.
You more afraid of death or clichés? Here’s one: I miss his smile. No but this thing was one to behold, the way Adrian never hoarded it, the way it’d throw itself out from under that scrub brush stache like an early bird greeting the morning, eager to take on all the world’s potential. When Adrian was down it was like all the light’d gone outta the world and later you’d realize it’s ‘cos none of it was gleaming off those pearlers. But that smile and its accompanying laugh, the sound of shock at experiencing such pure joy as the joke of a friend, which seemed to suck its way outta his lungs, that is a fucking devastating thing to lose.
Adrian put beautiful, compassionate, soaring music into the world with his records and his shows and injected the same spaces with more kindness than anyone could ever fathom. What’s there to take from this? Only to do him the honour of living on as he would. The last time I saw Big Smoke was with Baby Blue and Oh Pep! a couple months ago, and I was tired as hell and never sought out Adrian and the rest of those boys in the crowd after. Figured I’d see ’em again at the next thing. You know how that goes. It often feels impossible to maintain even the barest thread of a friendship with all the outstanding folks in one’s life, but I will always owe Adrian for reminding me to stay curious. And never to be jealous with that smile.
Originally published in STRINE WHINE: ISSUE ELEVEN