Down The Hatch 2017 in the Outer Banks of North Carolina was in its 9th year and, thus far to me, felt like the best one yet – and that’s not just me talkin’!
I strive to raise the bar each year with all facets of the experience. The joy of discovery is at the core of why I do any event and I always hope that each attendee has that moment where they gasp in revelation at the talent they are exposed to, all while exhaling in total relaxation—a few days away from the regular grind to live life.
As always, thank you so much to the attendees who take a chance on this event; you have so many options for rest & relaxation and I’m humbled you choose DTH as your getaway. It truly motivates me each year to improve the adventure, even if that means less adventure
4 Days, 4 Nights.
Wow, we did it. We’ve doubled the length of DTH since its beginnings! I mean at this point we might as well as call it what it is. DTH WEEK! I pulled into town on Tuesday to do the normal run around, meet with my amazing team of Colleen Connor, Kevin and Tara McFadden & Patrick McAloon to go over last minute details and sneak in a calm-before-the-DTH-fun-storm fish taco feast at Tortuga Lie (a place I’ve been going my whole life). Between The Kill Devil Diner and Tortuga Lie, what other delicacies does a man need? Love me some OBX chow.
Wednesday morning, the DTH crew and I further set up. Say, did ya dig my Grateful Dead-sized merch display? Who knew pieces from my home walk in closet could be so useful! (Sorry Tara for the missing pieces.)
We got the sound loaded in and the band sound-checked at both Ramada Ballroom and Capt. Andy’s, the site of the first official performances to kick off the fun. DTH attendees hung on the beach, chilled at the gazebo bar and relaxed on their decks, very smoothly slipping’ (& likely sippin’) right into the OBX state of mind.
Wednesday @ 5 PM we convened over at Captain Andy’s, with it’s rustic fishing pier, stunning views of the Carolina coastline and, wouldn’t you know it, after a brief summer rainfall, out came the rainbow. The artists performed for the DTH faithful while they properly hydrated with libations and enjoyed some local seafood.
Patrick McAloon and Jonathan Williams kicked it off with heartfelt performances including a guest sit-in by Ruby McAloon.
Gareth Asher and Nicki Thrailkill (Ink & Ash) did as only they can do, be authentic as hell.
Colby James, during his stellar set, even included the kids in a rare performance of the song he claimed to play for his daughter each night.
Boy Named Banjo closed it out with their unique brand of bluegrass folk. Those young pickers are well on their way to success. What a setting for an opening night kick off!
Wednesday @ 9 PM Pat McGee Band was scheduled to perform both From The Wood and Revel albums, back to back! We did just that and Brian Dunne showed up just in time to do a sweet set on our break between albums. It was a blast to play some of those old tunes that we hadn’t touched in many years, even decades.
Thursday @ 10 AM Michael Christman, our DTH Trainer, imported from The Indianapolis Fitness Garage, had a solid group out for the first of three morning beach workouts. Yep, I only made it to Thursday. But, hey, I had a whole lot going on and from what I could tell, I was the ONLY one who didn’t return each morning. The weather was perfection, and based on the survey results so was EVERYTHING about Michael Christman… ladies, you’re welcome. Michael, we really hope you’ll return for 2018. I’m guessing you’ll double your attendance, maybe even mine!
Thursday Noon, a solid group of low/medium level adventure seekers joined Chardy & I for a pilgrimage to Jockey’s Ridge State Park. We took in the breathtaking scenery, about as long as Clark Griswold and his family took in the Grand Canyon, snapped some photos and saw the rare OBT-reX
Thursday was also the day my father Hugh McGee organized a golf outing for those looking to swing a club or two. I heard Tolcher was on point, somebody shot a 71, some stunk, some were average, you know, a normal game of golf. My dad later whispered to me that he got 2nd place but didn’t want to rub it in to the others. Go Papa McGee!
Thursday on the beach in front of the hotel was just like the other days at DTH – blue skies and warm sun. There were beach games and Boy Named Banjo did an impromptu set at their beach chairs. That’s about as chill as it gets.
This was all building up to my favorite night at DTH, Songwriters In The Sand. Mother Nature was so kind and blessed us with a beautiful evening to showcase most of the artists attending for 2017.
There is something so special about this night, the vibe is so welcoming and the musicians really deliver, inspired by each other’s performances and the audiences reaction to those incredibly intimate moments. It’s what makes live music so wonderful when the audience is THAT into it.
Each group of songwriters got up there and served up the goods, lots of laughs, goosebumps, tears and standing O’s.
Just amazing stuff, and you have to be there to truly appreciate it. I loved seeing the looks on people’s faces when the new DTH artists started in with their first tunes; Kyle Davis, Willy Porter & Griffin House all just blew people away within moments of starting.
Later that night, well, that’s a whole other story. Headphone Disco brings out the crazy in everyone who adorns the cans (“cans” is music biz talk for headphones). The only way I can explain Headphone Disco is it brings you back to when you were young and by yourself in your bedroom, dancing like an idiot to your favorite jams. Except this time all your friends and strangers are doing it with you, sometimes to different songs and the best thing… nobody cares how bad of dancer you may or may not be. It’s one hell of a good time and always entertaining to see the artists DJ the night away. You really get a taste of what they dig. Adamo, I had no idea you were so into Madonna and McAloon, your Bruno Mars was on point. I still feel as if I won the DJ battle when Chardy, myself and a few other metalheads had a full-on moshpit/slam dance to vintage Metallica. Chardy claims I broke his high heel off. Sorry bro, price of the pit.
I know it was one of the nights, not entirely sure which one, but we all headed to the beach for a play till sunrise hang… that’s most likely why I never made the 2nd morning workout. I do recall feeling like Headphone Disco coupled with my 4 AM Interpretive Sand Dancing of Jonathan Bryan Williams’s beach set was ample enough exercise to last the rest of the weekend. “San(d) Antonio Rose” never sounded or felt so good
Friday brought another sensational beach day to behold. After beach workouts, artists rotated all day long while attendees relaxed in their chairs, body surfed in the sea, played some cornhole and enjoyed an adult beverage or two or three…
Seeing Glen Phillips play “Walk on The Ocean” AT the ocean was for sure a goosebumps moment and Willy Porters blistering set of guitar and songwriting mastery while dolphins were jumping was just epic–like watching a National Geographic show but you’re in it and the soundtrack is amazing. All the artists brought the goods, such a magical setting.
Thursday and Friday we hosted Guitar Lesson and Songwriter Workshops with the fans and artists. This year was really great, Willy Porter taking charge along with Keaton Simons to show the group their unique approaches to playing tasty notes with meaning and fluidity.
They led us into a 14-man version of “Knockin On Heaven’s Door” (showing the use of 3 chords, which I managed to play improperly). At the end we had a group jam on “Melissa” in tribute to Gregg Allman. For the Songwriter class, all the artists gave valuable input to the attendees’ many questions and as Willy so wisely put it, “find your safe place to suck”. Ha! I love that.
Friday evening got going around 8 PM in the ballroom with some sweet original sets by DTH artists; but, you see, it was “Woodstock” theme night and the costumes were downright far out, so the music had to follow suit.
The artists each delivered 1-5 star costumes along with some sweet acid rock covers starting with Glen doing “White Rabbit”. I thoroughly enjoyed playing “Feeling Alright” with Willy. Keaton nailed “Red House”, Kyle rocked some Sly, Colby totally crushed “Ophelia”. Reeve Coobs channeled Janis beautifully on “Piece Of My Heart”, Adamo owned “Voodoo Child” …ugh, so many great moments.
Oh, and this one….
Although when Griffin House played shirtless, he was the envy of every other musician (and likely all males in the room) who wishes he could rock that look all the damn time. #maybenextyear
Saturday morning, ahhhh another fabulous day in paradise. Morning workouts looked solid (from my deck, DOH!, sorry guys, the major needs his rest), the beach was open for business and the artists set up shop for another day of musical ecstasy to the backdrop of the gorgeous Atlantic.
Harrow Fair from Canada rocked it for sure and we were honored to have Miranda from HF slay it on violin each night with PMB. I’m sure she’s still spinning from the madness that is us wrapped up in DTH. Talk about “being thrown to the wolves”. Miranda, you were bad ass, hope we can do it again soon!
Reeve always sounds amazing, but even feeling under the weather, she was breathtaking as always… what a voice!
Around 5 PM Pigman’s BBQ laid out a succulent spread of saucy, swine-y sweetness. Sorry, I got carried away with that description, but it’s damn good ‘Q that I’ve been eating since my childhood and I love sharing it with you guys.
Saturday night was the closer for DTH and attendees went all out for the TV Land theme. PMB tried to pull off The Sweathogs, but we fell a little short. Chardy ended up going as Mighty Mouse and Robby was Jack Tripper – still a valiant effort. Jason Adamo’s Superfriends were again the kings of the costumes, they always bring it 110%. Even their entrance was a total reenactment of a classic Batman fight/chase sequence, most impressive.
Colby’s crew was not to be messed with in their Sons of Anarchy get up. Two artists, not sure who exactly, thrusted their way into out hearts as the Ambiguously Gay Duo… genius.
The attendees truly shined….Chips, Carol Burnett, Three’s Company, even my parents were the HGTV’s Fixer Upper couple. Just too many good ones to name, great job everyone!
So all in all, it was one heck of a good time, I went home with a mohawk (again) and then proceeded to shave it off at a NJ rest area by my creeper white rental van, looking like a full on fugitive in action. I got to close out the night by playing solos with Keaton while we laid on our backs on the dance floor.
I knew you guys would embrace the new artists as you always do and welcome the veterans back year after year with open ears and arms. Give it up for yourselves, without you guys coming, we as artists don’t get to create outside of our homes. So, let’s do this again next year, eh?
Big shout out to the PMB of DTH…Patrick McAloon, Jonathan Williams, Steve Bentz, Chardy McEwan & Robby Wilson, that was a ton of material to rock. And without my DTH crew who give so tirelessly day and night, this event would be total and complete chaos: Colleen Connor, Kevin and Tara McFadden & Patrick McAloon you 4 were unbelievable. Pat Hester, thanks for the sound engineering work along with the sound gear from Leggette Sound & Lights. Thanks Pigmans BBQ team for always bringing the southern goodness with a smile.
Thanks to the Ramada for continuing to be our most agreeable partners in this circus that we bring to town. Thanks Fishman Electronics for the amazing sound gear and Telefunken for the pristine microphones. Thanks Curt Mangan for guitar strings and Gibson for guitars. Thanks Capt Andy’s Bar. Mike Massa, thanks for these photos, they rock big time. (Excuse the ones clearly taken with random artists cell phones, those are below par, but funny.)
DTH Makes Friends…
As I look back on each DTH, what always keeps me smiling and craving more is the quality relationships we form with each other, artist to artist and fans to artists; it’s all one loving and supportive community that I think we need more of in today’s society as well as the music “business”.
Lastly, may I suggest staying until Monday? Sunday on the beach is quite nice..
You should see what I’ve got in store for next year’s huge 10 Year Anniversary of Down The Hatch: new artists, old artists, new beach activities, more downtime… you’ll see, I think I finally got this thing figured out and it’s all because of you! Info coming out soon, make sure you’re on the mailing list.
Thanks from the bottom of my Irish heart. I truly appreciate that you come to DTH.
This blog is dedicated to the memory of Kevin McCarthy. Kevin, your smile, positivity, passion and zest for life is infectious… rest in peace my friend.
For those of you looking to visit me in my home state of Rhode Island this fall and hear amazing music, and eat the best seafood of your life, check out: Pat McGee’s Ocean State of Mind