Young love lead to young poetry.  By the time he arrived at Columbia in the Fall of 1984, he had a several years of trying to pour myself out onto the page.  Columbia and NYC in 1984 was a buzz with energy that fueled his further explorations of self and surroundings through writing poetry.

He made fast friends with simpatico folks at school and in the city at night, sometimes in day, as kids do.  On his dorm floor, 7th Floor McBain, diagonally across the air-shaft, was Luke’s room, fortuitous.  The most simpatico of folks were fellow Dead Heads, and Luke shared this tribal connection.  Luke had musical instruments and amplifiers in his room and he loved to jam. 

Luke’s room was frequented by several other musicians, who were mutual friends of Billy’s.  In the Fall of ’84, there was a jam, a special jam, in Luke’s room.  Willie, Doug and Matt played together.  In that jam, Luke handed Doug a bass guitar, and a bass player was born.  They jammed for a long time and there was a feel and a spirit to the jam that captured several imaginations, Billy’s among them.

Some months later, in the very end of ’84 or very early ’85, in Billy’s room on that same dorm floor, the first collaborative dreamspeak songs were written.  Doug, Billy and one of Billy’s friends from home, Jim Gannon, sat down one night and pulled a couple of poems out of Billy’s notebook and wrote “Twisted Trees” and “Crystaline Tapestry.”

Matt was off in Boston, but the Dead Head crew at Columbia was dreaming up dreamspeak.  Billy and Willie collaborated on their first songs.  Avram visited Columbia at some point and saw Willie and Doug jamming at night in the middle of Columbia campus.  They just plugged in and went for it.  Avram later immortalized the scene in “Golden Road”   “and they echoed through the buildings.  Pointed heads went spinning round.  Like a pair of smiling children.  Blue and gold came raining down.”

The intoxicating notion of having a band to play his songs became a singular focus for Billy and in the Spring of ’85, with the backdrop of the ongoing blockade of Hamilton Hall to protest the University’s investments in South Africa, Luke, Willie, Doug and Billy were actively talking about forming a band.   Luke always keeping Matt and Avram, his buddies from Rye, in the mix in the discussion.  Luke also kept Matt and Avram informed of the discussions.  Willie had reached out to his best friend growing up, Tom Kaelin, recruiting him to play drums.

Billy first met Tommy K at Delta Phi fraternity at Columbia in April of ‘85.  The frat house would become a base for the band and the fraternity a source support for dreamspeak.  There was one great demo recorded in the basement, many great shows in the basement and many wonderful times together in Delta Phi. 

Tommy was on Dead Tour and was passing through NYC from shows in Providence to shows in Philly.  They smoked a bowl and talked about the new band they were forming.  They agreed that they were starting with some great songs penned already.  They knew that wonderful espirit de corps of young people charging into a new adventure together.

Two months later in an office in San Francisco, Billy and Avram met for the first time.  They were both wearing ties.  Billy was working for his father’s ad agency and Avram had just come from a meeting.  They’d spend the next few days hanging out not getting into the Dead shows at the Greek Theater in Berkeley and bonding about the band they were forming.   Billy gave Avram the lyric to “Red Winged Blackbird,” their first collaboration.

Billy spent the summer working for his father and living on the top of Mt Tiburon in Marin.  The rest of the guys headed east and began figuring out how to be a band.  Inspired by living on the top of the mountain, dreaming of what might become through the magic of song and making music, Billy realized the band should be named dreamspeak.  He called the guys back in NY one day and told them the band’s name.  The band became. 

Billy returned to NY in the fall and returned to Columbia for his sophomore year.  Most of the guys dropped out of school to be in the band.  Billy being an off stage member remained in school, honoring his father’s wishes.  While he finished Columbia and graduated in the Spring of ’88, his passion and real focus was writing and the band.

David Graham would come to Columbia in fall of ’86.  David and Billy became close friends instantly.  Shortly after meeting David Graham, Billy lead David and a bunch of his fellow freshmen on an educational trip down to hear Kenny Gwynn play at the Inner Circle.  David Graham’s father the legendary promoter Bill Graham showed up to see how David was acclimating to college life in NYC. 

Billy and Bill struck up a conversation and formed an immediate bond.  Bill looked at Billy and said, “I haven’t met anyone like you in a decade.  You have the mania.  Welcome to my movie.”  Because dreamspeak was formed with the backdrop of the Blockade of Hamilton Hall, dreamspeak had mixed into its DNA a sense of social purpose, feeling of connection to protest and a mission to move people through music for common good, and to have a real good time!  This resonated with Bill who’s career was born out of the magic of the 1960s in san Francisco.

The years of the band were thrilling and drew Billy into the world of music.  When the band broke up in the end of ’89, Billy’s writing would slow to a trickle, but he continued to work in music.  In the fall of ’89 he had started booking and promoting shows at the 712 Club on W 125th St, which was a magical place and he had wild times there.  That place helped God Street Wine become. 

In the spring of ’90, Bill Graham offered Billy the opportunity to move to San Francisco and come work for him at BGP.  In May of 1990, Billy found himself in Carson, CA working Dead shows at Dominguez Hills. It would be a wonderful summer working for BGP at the Dead shows and then, working on the Mandela show at Oakland Stadium.   Billy spent an incredible year at BGP.  In addition to an amazing entrée into the wider world of the music business, perhaps the most consequential happening of that year was becoming romantically connected with Colleen Kennedy, who was the Head the BGP Box Office at the time. 

In the spring of ‘91 David Graham and another Delta Phi Brother, Tom Gruber, had started a music company, Music Unlimited.  David asked Billy to come back and work with them in NY.   Billy returned to NYC in May of  ‘91.  Music Unlimited was booking and managing Blues Traveler, The Authority, D’Trip, The Mad Hatters and The Dreyer Brothers.   Music Unlimited also produced shows at the Capitol Theatre in Portchester and produced the legendary Festival Season at Arrowhead Ranch in the Catskills. 

Bill Graham’s untimely death in October of ’91 would change the course of many lives.  Billy returned to San Francisco with David Graham to try to help him navigate what would come next.  In January of ’92, Colleen left BGP and started to work with Music Unlimited.  In the summer of ’92, Billy went out on the first HORDE Tour and coordinated the front of house venders, activists and performance artists.

In early ’93, David Graham decided to get out of the music business and closed down Music Unlimited.  So, Billy and Colleen decided to start Labyrynth as an artist management company in March of 1993.  Billy and Colleen still run Labyrynth.  For 27 years they’ve been working in Northern California in the music world managing and booking artists, producing and running large concerts, festivals and special events, booking and promoting many nightclubs, including Last Day Saloon, Blake’s in Berkeley, 19 Broadway and Uptown in Oakland.  Among other bands, they have managed and/or booked NRBQ, Jono Manson, The Mother Hips, Jambay, Steak, Sistas In The Pit and Felonious.   They produced the Bill Graham Menorah: Channukah in Union Square from ’97 to 2018. 

Colleen and Billy’s greatest collaborative endeavor is co-parenting their son, Daniel.  At eighteen, Daniel has grown up in and around shows and the biz.  He is a multi-instrumentalist, a song-writer, an audio engineer and producer, a video director and producer and the host and producer of his own podcast, Ready to Record.  He’s also a crackerjack Box Office IT Tech well know in the ticketing community as his mother’s son.

Labyrynth is a small company.  So, Colleen and Billy are often hired as key team members for bigger projects. by bigger companies.  In 2005, Colleen got hired to run the Box Office at Ironstone Amphitheatre in Calaveras County for the boutique promoter, Richter Entertainment Group.  She brought Billy as her assistant and 3 year old Daniel along for good measure.

Over the past 15 years, while maintaining Labyrynth, Billy and Colleen have helped to build REG.  Now, in addition to shows at Ironstone, Richter does shows in theaters, arenas and amphitheatres throughout CA.  Billy is now the VP of Richter Entertainment Group, while Colleen over sees Box Office for all shows in all venues. 

Recently, Billy has taken on an advisory role at Vezzit, a new start up Crowd Financing platform for creative projects.  He became involved in the project through one of the company’s founders Jonas Abney, a Delta Phi sibling.  Billy also finds himself in a Biz Dev and Sales role with Pantheon Podcasts, a new music podcast network.

Billy continues to write.  It had slowed to a trickle after dreamspeak’s active years ended in ’90.  However, after Bobby Sheehan’s death in ’99, Billy realized we don’t have forever and re-committed himself to writing.  He is not nearly as prolific as he was in his early days, but is filled with joy when he can collaborate on a song,  Most recently he’s begun writing songs with his son Daniel.  He has completed a screenplay, a collection of poetry and lyrics and is many many years into writing his first novel.  If he ever finishes it, he has plans for several other novels.  Next year he will put out another collection of poetry and lyrics on his 55th birthday.  He is working on new lyrics to collaborate with dreampseak band mates.  He is also deeply grateful that all these years later people remember the songs of dreamspeak, and that the guys are working on this website and other projects. 

He is looking forward!

Billy Cohen

Can’t listen to whole show. Gotta sleep. 13 hrs at the desk and 13 hours tomorrow. A few things I gotta say. Thank you Mom! Sick Jams. Sick playing all around. Sweet Belly Groove. Sick sounds, fuckin Avram, you are a sick genius., the noises that you make. 22 tunes, 2 covers and “I’m Telling Mommy” is not the same kind of cover as “Love The One You Are With.” Though, both, iconic to me. Even in the short tunes, the band jams. 22 tunes, there are some long ones with epic jams but the band wanted to play all those songs, those songs wanted to get played. Ha, we are the Ramon’s’s of Jam Bands. Then again, we’re no Rod Stewart Hair Vince Budnick…. I mean, we’re no Jam Band! We are the innovating pioneers who created Psycho Electric Organic Boogie Rock! Dulces Suenños.