It’s never easy to say goodbye to old friends, even harder is saying farewell to friends whose lives were just hitting their stride.

Only 33, Bridget Soto tragically passed away late last month while in San Bernardino to attend a music festival. When she was found unresponsive inside a vehicle, emergency workers tried to revive her but were unsuccessful.

A beautiful memorial was held in Bakersfield on Sept. 16, just three days shy of her 34th birthday. Family and friends shared stories, tears, smiles, hugs, and plenty of laughs just as she’d wanted it.

Soto was a mother, daughter and friend to many — including me. I had the privilege of knowing her most of her life. Her mother, champion cross-country runner Becky Soto, was the pride of the athletic program at my alma mater, McFarland High School. Becky Soto, who helped lay the foundation for the school’s winning reputation and future Hollywood fame, sadly passed away when Bridget was just a child. Embraced by her large loving family, whom I also knew closely, Bridget Soto grew to be a charming young woman.

But let’s not make this a eulogy, because she wouldn’t want that.

Upon receiving the heartbreaking morning news that Soto had passed, I was flooded by memories of my fellow serious music fan. For most of our friendship, our mutual appreciation for the arts was what kept us on each other’s radar.

My last close interaction with Soto was a few years ago while I was working at the Bakersfield Museum of Art. After putting out the word for community volunteers to help tidy up the museum grounds, I was greeted by a trio of early Saturday morning smiles from Soto, her boyfriend, Benjamin Peck, and their son, Mason, in his stroller, who were all ready to get to work. We had a good time that day.

Soto's uncle Chuck Zavala Bullard, who helped raise her along with his loving husband, Bobby, remembers her as the light in every room.

“She loved concerts. She had purchased Bruno Mars tickets for November to go with (her uncle and aunt) Rick and Davina. She was always going to festivals. They even took (her 4-year-old) Mason to a music festival near San Francisco. I have a video of him dancing to the music.”

Adding she had love for all music, no matter the genre, Soto could always be counted on to make a splash.

“If someone said, ‘Let’s go to a concert,’ she was ready to go. We took her to the American Music Awards, and she slipped up to the front where the musicians sat and we could see her sitting next to Steven Tyler during the live telecast.”

More than just a great companion, Soto was also full of life, and ready to share hers with others.

“Bridget was a caring person who looked out for the underdog," her uncle said. "She was too caring to a fault, but that was her personality. I will most be proud of the way she treated other human beings.”

He recalled his final conversation with his niece.

“She was standing in the kitchen excited about the concert in San Bernardino. She was telling me the names of the bands and I didn't know any of them. She was listing the names and I kept saying, ‘I don't know them?’ I told her to call me when she got there and to call me when she was on her way home. We said our ‘I love yous’ and that was the last time I spoke with her.”

“I want them to remember her with a kind heart, her hearty laugh and the love of her family,” said Bullard. “She was outgoing and loved being a social butterfly just like us, and loved being in the mix of things. I want people to remember her for her sense of humor. Boy, did we laugh!”

My condolences to Bridget’s entire family, friends and everybody affected by this great loss.

Matt’s picks

"Tsumani Soul" listening party at Eligon Hall, 307 E. 21st St., 7 p.m. Thursday. $5, all ages.

To celebrate the long-awaited release of their first full-length album, "Tsunami Soul," Bakersfield’s very own Hate Drugs is inviting the community out for a listening party a day before the album drops. Following the album preview, the band will be having a Q&A session with attendees. Secret scoop: If you’d like to get in free to the show, head over to the band’s Facebook page to download the album’s ice cube cover art and make it your profile pic. Once you’re at the gate, show it to the gatekeeper and they’ll let you in. Pretty cool. The band has also suggested, "You bring a mat or blanket if you wish to be seated." Don’t forget to go check out the group’s 13-part video series, “Stuck in The Studio,” directed by Keaton Punch, the band’s unofficial sixth member, on the band's YouTube channel. Outstanding work.

Benefit for Michael Chadburn at Sandrini’s, 1918 Eye St., 9 p.m. Saturday. $5. 322-8900.

Whether you’re in a band or just attended a local show, you’ve probably bumped into photographer and all-around nice guy Michael Chadburn at some point. A longtime avid supporter of the Bakersfield music and arts scene for some time now, contributing live and studio promotional studio photography, his work has also been a part of many articles here in the Lowdown. Always ready in a pinch to jump in his car and set up a photo shoot at a moment’s notice, his long battle with a brain tumor has unfortunately made him unable to do what he loves to do at the moment. To show love for our guy, aka "The Chad," the Bakersfield music scene has banded together for a fundraiser to help with his living expenses. Expect the unexpected to show up and jam. You can also drop and donate if you’d like.

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