The metaphor that positions an Internet discussion group as a small community has been overused, but it often remains an apt comparison. When Alison Temple started the Guitartown group not long after she moved to the Triangle, her main goal was to create a forum to spread the word about area music shows (specifically those featuring alt-country artists), and a handful of folks signed on. The group, however, quickly evolved beyond those humble beginnings; it now boasts close to 600 members, and with subscribers in California, Florida, Washington, and New Hampshire, Guitartown truly has all corners of the nation covered. It remains primarily a place to talk about roots-leaning music, but discussions can swerve toward politics, food, movies, geography, and a hundred other topics. It has sponsored parties, been the scene of heated debate, and served as a support mechanism–you know, like a community. And now that community is dealing with the loss of one of its own.

Gerry Livers was living in Philadelphia when he joined Guitartown, recognizing the kindred-spirit music fans that dwelled therein. When he started spending time with Durham’s Ginny Daley, one of Guitartown’s earliest members, the group had its first romance. Gerry was soon making numerous trips to Durham, helping Ginny get her house ready to sell so the two of them could move to Asheville and giving Triangle-based Guitartowners the chance to spend some time with him that didn’t involve keystrokes. Several years ago, westward they went.

On Monday, Oct. 20, Guitartown delivered the news that Gerry Livers had passed away in Asheville over the weekend. After a short, stunned silence, the posts started, with disbelief reluctantly giving way to condolences and remembrances. It’s tempting to think of those messages as bouquets tossed over a fence, but Gerry long ago broke down any computer-imposed barriers courtesy of his disarming personality and his kindness and generosity, all of which shone through even when carried only by words on a screen. And, man, did he know music, able to recite chapter and verse on Gram Parsons and Gene Clark, on King Floyd and John Cipollina of Quicksilver Messenger Service. After all, this was a guy who’d been at Woodstock, and his was kind of a sage presence on the list. You got the feeling that he’d seen it all–or as close to all as one could. Not that Guitartown held elections, but Gerry had my vote as mayor.

But don’t get me wrong: Gerry was plugged into the ’60s and the ’00s. He was always championing exciting up-and-comers such as Porter Hall, TN, and the Avett Brothers. He was, as one listmate put it, “the musician’s best friend.” When he wasn’t spreading the word about his latest discovery, he was booking shows for the Westville Pub in Asheville. The home he and Ginny shared was always open to artists playing in Asheville or even those just passing through, not to mention any Guitartowners who needed a place in the mountains to crash for a night or two.

Then there’s the matter of the violin case Gerry carried with him. He didn’t play the violin, a fortuitous circumstance for those around him. This meant there was room in the case for a bottle of liquid refreshment that he was, of course, always quick to share.

It’s healthy to hold on dearly to the belief that even the darkest days find room for the occasional, brief blast of sunlight. One of Gerry’s favorite bands, a Pennsylvania-based group named Frog Holler, is playing in Durham on Nov. 2, just a couple of miles from Ginny’s old house. Gerry felt privileged to be able to call the members of Frog Holler his friends–and vice versa, I’m sure. A large contingent of Guitartowners will be turning out for that show, and for an informal memorial gathering that precedes, to pay tribute to a man we are all thankful that we got to know. The privilege was all ours.