‘Someone so full of life is gone’: Oakland tragedy reaches Mass.
Amanda Allen, a Chelmsford High School graduate, was photographing the deejay awash in pulsating light. Micah Danemayer, who grew up in Somerville, was projecting video images onto a screen. Nick Gomez-Hall, a musician who graduated from Brown University, was taking it all in. Peter Wadsworth, a native of Boston’s Bay Village, was downstairs, part of a collective of artists and musicians who lived in the warehouse, known as the Ghost Ship.
All four were members of a young tribe of musicians, deejays, and dancers who gravitated toward the electronic music scene and were inside the two-floor warehouse in Oakland, Calif., when it erupted in flames Friday night. At least 36 people were killed in what authorities have called one of the worst building fires in the United States in more than a decade.
Allen, 34, Danemayer, 28, and Wadsworth, 38, were among those missing. Gomez-Hall, 25, was among the confirmed deaths.
The tragedy quickly rippled from the West Coast to the East, as distraught family members and friends mourned and remembered those lost, several with deep roots in the Boston area.
“It’s devastating that someone so full of life is gone,” said Kate Miles, who met Allen almost 10 years ago — most likely, she said, while dancing at ‘90s night at the Common Ground in Allston.
Allen, friends said, was a talented photographer and electronic music promoter who wrote her honors thesis on radical feminism at Bridgewater State University and hosted an ‘80s music show on the college radio station.
She sported a tattoo of the Egyptian goddess Isis on her shoulder and another on her arm that depicted a tree blowing in the wind, along with the words, “feel the rain on your skin,” from the song “Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield.
That lyric was “so Amanda,” said Jena DiPinto, 35, a friend and high school classmate.
“She literally embodied the phrase ‘full of life,’” DiPinto said. “If she wanted to do something, she did it.”
Susannah Buzard said she met Allen in the early 2000s when they both blogged about their lives on LiveJournal, a social media site. The two became part of a group that went dancing every Friday night at a long-running Brit Pop show at Great Scott in Allston.
“She was never too old to dress up in a costume or go to the latest show but was also very sensitive and supportive,” Buzard said. “It’s some small comfort knowing she was doing something she loved, being there at the Ghost Ship that night.”
Allen, who is referred to by her married name, Amanda Kershaw, in some reports, organized a regular show in San Francisco called Pulse Generator that featured experimental electronic musicians, said Marke Bieschke, who writes about Bay Area nightlife.
Allen also “took a lot of great iconic photos of the underground techno scene,” he said, and “was always super bright and very energetic.”
Danemayer, an electronic musician who performed under the name Paralycyst, was at the Ghost Ship with his girlfriend, Alana “Jen” Kane, who is also missing, according to an account that Devyn Fordyce, 26, a friend and bandmate, gave to the San Francisco Chronicle.
“I’ve never met anybody so passionate, not only for his own art and music but for everyone else’s,” Fordyce told the paper.
Matthew Kissel, a friend, said he met Danemayer at a show two years ago and instantly connected.
“He’s such an open, honest, and inviting person that my ingrained social anxieties disappeared,” Kissel wrote in an e-mail. Danemayer soon booked Kissel to play at a show and the two became part of the same “mutant family,” he wrote.
“It’s been two years that I’ve been friends with him, but it feels like we’ve known each other for so many more, since childhood perhaps,” Kissel wrote. “I feel so angry that our time was cut so short.”
A Danemayer relative declined to comment, instead referring to a Facebook page filled with friends’ remembrances. One wrote that he would miss Danemayer’s “voice mails filled with crunchy feedback.”
“Whenever he would call I’d let it go to voice mail knowing I’d get a little preview of whatever he was jamming on,” the friend wrote.
Wadsworth had just moved into the Ghost Ship less than a year ago and was living one floor below the show, said Bob Mulè, a friend and fellow resident. Mulè said that when the fire broke out, he ran to get his camera and then saw Wadsworth on the floor.
“He must have broken his ankle while coming down from his loft and his space and he needed me to pull him out,” Mulè told NBC’s “Today” show on Sunday. “I tried my best and there was just stuff in the way. Some stuff had fallen and it was hectic.”
Tammy Tasoff, an MIT graduate and dental student in San Francisco, said Wadsworth, whom she met in Boston six years ago, was “like a big brother to me.”
“He took very good care of his friends, he was very generous, and he would notice things I was having trouble with,” she said.
For example, Tasoff, who is very messy, said Wadsworth ordered file folders online and organized her papers for her.
“He acted like my secretary, just because he was a sweetheart,” she said. “I would call him my secretary.”
Wadsworth, who attended Reed College in Oregon and studied for a semester at Harvard University, had multiple jobs, working with artists’ groups and startups, she said.
“He was very much on the business side of things and my friends call him ‘Business Pete,’” Tasoff said.
Gomez-Hall, who grew up in Coronado, Calif., graduated from Brown in 2013. He played guitar and sang in a rock band called Nightmom, which “served as a kind of way in to the Providence music scene a few years ago,” The College Hill Independent, a student newspaper, wrote on Facebook. “We are seeing the impacts of his loss all around [Providence] today.”
Gomez-Hall worked at Counterpoint Press, a publishing house in Berkeley, Calif., which called him “an extraordinary co-worker and a true friend.”
“Whether he was recommending new music to listen to (and it was always so good), regaling us with tales of the bowling alley, offering his beloved truck for a ride if anyone needed it, or sharing his much appreciated opinions about a book jacket or manuscript, he made everyone feel like they were his friend,” the company wrote on Facebook. “He was kind, considerate, hilarious. . . . Rest in peace, dear Nick.”