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Friends Remember ‘Punk as F-ck’ Musician Killed in Minneapolis Shooting

If you mentioned that your car was breaking down, August Golden would quietly get his tool kit, log onto YouTube, and figure out how to fix it. If you really liked Taylor Swift — an artist that was not his favorite — and told him you wanted to start a punk covers group paying tribute to her, he would sigh amicably and offer to play guitar and sing just so you wouldn’t have to do it alone. And if you were planning on moving, he would just start picking up boxes and loading them into a vehicle to help you move — an act of beneficence by itself that qualified him as a god among mortals. 

Everyone who knew Golden, whose real name was Nicholas Trevor Golden, remembered him as a quiet, kind, generous, patient, sweet, and magnanimous friend who was eager to play his part in supporting his large group of friends. Golden was a member of the D.I.Y. Minneapolis punk scene for the past few years and singer-guitarist for the melodic, pop-punk trio Scrounger.

By 35, he had lived all around the country before settling into a lifestyle that allowed him to make art and reside with his friends at the DIY venue Nudieland, where he helped organize gigs and ran the bar. He adopted the nickname “August,” possibly in tribute to labor activist August Spies. He was well-known and beloved and friends who had met him in other towns before he moved to the Twin Cities were eager to reunite with him and continue their shared love of music.”He embodied the values that our world of D.I.Y. punk rock hopes to embody and hold,” Scrounger bassist Bryan May tells Rolling Stone. “And he didn’t do it in a way that was egotistical or centered around himself.”

Last Friday, an act of random, unprovoked violence ended Golden’s life and wounded many of his friends. During a concert by a bill of Minneapolis punk bands — Rubberman, Texture Feaq, and Miracle Debt — an unknown man and a companion entered Nudieland, whose attendees that night were primarily members of the queer community, reportedly made derogatory statements about LGBTQ+ people and began firing a gun into the crowd. He wounded six people and fatally shot Golden. “It sounded like firecrackers,” Miracle Debt’s Mike Wilson says. “It happened so fast.” The shooter and the other man fled the scene and are still at large. It was the type of show that happens in cities all around the country every week.

Golden (left), with bandmates Bryan May and Morgan Purcell.

Courtesy of Bryan May

As Golden’s friends anxiously await developments in the search for his killer, they don’t want his legacy to be defined by how he died. Some launched a GoFundMe to help his partner, with others launching another GoFundMe to benefit all of the victims of the shooting. The musicians in the Nudieland scene describe their enclave as almost utopian — an inclusive community in which everyone is welcome and everyone helps out, supporting each other’s art and goodwill. Golden, they say, was an integral part of the group — a role model for sticking to your ideals and being a good person.

“He was really devoted to our community and to helping people make music and art,” Jac Brown, who roadied for Scrounger, says. Brown met Golden in 2014 in Portland, Oregon and was excited to move to Minneapolis when they learned he was moving there. “He was super supportive, and he was really passionate about punk music. His lyrics were so beautiful, heartfelt, and vulnerable.”

“He was very humble and a very gentle person,” Wilson adds. “He was very caring and generous, and he would never ask for anything in return. He loves throwing shows and knows it was important.” The last time Wilson talked to Golden, they were reminiscing on a band they liked called Sticky, and Golden offered to dub a live tape he had of the band for Wilson.

May, who knew Golden for more than a decade, remembers him as someone who was “about our connected lives and our extended punk family.” He and Golden had played together in a previous band, Bagheera, named after a communal cat they took care of. “A lot of the lyrics were just about personal issues and struggles and losses that touched a lot of people, similar to this one,” he says. “But he was always pushing you forward. It was hard to find people like him.” May, who was friends with Golden and Scrounger drummer Morgan Purcell, suggested they form the band right after he moved to Minneapolis.

At the time, Golden was reappraising his life. Purcell characterizes Golden’s relationship with music as being more of a support role, so they were excited to see him step into the spotlight. He had been grieving over the recent deaths of his friend who died by suicide and his father, so the band was therapeutic. Purcell cites the song “Crows” as feeling especially meaningful, with Golden writing, “All your words are in my head/And all your crows are still left unfed.” “It was the metaphors of what was left rather than feeling direct loss,” they say. “I think he was really good at talking about the feeling and forgotten part.”

The song appeared on their 2022 demo, At the Edge of Our Abilities, a title that makes the musicians chuckle since they adopted it from a backhanded compliment a friend had given them after their first gig: “It sounds like you guys are all playing at the edge of your abilities.” “That was kind of our goal,” May says, “to find out what we can do in life and then try to push a little further. I think August lived by that. When you get to be in your mid-thirties and you’re still involved in underground music communities and you’re in this large network of friends, you transition to more of an adult life, but August was such a believer.”

When you look at photos of Golden, he often wears a slight grin — a sign of peacefulness and wisdom that complemented a warm spirit. Although he had the reputation for being quiet, all of his friends remember that he loved to open up and talk about his favorite bands or just general rock & roll history. “He knew some things about Jefferson Airplane that are really interesting,” May says, laughing.

Courtesy of Bryan May

“There’s a very specific style of pop-punk that’s a common thread in the kinds of music we like and play,” Wilson says. “It’s southern-influenced and Bay Area-influenced to a point that our favorite bands are obscure. But when I first met August, we had all the same favorite bands in common: Hickey, Crimpshrine, and Sexy. He knew every band that I loved and that was rare. The people who like these bands are a certain breed of people.”

Golden wanted to move to a strong community, his friends believe, after his father died. He had been living in New Orleans before moving to Minneapolis, and he and Purcell, who lived in Chattanooga, had bonded over the tension they felt in the South. They appreciated how welcoming Minneapolis seemed, and how it felt safer and more inclusive than their previous locale. May, who’d already been living in Minneapolis, felt neutral about the city until Golden arrived and refreshed him. “The first week he was here, he said, ‘It’s incredible,’” May recalls. “‘Everyone is so supportive of everyone’s art. And everyone is like, “Oh, you have a new band? We’re coming to the show and we’re gonna dance and scream and take pictures and tell you how excited we are about your new band.”‘ And he experienced that.”

May and Purcell lovingly describe Golden as “punk as fuck” and “definitely not a poser.” He eventually moved into Nudieland and made it his home. His bandmates spoke to Rolling Stone from his room. “He had really beautiful stuff,” Brown says. “He took care to repair old things. He saw the value in stuff. He never threw things away. He would always fix it. And fixed things for all of us as well: tape players, record players, guitars, cars, and trucks.

“It was a choice, since he enjoyed doing it, but it was also an ethos,” they continue. “It was about taking care of each other and taking care of things. He wasn’t just helpful to be helpful; he really believed in mutual aid and community and taking care of each other. He was inspired by that, and we were inspired by him doing that.”

Since Golden’s death, his friends have been gathering at another house to grieve. They’ve taken the week off work, and their friends — even some whom May says have bullet wounds — have been bringing food for everyone to help in the healing process. They’ve also been bowled over by the generosity and support they’ve gotten from people outside of their tight-knit community. The fact that an act of violence by an outsider has pushed them into upheaval has forced some to question how to move forward within their inclusive community and protect themselves at punk shows. But for now, it’s an open-ended question — one that will only be answered through togetherness.

“We had plans,” Purcell says. “The last time we spoke with August, we were like, ‘Yo, let’s name our record this, and we’re going to record it in September, and we’re gonna have it out by our West Coast tour in winter.’ My life was set up around this person, so this is a tragedy that’s going to rock so many things in one way, and in another, all my plans revolved around them.”

“It’s been really hard,” May adds. “We’ve been in groups of people most of the time, from five to 70 people and people will just start crying and bawl for a second, and then a second later, we’ll start laughing. We’re sharing the good stories and reflecting on the beautiful experiences and jokes and places we went, but it’s been pretty awful.”

“It’s hard to look forward, but I think we’re all trying to figure out how to do that best right now,” Purcell says. “We’re trying to figure out how to make basement shows feel safe again and what that means.”

Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara said on Saturday that the authorities are still searching for the shooter. “We believe the shooting was targeted,” he said, though he didn’t offer a motive. “And we have two males that fled northbound through the alleyway after the shooting.” On Tuesday, a police rep said there were no further updates on their search for the killers. Until Golden’s killer is found, his friends are treasuring their memories of someone who touched all of their lives.

“In his own quiet way, he didn’t say a whole lot, but when he did say something, it was really smart or funny,” Wilson says. “He had a really infectious smile and laugh. You didn’t often hear him belly laugh, but when you did, it just felt really good.”

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