'We're All In Mourning': Tributes to Victims of the Oakland Warehouse Fire

Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

A memorial sprung up near the site in the days after the fire.

These eight (of the 36 total) people killed in the Ghost Ship blaze on Dec. 2 reveal the heart of the Bay Area’s music-centric creative community.

Cash Askew

Askew, a 22-year-old Bay Area native and one-half of the goth-influenced duo Them Are Us Too, frequently attended shows like the one at Ghost Ship with her girlfriend Anya Taylor and friend Feral Pines (who also was killed in the fire). “These amazing musicians around the Bay were all our friends,” says Taylor. “We were both excited to go see Joey [Casio, real name Joseph Matlock, who also was killed] play.”

Taylor had decided against going to the Ghost Ship party because she had to work early the next day. After news of the fire broke, Taylor says she ran to the scene and watched the fire burn for four hours. “We were together for a year,” says Taylor of Askew. “I love her so much.”

Kennedy Ashlyn, Askew’s partner in Them Are Us Too, met Askew about four years ago at the University of California, Santa Cruz. “It was Cash’s 19th birthday, and she had made this playlist for a party at my house,” recalls Ashlyn. “I was like, ‘I love this song. I love this song.’ We started the band the next day.”

Askew performed solo at Das Bunker in Los Angeles and New World Disorder in Oakland in November. “She brought the house down,” says Taylor. Ashlyn, who now lives in Texas, says Them Are Us Too had planned to tour South America in January. -- Jay Barmann

Jonathan Bernbaum

Bernbaum, 34, went to Ghost Ship that night with a close friend, Barrett Clark, to support his friend, Joey Casio, who was performing. All three died in the fire. The Berkeley, Calif., native created visuals for musicians on tour around the world, including Australian electronic duo Knife Party and Miami-based DJ-producer Markus Schulz.

Bernbaum’s friends remember him as a typically smart, eccentric and free-thinking denizen of the Bay Area’s creative corners. “We could talk nonsense in weird accents for hours and never get bored,” wrote burlesque performer Pickles LaVey on Facebook.

Schulz, who brought Bernbaum on his 2014 tour, says he was a creative force — “Jonathan’s visual show was stunning” — although he started off the tour “so nervous he was shaking.” By the third date in San Francisco, though, the show turned out “flawless.”

Says Ian Smith, a musician/audio engineer who was a frequent collaborator and close friend of Bernbaum’s: “He would hop off a plane from Beijing and drive five-plus hours into the woods to do visuals at our parties, then drive back and hop on a plane to go do events for 20,000-plus people. He never got to be too good for any of us.”  -- J.B.

Chelsea Faith Dolan

Dolan — a 33-year-old Bay Area musician/DJ/-producer/radio host who was to perform as Cherushii that night at Ghost Ship — “wanted outsiders to feel they had someone making music for them and with them,” says Amanda Brown, co-owner of 100 Percent Silk, which signed Dolan in 2013. “She was a strong presence for women in the electronic scene.”

Dolan, who studied classical piano at the San Francisco Music Conservatory, “played bass, guitar and accordion” according to her boyfriend, David Last. The couple completed an album together in 2015. “She had a sense of humor,” says Last. “We were sending up ’80s music.” Friend and collaborator Maria Minerva remembers Dolan’s commitment: “She’d bring two 80-pound suitcases to her shows; gear that she’d drag on her own.”

“She didn’t live online, didn’t live through social media, didn’t live through selling herself,” says Brown. “She made music only and didn’t pretend she was anything she wasn’t.” -- Ana Pelaez

Travis Blitzen Hough

Hough, 35, played in an Oakland electronic band, Ghost of Lightning, and frequented Ghost Ship. According to his manager Benjamin Dreaper, he was at the venue that night to see friends who were performing.

During the day, Hough worked as a creative arts therapist at Montalvin Manor Elementary in Richmond, California, where the students called him Mr. Travis. After word of Hough’s death spread, Montalvin Manor principal Katherine Acosta Verprauskus said she heard from many former students who had stayed in touch with him over the years. “It just speaks to how much of a wonderful human being he was that he gave his own time to continue the relationships he had built with our community,” Verprauskus says.

Colleagues describe Hough, who worked at the school for two years, as someone who loved his job. A week before the tragedy, he helped parents decorate the cafeteria for a school dance while creating the playlist. “He was so free and silly, dancing with all the kids and having such a fun time,” recalls Verprauskus. “Travis helped kids through art,” remembers Dreaper. “He put that across in his music, too — a feeling of emotional healing.” -- A.P.

Johnny Igaz

The 34-year-old Igaz, who performed as Nackt, was DJ’ing when the fire broke out. He released some of his music on 100 Percent Silk — the dance-music label whose artist Golden Donna (Joel Shanahan) was to headline the show — and worked as a music analyst at Pandora.

Igaz grew up in the Bay Area, playing jazz saxophone and collecting funk, soul and hip-hop records. His younger brother Paul remembers him spinning Stevie Wonder, Gil Scott-Heron, The Beatles, The Grateful Dead and Michael Jackson on their parents’ turntable. After graduating from Boston’s Berklee College of Music, Igaz returned to the Bay Area, assisting One Little Indian Records with digital marketing. The week of the fire was his last at Pandora, where he had worked since 2007. He recently started as a part-time music buyer for San Francisco’s Green Apple Books.

Igaz previously had a weekly residency at Oakland’s Ruby Room, established the East Oakland deep-house party Deep East and co-founded underground collective Rare Form and the Outpost party.

“Johnny was a fantastic human being,” says his friend Nic Higuera, a veteran of the local -underground scene. “As things were happening, the only thing he would have been doing was trying to get other people out safely.” —Whitney Phaneuf

Ara Jo

A queer-identifying visual artist and co-founder of the East Bay Alternative Book and Zine Fest, Ara Jo, 29, played many roles in the East Bay creative world. She served as curator and organizer at two art galleries (the Sgraffito Gallery and the Rock Paper Scissors Collective) in Oakland, where she lived, and worked at the Berkeley art supply store Ink Stone. She had also, according to friend Anjelica Colliard, just started a combination punk-cumbia band called HGS in which she played synths. The quartet had just played one of its first gigs at a Standing Rock benefit and released its first single, “Pepe y Las Ardillas,” on Dec. 1.

“She was a spearhead for so many significant arts communities in Oakland,” says Colliard of Jo, an electronic music fan and frequent sight at neighborhood venues. “She was constantly connecting different groups of people together.”

Another friend, Whitney Diaz, described meeting Ara Jo on a recent camping trip on the Yuba River in Northern California. “Her energy was contagious,” Diaz says, describing how she was the first to jump in the water. “She was being her silly self, making jokes.” Says Colliard: "She never seemed to forget the real meaning of never wasting a moment of her time in this life." -- J.B.

Feral Pines

Pines, 29, was a garage rock musician, lover of animals (she owned two rescue dogs) and Westport, Connecticut native who arrived in the Bay Area from Bloomington, Indiana in September. Eliza Wicks-Frank, Feral Pines’ former partner of five years, says that Pines was “last seen taking down swastika paraphernalia at Ghost Ship” — just before the fire began, Pines and her friends had decided to tear down some of the wooden Hindu symbols that hung in the eclectic space.

As a musician, Wicks-Frank says, Pines “was a brilliant obsessive weirdo with an encyclopedic knowledge for all things to do with synthesizers.” She went to Ghost Ship on Friday night with musician Cash Askew, who also died, and another friend who survived. The three, Wicks-Frank says, "wanted to start a trans girl rave collective."

In a joint statement given to Billboard, Wicks-Frank and Pines' close friends Lex Young and Scout Wolfcave wrote that, “For many in her trans community, Feral was a guide and sister in a world of small joys and terrible precariousness for trans women.” Says Young: “We are all gutted now.” -- J.B.

Jennifer Kiyomi Tanouye

Tanouye, a 31-year-old who grew up in the Bay Area, championed local bands in her job as a music manager at Shazam and as the former director of the Mission Creek Oakland Music and Arts Festival. “She could bring people together,” says Noella Teele, co-owner of Oakland magazine shop Issues, where Tanouye worked for four years.

With her ever-changing hair — it shifted from fuchsia to teal to indigo — and her beloved Pomeranian by her side, Tanouye could often be spotted, as she was that night at Ghost Ship, painting nail art in bars, clubs and DIY venues. “She created community wherever she went,” says Nicole Leigh, who volunteered alongside Tanouye for Mission Creek Oakland. “You wouldn’t detect an ounce of judgment or pretension.”

Shazam paid tribute to Tanouye on its app and website, adding a link to donate to the fire relief fund. “It’s such an enormous loss,”says Shazam CEO Rich Riley. “We’re all very much in mourning. She was a ray of light.”

Friends are working on establishing a scholarship in Tanouye’s honor at Mills College, where she graduated in 2007, and Mission Creek festival founder Jeff Ray hopes to carry on Tanouye’s legacy by raising funds for an all-ages, nonprofit venue in Oakland. -- W.P.


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