The High Times of Damon Bodine
Former UB student overcomes cancer on his rise in the music industry
Thousands of people pass through Brooklyn's Atlantic Terminal Mall every day - a crowd that includes elderly shoppers, high school gang members, and average tourists. A 28-year-old Jamestown, N.Y. native is a frequent member of this crowd.
He looks unimpressive at first glance to the typical passerby, as his scrawny physique and focus on his laptop while he's at the mall's Starbucks almost perfectly fits the nerd stereotype. The heuristic is only skin-deep, however, as this Starbucks regular's influence spans over 400 miles.
Damon Bodine, a former UB student, thrived in UB's wild party scene in the mid-'00s to to become one of Buffalo's premier music promoters. Bodine became a talent buyer and concert promoter for Buffalo's renowned promotions group, After Dark Entertainment, after years of using his love of music to become a successful promoter. But while he was at the top of his game, Bodine was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma early last year.
The promoter had to endure a tedious treatment process. But while some would see cancer as life-altering, Bodine saw it as an important sidestep. He wasn't about to let the disease come in the way of his lifelong dream of making it big in New York City.
The PJ Bottom Era
There wasn't much to look forward to in Jamestown. Bodine has always been interested in the fast-pace music business and the small town didn't host such a scene. New York City, one of the fastest moving cities in America, had all the music business opportunities he was looking for.
"Since I was a kid, I had a dream of living in New York," Bodine said. "I just figured that if you want to make something of yourself, you want to be in the place with the most opportunity."
In fact, Bodine was so eager to make something of himself that he started hopping on Greyhound buses to the city at the young age of 13 even if he didn't have a place to stay. Bodine said he would sleep on hospital floors and couches just for the sake of meeting people to get him started in the industry.
The frequent visits to New York continued throughout his teenage years, as he'd continue to make phone calls and email anyone he could to make his start. While he had some minor success as a promoter during those years, it wasn't until Bodine started to attend UB that he started making strides.
Bodine came to UB as a journalism major, but the concentration quickly became a fa?\0xA4ade as his college career progressed. Instead, he was more interested in his burgeoning career as a promoter.
"School kind of went by the wayside," Bodine said. "I saw UB as an opportunity to be that guy handing out 500 flyers at the lecture hall, meeting a ton of people, and things like that."
Bodine was promoting in an era when UB was gaining notoriety for its party scene. Underage drinking was commonplace in the now-defunct PJ Bottoms, while University Heights was increasingly becoming dangerous due to the lack of UPD presence.
"There were no rules,"Bodine said. "There wasn't so much of a police presence. You [could have] parties and no one would really care. University Heights was that area of Buffalo were it was kind of like 'It is what it is.'"
The former UB student thrived during the chaos, and he developed enough of a business to start his own company, Center Stage Concerts. The company continued to book artists in the basements of University Heights and coffee shops. Bodine said many of those artists would sign to major record deals a few months after they played at one of his shows.
In 2006, after working with Buffalo Icon - a venue that got shut down in 2007 - Bodine merged his company with After Dark Entertainment. Since becoming the talent promoter for After Dark, Bodine has helped book top-notch acts like rapper A$AP Rocky, rap outfit Wu-Tang Clan, and punk band Taking Back Sunday.
However, Bodine slightly regrets not finishing college.
"If I had to do it all over again," Bodine said. "I probably would've finished school. But sometimes you just got to roll with the punches. A lot of bands I was booking when I was young just started to take off. I was sort of at the right place at the right time."
Last April, Valentino Shine, a member of After Dark Entertainment, reached out to Bodine for some business advice. Bodine was happy to help out, but he also revealed more than what Shine bargained for.
"When I met him he told me he most recently got diagnosed with cancer," Shine said. "It was very interesting since I've just methim and he hit me with that heavy news."
A few weeks prior to their rendezvous, Bodine noticed a large lump on his neck. He didn't think much of it but Rianna Trowell - his girlfriend at the time - feared that it might be something serious, especially given her family's medical background. To her, the dark "squishy" lump was a cause for worry.
"I remember one day in the office, right before he was diagnosed," said Dennis Ferry, a longtime friend of Bodine's. "He was like 'Hey, take a look at this thing on my neck.' I didn't really think anything of it, and when I got that news it was pretty shocking."
Bodine hasn't visited the hospital in years, but he made an exception last February after Trowell's constant urging. It was then confirmed - Bodine had Hodgkin's lymphoma.
The news came at an inconvenient time. Bodine was planning to accomplish his lifelong dream of moving to New York City. He'd also been hoping to set up another section of After Dark when he moved.
The numerous treatments frustrated Bodine, but friends said he stayed positive throughout his treatment at ECMC in Buffalo. That same confidence helped calm the fears of his loved ones.
"He's such a confident person in so many ways, and from being around him you get used to his cockiness or this 'I got this' attitude," Trowell said. "So it was kind of refreshing to have him be so positive about everything, or for him to be confident that he could get through everything...I think that helped both of us."
Doctors warned Bodine of the side effects, like nausea, that came with chemotherapy treatment. However, Trowell says Bodine responded well throughout the process and didn't start losing hair until late in the treatment.
Bodine even stayed active with After Dark Entertainment events during his treatment, inspiring his associates.
"After seeing what a person with cancer can do and how much they can accomplish, [I felt that] as long as he was full-bodily abled, I could do anything as well," Shine said. "The whole time he told me once he beat cancer he would move to New York."
Bodine did just that. He moved to the city just a few days after he was cleared of Hodgkin's Lymphoma in August.
The life-threatening experience only made him more motivated to accomplish his goals.
"I knew that after I was clear that I was going to work a million times harder and make some serious waves happen in my career," Bodine said. "I was really motivated to show people around me that with a positive mindset you can make something happen."
The Move and Philanthropy
Bodine had frequented New York City during his teenage years, but this time he had connections. When he moved to his current home in Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, Bodine already had an idea of what direction to take.
The new Brooklynite started working as an independent A & R representative a year and a half ago, according to Bodine. While he was managing pop band, Cute Is What We Aim For, Bodine met the owner of Fearless Records, Robert Becker.
The meeting turned out to be fruitful, because Bodine found that Fearless Records was looking for an east coast A & R scout. He applied and got his current position.
Bodine believes his new position is not only a fresh start for him, but it also serves as another way to get the spotlight on Buffalo artists. He's attempting to do so by keeping in touch with his friends at After Dark, as Bodine frequently makes trips to Buffalo to make sure things are running smoothly at the company.
Ferry is supportive of Bodine's decision to move and he's still working to maintain his relationship with his longtime associate.
"It's different. Damon is a very big part of the booking that goes on here," Ferry said. "I think it only really became a challenge of communication and making sure we stayed in touch."
Bodine's big strides in the city haven't made him forget about his life-threatening experiences a year prior. He decided to take part in humanitarian activities, and frequently volunteers at food banks and clothing drives.
Most notably, Bodine ran in the annual New York City Half Marathon for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Bodine and other representatives raised approximately $736,537 for research on the diseases.
Whether it is humanitarian work or promotion, Bodine's bout with Hodgkin's Lymphoma continues to motivate him.
"When you go through something that's really life changing like cancer, you're just so motivated after that to do things that you never that you could," Bodine said.
It's that same motivation that keeps that scrawny male at Starbuck's dedicated.