Norman's Tribute Show

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Norman, The Piano Man

by Owen Gray

photos of Norman’s Tribute Show by Taco Olmstead


Owen Gray is the booking agent for The Werks and has been part of their family for a long time.  We first met him at that fateful 8×10 show where we met The Werks in 2012.  Though we didn’t see him much on the road, Owen was always a sort of silent member of the band.  They even named a song after him — “O.G.”  After the amazing outpouring of love and support shown at Norman Dimitrouleas’s funeral and tribute show, Owen wanted to express the inspiration that Norman was to him and the rest of the world.

Losing him hurts.  I’m okay, but I’m definitely WAY more emotionally affected and feeling grief deeper than I expected.  I went to Dayton, OH, for Norm’s funeral on Wednesday and stayed for a collaborative concert at a local venue in his honor.  Lots of musicians he knew and was close to played and The Werks closed the night, about 5-6 hours of music. Space Panda, Kenny, Donald, Tom, Taco…they were all there.  It was one in one out and had overflow people watching the live stream from bars next door. Over 2000 people streamed it from outside Ohio.  It was so deeply moving, powerful and amazing to see so many people come celebrate his life.  The actual funeral service was open casket in a funeral home that probably was a 350-400 capacity building and people were lined up outside, cars were circling the building until a parking spot freed up. I’ve never seen anything like it.

I couldn’t bring myself to go look at him in the open casket, saw him from a distance but I’ve never seen anyone in an open casket and I just couldn’t do it.  I was so scared and it seemed so unnatural and haunting to me that I could see him laying there peacefully but not alive, that’s too much and the image from a distance makes me swell up with tears.  Thinking and reflecting on my friendship with him and the experiences and interactions we shared, he never said one negative thing about anyone, EVER.  He always tried to help and support people, especially younger musicians and bands.  He’d play with them at their local shows & support them in any way possible.  I think there were a couple Werks’ gigs we had to turn down back in the day because Norman had committed to another local show it cause, and that was the way he was; when he said he was going to do something he was true to his word and would always see it through.  He would offer help to people in general with anything.. Every time I would reunite with him in person he would greet me with a huge smile, a huge hug and the first words out of his mouth were “OG, how are you, how’s everything with you?”  The emphasis was always directed towards you.  He made you feel like the most important person in the world, because in that moment to Norm, you were.

Through the evening and night I heard almost 100 stories all about him doing something generous, selfless, always making sure he could offer to help with whatever anyone needed. He was always fun, such a pure, selfless soul and exemplary friend of quality and substance.  He listened and he cared, and there are very few people I can think of who possess the character and qualities he had, who loved as sincerely as he did, who acted with such wholehearted kindness and brought deep warmth & brightness to so many souls, simply trough his presence.  Through processing his death, I am realizing the significance of how incredible a person he was, and how many people–including myself–fall short of being who we can and should be.  We should be smiling more, laughing more, listening more, meaning what we say more, and trying to understand more about each other with each and every interaction, whether being lifelong friends or having an interaction with a complete stranger. Whether for one second or days/months/years spent with someone.

We need to remember that being a human alive right now in this universe is insanely precious and fragile.  It should be treated with care, and we should treat every action with others with more care, making it matter.  It does matter, life is worth living however tragic and painful it is and we have to treat our existence with self respect and equal blanketed respect for others.  There is always the option to give more or take more depending on the desire to help yourself versus others.  We can help heal or help hurt with every thought/word/action/reaction.  Doing nothing doesn’t solve or help anything.  Doing nothing doesn’t further anything.  Nothing is not an option.  We can be more.

Norman was more and more every waking second of every day.  And just as important as making life matter by trying and caring, we need to forgive and release.  Time is not always our friend, it doesn’t answer to anyone.  All the anger, frustration, disagreements with others, perceived hatred of someone’s actions or way of life is nothing more than an enormous waste of our valuable time we should spend being more.  Anger is fierce and moves fast, all encompassing and exponentially seeping deeper into the mind, heart and soul.  It is a sickness and poison and can quickly consume every living cell in your body.  Forgiveness isn’t always easy, but do you really want to lose even one second of your life to directing energy towards whatever it is that you cannot change anyway.. Because anger is a reaction.  Forgiveness is an action, and the more we can forgive, the more we can live.

I will forever miss my friend and the heart pained grief is long but gone.  I think sometimes we know how significant or real our emotions are by experiencing them with others.  When I saw the tears and shaking pain on the faces of my friends, the reality of the loss began to ring true.  The strength of Norman as an individual lives on through the lives he touched and that was showcased in the gathering for him.  I witnessed the gathering of friends and family who knew Norm and came together in his honor to pay respects, but there was something much greater happening.  All of us were there because in some capacity we knew one man, and through knowing him we somehow knew each other.  I can’t help but think of the movie “It’s A Wonderful Life” in which a man gains true perspective on his life and how much he influenced others for good by experiencing what life would be like if he had never been born.  Norm was a powerful and influential force of good, I’m so grateful and blessed to have known him and I won’t forget how kind he was to me and others.  Waterfalls start from one drop.  I understand how special and powerful kindness and love is by being left without it from just one man; the power of one.  I’m inspired to do better, to be more, and be grateful I’ve been given a chance to even try.