—Article by David Menconi
You can get a good sense of a person’s standing in the world based on who shows up for memorial events after they’re gone. So it is that a veritable all-star team of A-list local artists will play “Tim Carless Among Friends: A Memorial Concert,” Aug. 29 at Cat’s Cradle. The lineup includes Skylar Gudasz, Jeff Crawford, Rachel Kiel, Brett Harris, The Old Ceremony frontman Django Haskins, Anne-Claire and more.
They’re doing this in honor of Carless, a highly esteemed member of the local music and arts community, who passed from esophageal cancer on June 14. He was only 55 years old, well-known as a painter as well as a performer and music teacher. If you were in his circle of friends, you probably knew that Carless was something of a multi-disciplinary renaissance man.
“Tim was an extraordinary person,” says Josh Busman, a music professor at UNC-Pembroke, longtime friend and collaborator, and co-organizer of the show. “In conversation, he could bring together a record by some obscure singer-songwriter you’ve never heard of with a poem by a poet you didn’t know and a Russian expressionist novel, drawing all these incredibly compelling connections across disciplines. He was an extraordinary conversation partner and collaborator with boundless and capacious knowledge about so much.”
Carless did not get a lot of time at the end, only a month after his diagnosis. The abrupt timeline meant that a lot of his friends never got to say a proper goodbye, which is something they’re all grappling with.
“I still can’t believe he’s gone, man,” says Brad Porter, who worked with Carless in his capacity as former managing director of the Carrboro ArtsCenter. “It went very fast and seems almost surreal, especially for those of us who did not get to speak with him. But something we’ve found out between all of us afterward is that he had similar relationships with people who were like separate universes unto themselves. All of us were perpetually trying to get together for coffee with Tim all the time.”
Carless kept busy on multiple fronts as a musician, running a studio in his native England and working with some of the top artists in the world, up to and including Paul McCartney. He moved to America about 20 years ago, eventually settling in Carrboro in 2006. Along with teaching, Carless organized and played a lot of event-type shows – everything from live-scoring classic films to tributes to classic albums like Bob Dylan’s “Slow Train Coming.”
In the wake of his passing, Carless’ friends organized a fund-raising campaign to support his two daughters, Pema and Seraphina. There is also the memorial concert, a free event that includes stories, remembrances and an exhibit of some of his paintings at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Park in Carrboro. Busman’s final conversation with Carless pertained to the show.
“He explicitly mentioned this concert, and I reassured him I was willing and able to take this on and make it happen,” Busman says. “It’s a labor of love and devotion for a lot of us, something we all want for him. One of the most exciting and gratifying but not surprising things has been seeing this unbelievably diverse community that knew and loved Tim. He was great at curating things, like how to lay an Elvis Costello song and a Philip Larkin poem and Bulgakov novel all together in such a way to create intentional new resonances. In his curation, the final act is this amazing group of people coming together for the concert. It’s heartening to discover, after his death, all these other people I didn’t know but loved him as much as I did.”