Pat McGee’s Down The Hatch OBX Recap 2016
Tuesday night, half of my Down The Hatch staff and I rolled into the Outer Banks of North Carolina (OBX) after a healthy 12 hour drive from Rhode Island. After a workout to stretch the legs (our only one attempted all weekend), we bellied up at Tortuga’s Lie. We feasted on their legendary fish tacos and a few glasses of wine…ok fine, bottles. We needed to get into that laid back mode and smooth out the last minute details for what was sure to be the best DTH ever. And boy was it…
I started this whole crazy thing (DTH) because I was at one of those big summer shed shows, I stood on the lawn, could hardly hear the band, let alone see them, I spent a small fortune on tickets, parking, beers, merchandise and food (honestly, I forked over more in that one night than DTHer’s do for a whole festival of fun with multiple bands and all access for 3 days). While sitting in traffic on the way out of that concert, I thought to myself, this is not a good experience…far from it.
I wanted to give back to the true music fan while showcasing artists I adore in a place that I cherish. I want to show fans a really good time, those who truly value stopping and smelling the roses. Every year the attendees and the artists combine for the ultimate VIP hang. I leave OBX with a renewed zest for life and such an appreciation for live original music and how it effects people. Plus I get to come home to this smiling face, job well done Daddy!
Here’s how it shook down and oh, thanks for the fan photos I snagged offline to compliment the amazing eye of Mike Massa—our DTH staff photographer.
Wednesday night (for the pre-party people who chose wisely to come to OBX early) at Captain Andy’s has become a real deal show! It was the beginning of some seriously inspired performances by some fantastic artists (plus a seagull dumped on me, so thats good luck right?) that would continue all weekend long.
The early bird DTHer’s, some of the artists, and my crew knocked back a few drinks, sang a few tunes, and really just soaked in the view. It was truly about as casual a hang as one can have in OBX. It’s hard to imagine a more classic Outer Banks spot to enjoy the scenery.
Keaton walked over to me and said, “Patrick, I’m ready to do this”. When Keaton is feeling it, it’s best to just point him to the stage. He delivered the goods for sure. What raw talent that man possesses, along with a vibrant passion for playing. Keaton invited Patrick McAloon’s brilliantly artistic daughter Ruby up to sing on a tune. That’s pretty brave, seeing how she always steals the show. Way to go Ruby! And thank you to Keaton for having zero ego and always being about sharing the spotlight. The spirit of DTH was set.
Speaking of McAloon, he joined Jonathan Williams and I for a relaxed set of requests by DTH fans. There is something about playing at Capt Andy’s—this is a gig I would have had back in the day and grown tired of (playing cover songs all night long), but now, I consider it a privilege to play to real fans that listen, plus if I look over my shoulder I find nothing but endless ocean.
Jonathan took over after we closed down the PMB trio set. JW is recording and performing these days under his full name, Jonathan Bryan Williams. I find this very fitting because you really do get ALL of Jonny in his music. The songs, they are all so personal and strike a nerve every time you allow your ears to really hear them. There is a ton of wisdom in those lyrics, check him out next chance you get. Oh, and it helps that his voice is the perfect hybrid of Sam Elliot & James Earl Jones meets Johnny Cash and Billy Joel.
Reeve Coobs is just a gem. She has one of the most gorgeous voices I’ve ever heard, and truly is just a beautiful soul. She’s kind-hearted and always enthusiastic to embrace all that is DTH, plus she brings her folks, & that rocks (her father makes her guitars, yes with his hands). Reeve has a new album coming out soon and I for one, cannot wait to hear it. Reeve had an awkward (to say the least) “guest sit in” on her rendition of “Angel Of Montgomery”. She handled it with class when a local gentleman who, coming from his heart, decided he could improve the performance by stumblin’ n’ bumblin’ up there to belt out “harmonies”. It was rough, I had the man removed from the situation (which went over like, well, like when you tell the local acoustic bar guy of 30 years that the stage ain’t his for the takin’). Honestly, he was very nice & apologetic, he just didn’t realize that this isn’t THAT kind of show…he meant no harm, but it just shows how nice Reeve is. I would have had McAloon deliver the “aww hell naw” stage block had it happened on our set All love here, but I’m very protective of the DTH artist’s stage time.
Gareth Asher knows one thing: being authentic. His rich road worn voice backed by the haunting vocals of Nicki and Madison is the perfect blend. When they perform, people flat out listen. His emotive singing touches peoples souls through his powerful and very personal lyrics, it’s truly inspiring. He means what he sings and he’s a commanding storyteller. The pain, the joy, it’s all in there. They even delivered a few Fleetwood covers, which is always a slam dunk with that lineup.
Boy Named Banjo I discovered in Atlanta when I was playing Eddie’s Attic. I was instantly sold on what they did and knew they would be the perfect addition to the DTH family of artists. I was so happy to hear they were coming in early and wanted to jam with us on Wednesday night! They hit the first bar of music and I witnessed everyone whisper to each other “I love them!” (this happened all weekend long). Yup, I knew it. Well done boys. I see a long and prosperous DTH future ahead of ya!
After we closed up shop at Capt Andy’s we headed over to Tortuga’s Lie for a late night hang. It’s always nice to just mingle over a few beers, killer seafood and key lime pie.
The next day, leading up to check in and the kick off show at 5 PM, was an easy going one for the earlybird DTHer’s. Sadly, Mother Nature put up just enough of a scare that we were forced to take the Songwriters In The Sand concert to the Ramada ballroom. It ended up feeling like intimate listening room performances by all the DTH talent. I have always loved this night, it’s my chance to give you a sneak peak of each artist and what you are in store for all weekend long. All the earlier mentioned artists performed, (Keaton, Reeve, Jonathan, Boy Named Banjo, Gareth & I) as well as the rest of the lineup, with each one rotating in a songwriter in the round vibe.
Brian Dunne and Ken Yates took the stage with Reeve. This was a fantastic 3 song set by each one. Ken is new to DTH, hailing from Canada, and showed he belongs right along side of all the other skilled musicians. He serves up some sincere and stunningly delicate folk/americana offerings. So honest & simple yet really brings you in. Just wonderful, so glad Brian Dunne introduced us. Ken’s music will be spinning on my Sonos all summer long. I suggest you pick up his album Twenty-Three if you didn’t in OBX. “You’ve run out on me so many times, there must be holes in your shoes”…what a great lyric.
Brian Dunne is the real deal, people! A young Springsteen meets Petty, all served up with a tasty side of Jackson Browne. Anyone who knows me, is aware that I worship all these legends. Somehow Brian is able to write and perform songs that seem so much his elder. The vocal is pure butter and his guitar skills are scary. His albums are on repeat in my car, my son adores his music. He will blow up in the next 5 years…I just hope he remembers us on the beach.
The next set was a rotation of the 3 names that are synonymous with DTH…Michael Tolcher, Tony Lucca and Keaton Simons. All so different yet compliment one another.
Tolcher knows how to get a room on his side within one verse of any of his songs. His ability to improv and give the room one big musical hug is really amazing. I’m blessed to have him return year after year. Check out Tolch’s new album, Eleven.
Keaton Simons is put on earth for one thing—to perform music. Not that all of us artists aren’t in one way or another, but I respectfully say that he seems to really have that desperation in his playing and singing that evokes such passion from the audience and back through his vocal cords and fingers. There isn’t a song that he doesn’t make better by sitting in on and his own material is incredibly strong. Keaton is always up to something new and exciting, make sure you follow him online.
Tony Lucca. It’s funny to think the first time I played a gig with Tony he was on bass (playing with Joe Firstman) and we really didn’t chat much. The next time was in San Diego. It was my responsibility to pay him to open for me. I was out on my own with no road manager for a few days and totally spaced on settling up with him. I meant no disrespect, just unorganized and had too much on my plate. I eventually sent him the money (with interest and a bottle of bourbon). I’m sure he thought, who the hell is this Pat McGee guy? Now, we are tight and I’m always in awe of his raw talent. His songs are getting stronger with every album, and his delivery is plain bad ass. Big ole’ guitar riffs bookend some of Tony’s biggest jams backed by the thunderous rhythm section The Rollaways. Then Lucca sits at the piano to lay down the “oh, yeah I can do this too” gavel. Tony seems to be in peak form these days, that’s something you can’t likely say for some of the other singers who have been dragged through the T.V. vocal competition circuit. I think it’s called foundation…Tony has a rock solid one in the music, his fans and his family back in Nashville.
Oh and I pay him in advance whenever possible. No Tony, thats not why I served you lobsters last time you crashed with me in RI. I just knew you’d dig em’. I have a soft spot for touring rock dads. And I’m secretly trying to put some pounds on you
Jason Adamo, I met through Keaton. His vocal ability is downright ridiculous. Look up “powerhouse vocal” in the old Webster and you’ll find Jason. The songs are strong and passionate and always rocked out proper with Doug Casteen’s killer guitar work. These two combined with the McKee brothers (Alex on bass of Waking April fame & Mike on drums of Delta Rae fame) really crushed it all weekend long. I just love how Jason’s fans keep coming back each year and sharing him with the DTH faithful. JAB’s early Beach Boys costumes took the cake.
Coby James surprised us all (truth me told, I heckled him to no end to PLEASE come back) showing up last minute and doing what he does best. SING. He doesn’t even know how frickin awesome he is. That’s maybe why every time he takes the stage, he makes the most of it and seemingly with no effort he instantly owns any room. Nobody sounds like Colby. He’s a RI legend in the bar scene but it’s my goal in life to make him a household name. I have plans and they involved large scale success for this incredible diamond in the rough that is Colby James.
My Band: Brian Fechino…the man possesses the ability to light up the room with one simple note on guitar. Usually followed by a vast arsenal of musical parts that always lift the song to new heights every time. Brian has become a masterful producer of many of the DTH artists, so keep an eye on all that, and more importantly a new inspiration in his son, Cash. Cash Fechino, yeah you don’t mess with him.
John “Red” Redling on organ…playing with Red is just pure joy. He is nasty on the keys and is the glue that made the artists sound so thick all weekend long. He knows his way around his instrument as good as anyone who has ever sat at a piano. Not many players truly “get it” like Red does. I’ve admired him since I was seeing bands Georgetown clubs back in my high school days and now somehow he jams with us! I’m honored.
Chardy McEwan…what can I say? He is the soul of PMB. His grooves are infectious and always get the room movie’. Plus, he played in a crab costume as well as Richard Simmons—who does that? Chardy does. I play better with Chardy just over my right shoulder. Always.
The Rollaway’s are something else. As someone wrote, it’s impossible to kick as much butt as DTH does without Steve Bentz and Mic Capdevielle destroying bass and drums with anyone and everyone for 3 straight days. They’re “ALL IN” mentality is not just in the unbelievable costume commitments, it’s in the ability to be so inclusive to all the attendees. Mic’s attention to all details and Bentz’s quick wit never goes unnoticed. I value them greatly and support their insane ideas.
Patrick McAloon. The dude does it all, not one thing less than perfection. His vocals are as immaculate as they come. His acoustic instrument mastery respectfully compliments my hackfest. I could write a large leaflet (I’m talking with like 8 panels) on how he is (forgive my French) “the shit”. Anyone who plays with him knows this. I get the added bonus of rolling with him on the regular and our families are tight. So yeah, we cool.
Speaking of his family…How about them McAloons? They win best family costumes hands down and Ruby stole hearts all weekend long every moment she took the mic. Ok FINE, I’ll bring my kids one of these years. As soon as they invent the human duplicator machine. There must be two of me. One to hang with them and one to hang with with you! Maybe one more of me to just focus on sleep?
I may have a new career. I think I love to DJ. I’m not good at it, but I have a TON of fun. I didn’t plan on spinning the turntables all night, but before I knew it, Headphone Disco was my playground and I was back in 8th grade (when I DJ’d my school dance—to get out of actually dancing awkwardly with girls). If you don’t know what Headphone Disco is…well you haven’t lived. It’s the ultimate ‘you had to be there’ situation so I won’t pretend to describe it with any validity. Just know this…we’re doing that again. I might make my family wear headphones every day, it’s THAT fun. Plus one woman told me her Fitbit increased by 12,000 steps that night! Who needs a morning workout when you can throw on some headphones, dance like your James Brown for 3 hours and end the night watching Jonathan and I have an epic guitar duel to Hotel California? Again…you had to be there.
FRIDAY AND SATURDAY:
The days were sunshine filled and each artist got a chance to play with their toes in the sand, and ocean behind them. A more attentive and respectful crowd there could not be. DTHer’s really LISTEN (while they sample homemade fruity beach drinks from the comforts of their beach chairs & coolers). The rotation of expert performers throughout the day is just astounding. One after the next just going song for song like prize fighters, except everyone wins.
Some of you played various ball games with the bands and swam in the warm(ish) waters of the Atlantic. Pigman’s BBQ even served up a delicious spread of authentic Carolina pulled pork and beef with all the sides. YUM! These guys are always on point and I look forward to that feast every year.
SONGWRITING AND GUITAR WORKSHOPS
Even before the beach was in full swing, a handful of us artists and attendees gathered to discuss various approaches to guitar lessons, as well as songwriting 101. I walked away from guitar lessons with a few new useful nugs of knowledge from Brian Fechino. The songwriting workshop, well, I woke up, got dressed, sat on the edge of the bed (maybe leaned back ever so slightly) and the next thing I knew it was WAY too late to make an appearance. I guess the last few nights had finally caught up with me. Thanks to the artists who held court and really shared some quality pearls of song crafting with fans.
In the evenings, we got to turn things up a bit all while getting into the spirit of the themes. Friday was 1980’s & Saturday was a Surf/Hawaiian Party theme. Each year DTHer’s raise the bar for outrageous costumes and really make it a blast.
The bands rip through originals generally backed by a full guest band assembled on the spot and through in some creative covers to go along with the evening’s themes. I enjoyed seeing the artists whipping their audiences into a frenzy while the dance scenes in Breakfast Club and Fast Times were playing on the projector screen. I woke up in the middle of the night and thought “DAMN, I forgot to show Footloose!”. Oh well.
I really do have a rule about who I bring to DTH, they have to be someone that I would ask to sing a tune in my living room for my most critical music fans/friends, then blow them away. It has to be something that only that artist can do, and do VERY well. And they have to be a good hang on top of that unique talent. The 2016 DTH crop was something special. But I’m guessing 2017 will be even stronger. There also just really seemed to be camaraderie between all the musicians, you could feel the support & admiration for one another’s sets of music.
Some other personal highlights for me….the all night jam sessions that took place well into the morning hours on the beach (the late night community is strong at DTH). Performing Naked Eyes with Bentz on vocals, Pretenders with Reeve and seeing Jonathan debut Pink Thunder (AHH, MY EYES!).
McAloon slaying “Sledgehammer” and JBW fist pumping his way through “I Want a New Drug”. The double rainbow that appeared over us during Thursday’s show. Late night room/deck jams with my brother Hugh and pal, George. Paul Pfau stopping by to jam with us. And that one time when I was belting out “Come Back Home” to a very small crowd in a random hotel room and heard a knock at the door, thinking it was more merrymakers and come to find out it was the dude staying next to us—he was not a fan…at all. DOH!
My Staff: Colleen Connor, DTH without Colleen, would be like a mix of running with the bulls and the scene in Airplane The Movie when the plane is crashing. She takes all my wild ideas and puts them in some sort of order, always making sure DTHer’s are having the best possible time.
Kevin McFadden (& wife Tara) and Rodney Millette do it all…they help get the recorded music into your hands, they are constantly on call for anything and everything we as artists need, which sometimes is a lot.
Lastly, Mike Massa, check out all his keen eye’d photos here of DTH. From the bottom of my heart, I thank these crucial individuals.
So, get knee deep in the vast catalogs of songs by these truly gifted individuals. If these artists come anywhere near you, GO SEE THEM LIVE, shout out “Down The Hatch” and show em you support what they do, we all rely on it to keep the music alive!
The multiple impressions these musicians make on the attendees over the course of 4 days can really turn a casual listener into a hardcore fan—that’s always my goal. I can’t wait to announce to Down The Hatch 2017…stay tuned, I’ve got big plans!
Thank you for believing in this event and trusting me with your precious vacation time. See you too out there on the road!
And thanks to Shannon and Rob for the killer sounds and lights, as well as Fishman!
GET ON THE MAILING LIST IF YOU WANT INFO ABOUT DTH 2017!!!
See the rest of the DTH photos here.
CHECK OUT PAT’s OCEAN STATE OF MIND in RI (OCT 2-4, 2016) ON SALE NOW!