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There was this one gig that wasn't a gig.

But if you described its elements as a list, it sure does read like one.

The fiddle player was there, along with both founding members, a couple of bassists, the mando master, and the washboard scrubber.

The band drove to the designated location, as we had countless times, to be together and make something happen, to shine a little life into a darkening world.

As from the very beginning, Jeff Brooks brought us together, and was there long before the rest of us.

As we arrived, at a venue we'd never been to, the group text kept chiming.

"When you get here, park in garage 2."

"The entrance is confusing, take your first left."

"We'll meet in the lobby."

Upon arrival, the words, "I'm with the band," earned me a wristband.

We threw around stories and references from gigs past.

Jeff, who'd put this whole thing together from a rag-tag bunch of sound bandits from different musical backgrounds, pontificated, as he does, on the power of music, and we agreed that this thing called The Bodarks had caught lightning in a bottle, and that it was a special kind of family.

Later, there were beers at a barbecue joint, but the kitchen was closed, so we had to search for someplace that was still serving food; and when we found a place, we ate way too much. It was just like the final night of the Kansas tour of '21.

This place was far from home, so we retired to our hotel rooms.

Sounds like a gig, but it wasn't.

The waxed-paper wristbands - like so many we'd worn at bluegrass festivals, clubs, and bars - allowed us passage into MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. We were there to say goodbye to our fearless leader. As I ripped the band from my wrist, I couldn't help but murmur, "Shittiest nightclub ever."

I guess this is where the ol' "Frisco Line" lets off. We "Get Born," we travel down that "Old Muddy Road," and we "Won't Stop Till [We're] Dead." And it's not for not. Not even by a long shot.

If you're reading this, likely you've traveled alongside The Bodarks, maybe only for a bit, maybe the whole darn way. If you're reading this, you likely know that the maestro, Jeff Brooks, has gone on to the Next Great Adventure, a lot too soon, but not without leaving eleven years of boot-stomping, hoot'n'hollering joy in his wake.

Likely, if you're reading this, you're used to the "I" in these writings being Jeff's voice, not Doc's. But as we were writing another piece together when he passed, I suppose it's the closest it gets. I like to think he's guiding my fingers as I type. He was a storyteller, and I'm certain he would want the book to have a final chapter. Or at least a cliffhanger to set up the sequel.

I speak for all Bodarks and Bodarkistas, past and present, when I say Jeff had a profound affect on our lives. His songs, as they are not bound by this Mortal Coil, will linger on and reverberate without end.

"Music," he said, as we took our final meeting, "is integration. It takes all the pieces, all the people and makes something greater than the sum of its parts."

It's true. No matter what any of us had going on in our day-to-day lives, when the Bodarks came together and took the stage, from downbeat to final note, the only thing that mattered was the tune, the jam. A sacred space of magic.

This gig that was not a gig...ALL the Bodarks were there. Yes, Jeff was a fierce friend to all of us. Yes, we each had individual relationships with him that existed outside music-making time. But the fact that, in the end, we all came together one final time...that speaks to the power of music...the power of life...the power of art to create something truly miraculous. When you create with someone, there forms a bond that cannot be broken - not by time, not by the daily goings on of life, not even by death.

Maybe that's why the last thing he ever said to me was, "Don't stop playing music."

He said it to Shelly too. He knew somehow, that without his final directive, we'd just pack it in, knowing it would never be the same. Then again, the Bodarks always changed, evolved. Jeff never let the thing stagnate, never let us rest on our laurels. Stagnation is not creation. Creation always moves forward. The road goes ever on.

Now...The Bodarks? I'm not sure that can exist without him. But none of us will ever stop chasing the high we had in this group, with Jeff. And who are we to go against his last wishes...that we carry the tunes forward, that we never stop creating that sacred space of song?

Thank you to all of our fans and friends who have reached out in our darkest time these past few days. We love you all and are extremely grateful for your connection with Jeff and all of us. Keep the hootenanny alive, and we'll see you soon.

The Bodarks

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