I considered Micah Danemayer a friend, even though relative to others, I didn't know him well. I'd see him out and about, mostly in Oakland, showing up to support his friends when they were performing. In particular, I loved his social media presence, where he was unabashedly unguarded. While many carefully curate their lives online, building an idealized version of themselves -- a "personal brand" -- Micah took the opposite tack, sharing his innermost thoughts and feelings without hesitation.
Years ago, when I first met him, Micah’s online musings were uncertain, tentative; he neither knew where he fit in nor what to do about it. But over time, I noticed a distinct shift in the tenor of what Micah shared online. This past year, he had found his place with his friends and peers -- his "mutant family," he called them, with adoration and love.
For more than a year before the fire, Micah had devoted himself to tirelessly building community: hosting an event series called Obscura Machina, showcasing rising experimental musicians, and launching his own cassette-tape label, Discarded Records. The label provided a platform for many of the artists he championed at his events. And he had found a loving partner -- Jennifer Mendiola, a fellow lover of left-field music and a psychology Ph.D candidate at the University of California Merced. She, like Micah, was lost in the fire; the two of them had moved into an apartment together not long before.
But while Micah was here, the force of his dedication to his fellow artists, musicians, and creators made an outsize impact on numerous lives. "Micah's tireless approach to highlighting under-represented underground musicians was unique," says Fanciulla Gentile, a San Francisco artist who performs as The Creatrix and as part of the electronic duo Felidae. "He wasn't shy or intimidated by the diversity of local performers. He'd ask anyone to be part of his shows -- people of color, queers, trans people, non-binary performers, lovers of noise and industrial sounds," she says. Gentile says the billed names on Micah’s lineups were rarely recognizable, because he "was always working hard to encourage someone to play their first set, to keep performing. He would bring artists from different circles together and do away with arbitrary lines dividing music scenes and genres."
Friend and fellow Oakland DJ Jason Polastri remembers Micah as someone who "didn't seem scare-able by the things that often make people insecure about sharing their art." More than that, he used his limitless energy not just to embolden others to act creatively, but also, Polastri says, "to actively make and build space for creative expression to take root and grow. He cared, even if others didn't, and was never shy about letting on that he did. So many folks took that next step thanks to a push from Micah."
Close friend and fellow electronic musician Matthew Kissel says Micah was hugely impactful on his life. Kissel remembers Micah as part of the "relatively small collection of people that I'm truly comfortable with, and owe much of my comfort to.”
Micah was truly empathetic. "He'd find the time almost every week to come visit me, and when he walked in the door, he could tell what sort of emotional state I was in,” Kissel says. “And if I needed support, he knew exactly what form it ought to be in.”
Micah's loss has affected Kissel enormously. But one thing he finds solace in, he says, "is knowing how happy Micah was these final weeks of his life." Meeting Jennifer, his partner, made an enormous impact on Micah, and Kissel believes that she played a role in his life he desperately needed, "providing the most positive outlet for all the love he had to give."
Micah and Jennifer's loss is tragic, Kissel says, "but his couple months with Jen were one of the most important things he could experience before leaving this planet. They left together."
To hear music released by Danemayer on Discarded Records, see the label's Bandcamp page.
For more of our tributes to the victims of the Oakland warehouse fire, please visit our remembrances page here.
For a printable poster of the illustration above, see here.
Funding for KQED Arts is provided by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
Support is also provided by Yogen and Peggy Dalal, Diane B. Wilsey, the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Helen Sarah Steyer, the William and Gretchen Kimball Fund, and the members of KQED