Monte Donaldson / DJ EEG
I remeber meeting Monte in the early 90's at 7-Beats-Per-Minute, a surealistly-sublime evening at Seattle's ReBar. This fortuitous meeting rooted our friendship in a mutual appreciation for atmospheric ambience - for lack of a better word. In early 1998, I worked with a group of filmmakers to screen super-8 films at the Alibi Room on Monday nights. These shows were only partially successful because most of our effort was going into the visual component, leaving the aural accompaniment to be thrown together at the last minute. When that group disbanded I wanted to continue screenings, but knew that something more needed to be added.
As life would have it, Monte held sway the Thursday night Alibi Room slot for his DJ event called Sway. I'm not sure which of us thought of working together first. In fact, from this vantage point I swear it seems that it was never even tentatively discussed; it was just an inevitability. Our goal for the new show was already the same: to create a space & atmosphere where the audience would feel elevated yet comfortable, challenged yet relaxed, and inspired yet unintimidated. Most other DJs would have blown me and the fragile, cantankerous super-8 films I love out of the water. But Monte parted the waves and took us all in so that within 4 shows we were drawing 100 people to the newly created Emerald Reels Super-8 Lounge. I was more amazed than anyone at the turnouts since I knew they were not due only to the films: In Seattle there're amazing filmscreenings every week with only 10 people sitting in the audience. The audience came and came back because of the atmosphere and ambience.
As was Monte's magic talent he made things even easier by also introducing me to Dan Foley (DJ 00#/), his long-time friend and DJ partner. For the next year and a half, Dan and Monte traded off Djing for ERS8 - each with his own different but similar style. Then on 8 Jan 00 Emerald Reels sponsored s8.1.2000, an event so large that it took both DJ EEG and DJ 00#/ to cover it. It was the first time we had all worked together in one night. We featured 40 films and had 200 people at the show. It was unquestionably at an altogether new level. The only thing that seemed like a bump in the road that day was that Monte¹s mother requested that he and Colleen drive down to Tacoma to meet her for lunch since they were flying to Mexico two days later for vacation. I thank god she did and I thank god I hugged him joyfully when our show was over and he left the club that night.
Monte was one of the greatest people I ever knew for explaining extreme subtleties. When necessary he¹d resort to body language to communicate a particular mood or the feeling of a new record he'd just bought. Where most people trail off in conversation, Monte would get started. Even with planning Emerald Reels filmshow it was this way: I¹d find myself prepared with a long speech about how the structure of the night would go and Monte¹d just politely listen and then reassure me that all my concrete concerns about equipment and set-up time were minimal issues. It was fine and would continue to be so undoubtedly, he would communicate to me mostly with his tone. The only details he was really concerned with were the nuances, the mood of the films, the vibe for the pre-show. His only concrete concern: what time might we be done so that he could tell Colleen when to expect him home.
On 31 January 1999, Monte Donaldson and his fiancée Colleen Whorley, a successful art director with Microsoft, died along with 86 others in the crash of Alaska Airlines Flight 261 off the sunny coast of southern California. They were returning from a 3-week vacation in Puerto Vallarta. Colleen and Monte had been dating since the 80's and were to be married in September. In an email sent just before leaving Mexico, Monte described themselves as "falling in love again for the 10th time."