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April 16, 2014

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Death of Adam Goldstein (DJ AM) a tragedy by any measure

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Joe Fury/N9NE Group

DJ AM performs at Rain in the Palms.

Those who don’t understand the relevance of the stunning death Friday of Adam Goldstein will at least understand statistics. Like the 2,000 club patrons who poured in to watch and hear Goldstein, in his role as DJ AM, work the turntables at the Palms’ Rain nightclub. I don’t like clubs unless there is a point to being in one but was always eager to catch AM wherever he was booked, and he was immensely entertaining whenever he climbed into the booth. He was at his best when paired with drummer Travis Barker of hard-rock triumvirate Blink-182, a recently reunited band that nearly defies categorization. Pop-rock-punk about covers it. Whatever it is, the music emanates at an ear-splitting level, and the pairing of AM and Barker at places like Pure at Caesars and LAX at the Luxor was one of the more explosive shows in Las Vegas.

The first time I saw these two was October 2005, at Pure, and was just blown away by the sheer power, volume and boundless imagination of the performance. The 36,000-square-foot nightclub was jammed to capacity. Barker was soaked after five minutes but hammered away relentlessly as AM spun a sample of songs ranging from Ray Charles’ “I Got a Woman” to Violent Femmes' “Blister in the Sun.” It was a scene repeated later at LAX (where Goldstein was an investor), and I followed the DJ over to Rain and was on hand the night he opened there, on April 24 of this year.

It was a night I’d already been entertained, by Trent Carlini’s since-defunct Elvis tribute show at the Steve Wyrick Theater in the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood. Over at the Palms, AM didn’t go off until midnight. By then I was thinking I’d like to be elsewhere than around a high concentration of energized club-goers breathing Grey Goose in my face, but it was worth the trek. AM cut loose with his seamless string of mashes -- as I wrote the next day, the stream featured Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough” followed by Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing,” a set that was laughably inventive even for those who were more interested in sipping overpriced drinks and smoking $10 Macanudos.

That was the second night I’d caught AM after the near-fatal Learjet crash in South Carolina on Sept. 19, 2008, that nearly killed him and Barker. At that time, I’d been talking to a few people in Las Vegas who knew AM as simply Adam Goldstein, who knew him as a young guy who had worked with those attempting to recover from drug and alcohol addiction. A recovering crack addict, Goldstein had begun to open up publicly about his own horrible lifestyle as a drug addict, including a botched suicide attempt when the .22 handgun he’d shoved in his mouth failed to fire. But he’d purportedly put a lot of clean and sober time together, 11 years by some reports, and had agreed to partner with MTV on the recovery-centered reality show, “Gone Too Far,” where he worked with addicts willing to embrace recovery. As he said in this interview with MTV News last month, “Other than DJ, this is always what I’ve done.”

Less than a month later, he would be found dead, drug paraphernalia reportedly found near his body. Whatever killed him killed him too soon, and even if your idea of top-flight entertainment is not the wizardry of a young DJ who could fill nightclubs, it’s a terrible outcome. His death matters, a lot, to a lot of people.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at twitter.com/JohnnyKats.

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