How a Piece of Shit Sousaphone Player Became My Worst EnemySubmitted by OathMeal at 2019-03-06 10:00:57 EST
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Its sights. Its sounds. Its smells (mostly cannabis).
The Mile High City has long been considered a bastion of independence and forward thinking. It's where cowpokes in the olden times would travel to stock up for the harsh winters along the Rockies. It also ranks near the top on the list of American cities with the worst drivers.
Denver has a long history steeped in that tried-and-true American spirit of 'Frontierism', and it's always called to me as a place I knew I would end up, eventually.
I've been here for almost 12 years. In that time, I've made countless connections (including one with the beloved Flack), smoked untold heaps of the greenest pot the ground can produce, and been fortunate enough to become a relatively well-regarded musician.
But, one thing has happened to me since moving here that has grown into a nagging source of animosity where none existed before, at least not since my decade-old interactions with JayPeg. That one thing is a constituent member of a band of horn players that go by the name 'Brothers of Brass'.
Let me tell you the story of how a single sousaphone player named Khalil Ladd Simon - a convicted domestic abuser, financial fraudster, and Craigslist scammer - became my worst enemy. This is a story of street musicians, felony criminal activity, and a modern-day case of Bret-Dallas-Against-the-World.
In November of 2018, the Denver Westword, a weekly print magazine, ran a cover story about the Brothers of Brass. You can read it for yourself, here:
This story was about how a band of horn-playing street performers were pissing off residents and pedestrians in Denver's downtown area. To be fair, it was also about how popular the band had become; as of today, the group has amassed over 4,000 likes on Facebook along with a fiercely loyal troupe of fans - fans that are now my adversaries by proxy.
I was included in the Westword story. You'll see my commentary mentioned next to a high-constrast photo of me looking like I needed to squeeze out a monument-sized poo.
Frankly, I think the magazine did a shit job of accurately depicting my beef with the BoB, and they left a few key facts out of the narrative. That's fine - I can't expect every journalist to conform to my exacting standards of Truth Representation.
I'm sharing this news clip with you to give you an idea of how this mess has been brought to a frothing boil, and how I now find myself at odds not just with a douchebag bottom-feeder of a human being, but with an entire subset of the Denver population.
This all started one cool, crisp evening in Denver back in 2016. I was playing my guitar in front of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, a notable venue for plays, ballets, and creative performances of all stripes. Just as I was easing into a groovy blues tune for the passers-by, I noticed a large, impending figure approaching me. I looked up to see a 6'4" black man staring at me with a look on his face that I can only describe as angry gorilla-esque.
His brow was furrowed, his arms were crossed, and he clearly had something to say to me.
So, I stopped playing my music, and I asked him, "Hey, man. What's up? Can I help you?"
"What the fuck do you think you're doing?" was his response.
"The fuck you are. Do you not see us over there?" he said, and he motioned to a group of six young men all standing around with brass instruments, each of them looking my way with a glare of discontent.
"Well, I see you there now. But, I mean, I've been playing here for half an hour. When did you guys decide to set up and play here? Just now?" I said.
"Dude, we play here *every* Friday night. This is our spot. And trust me, you don't want a war with us. We're the Brothers of Brass," he said.
With this, the man edged closer to me, leaned in, and made his presence an issue. He knew that he had the power of six dudes behind him (ha-ha buttsex), and what the hell was I going to do about it? At the time, I acknowledged that I was going to do absolutely nothing but acquiesce, because I didn't feel like getting jumped by a throng of angry trombonists.
Oh. And one sousaphonist. That's what the tall black guy played. The sousaphone.
Dude, it's a tuba. Stop calling it a sousaphone. Whatever. Dude plays a tuba. Moving on.
I decided that whoever this asshole was, it wasn't worth my time or energy to get in a fight with him. So, against my better judgment, I packed up my gear, and I moved to another street corner a solid half-mile away from where I was.
It's at this moment that Khalil Simon and the Brothers of Brass decided to wage an assault of subterfuge and harassment with the clear intent of forcing me out of downtown Denver. They followed me.
That's right - they followed me to the next street corner. Where I set up, they set up. I began to play, and then they began to play. Keep in mind that this band is composed of a tuba, two trombones, a clarinet, a saxophone, a snare drum, and a bass drum. This is essentially a marching band, and if you've ever been in close proximity to a marching band, you know just how fucking loud shit can get.
The sonic barrage that came from the Brothers of Brass that night - aimed squarely at me - was not at all unlike the 'shot heard 'round the world' of Revolutionary War lore. It was a gauntlet being thrown down, a stake in the sand. And so, I decided that this story needed to be told. I didn't want to be the only one who knew how territorial and disrespectful these guys were.
The next day, I took to the internet to share my story. I posted numerous threads on Reddit, one of which gained a ton of traction and brought some social justice warriors from out of the woodwork and into the YouTube limelight, where the Brothers of Brass' performance videos were thumbs-downed into oblivion.
People began commenting about the criminal nature of this band. There were allegations of the clarinet player brandishing his firearm on the street, and I was direct-messaged by one redditor in particular who keyed me into a series of interesting facts about the ape-like character that approached me that fateful night in 2016.
As it turns out, Khalil Simon, the all-hallowed tuba virtuoso, has a long history of scamming elderly people on Craigslist. He has outstanding warrants in two states, Georgia and Florida, both for financial fraud charges. Oh, and he has a history of beating women, one of them being a family member that took out a restraining order against him in 2015.
Now, I would have probably just let this story end with the Summoning of Angry Redditors. But, Khalil Simon and the Brothers of Brass were not happy with what had just happened, and so began a months-long campaign of harassing me, both in-person and online.
I would be playing on the street, and I would look up to see Khalil Simon filming me and hurling expletives at me during my performance.
I would start to receive threating phone calls from unlisted numbers.
I would begin receiving hateful YouTube comments seemingly out of nowhere, complete with threats like "We better not see you out in Denver again...watch your back, Bret Dallas." And on, and on.
This all culminated with the release of that Westword story that I referenced above. Since then, the Brothers of Brass have gone on to enjoy quite an impressive amount of fanfare. They've toured the country at least once, and they've made their way onto playbills with some pretty big names in the Denver music scene. You can imagine my chagrin at all this - all while I continue to pick at my pathetic six-string on the corners of the 16th Street Mall.
Now, it may seem like I'm feeling sorry for myself about all this. And, I'll admit, I did go through a phase of that. But, at this point, I'm using this experience as a tool for self-development.
In this world, there will always be self-righteous, violent thugs who take what they want without recompense. These individuals may even enjoy some level of personal success in their lives, even though their hearts are riddled with greed and malice.
Through all of it, I've chosen to maintain an attitude of gratitude. I am deeply grateful for my fans and for the people who realized that what the Brothers of Brass were doing was wrong. I am grateful to the City of Denver for embracing me as a creative force for good, not as a boisterous, obnoxious and imposing Caller of Brass-Fueled Cacophony.
Am I really taking the high road in saying all this? Or, am I just waxing infantile about what *I and I alone* perceive as a series of grave injustices? Who knows.
The next time you find yourself in Denver, take a walk downtown. Stop for a moment on a street corner and take note of what you hear. Is there a guitar being played somewhere, by a man who loves this city? Or is there a band of brass players pounding out a pop song cover for some easy adoration and a few five-spots?
If you happen to hear both at once, then you know the war rages on.
I'll see you on the streets. :)