PATRICK MCVAY

WRITER

My Musings

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Gimme Good News

Each morning I wake up hoping that when I look at my handheld device I will be treated to some really awesome news. Maybe there's an email asking if I would mind terribly if a highly respected publisher would issue a hardcover edition of a novel I wrote in the 1990s, which they've not actually read but are guessing must be good. Or maybe someone wants me to join their rock band as their drummer, touring with them across the world, but only if i get a legit neck tattoo. (I'll do it!)

Better yet, maybe there is good news from the latest and greatest European war, the one that had been foreshadowed by the American government for weeks ("they are massing troops on the border; now they are bringing in supplies of blood."), news that tells us that the invaders had decided to go home instead of fighting on. Or that that Vladimir Putin, one of the biggest jerks in the 21st century, has been deposed – thrown in jail, made to scrub floors, and forced to write on a chalkboard 50 times "I will not invade a sovereign nation." In a just world, a-holes get their comeuppance and live through decades of having their names peed upon, euphemistically, by "the public at large." Then, after they die and are buried, we pee on their graves too, and not so euphemistically.

Alas, fantasies! The news of the world is generally pretty bad, and no one wants to read my novel or add me to their rock band. Not to mention that all of our hopes and dreams about Russians finally throwing off the yoke of oppression seems unlikely, given that protestors are apparently being given 15-year prison sentences for complaining about the war.

OK – a tiny bit of good news: it does seem that Ukraine has beaten back the invading hordes around Kyiv, taking back territory. Alas, even this has an awful side, as we find the streets of Bucha littered with executed civilians.

Maybe better news tomorrow. 

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Sneaky

When I was a kid, rock bands didn't design tours around playing a single album beginning to end. We the fans had to settle for listening to the hits at rock concerts.

You'd think a concert of nothing but hits like Howard is hearing tonight at the Fargo Dome would be perfect, but sometimes it's more perfect to hear a whole album, especially if you love it and have played it many times through. I didn't regularly listen to any Elton John albums beginning to end because I didn't own any. Probably Howard did, but would still prefer to hear the hits tonight.

My friend Tim recently confessed that he didn't particularly care for the full-album concert: there is no mystery as to what the next song is. For this, the priest told him to say three Hail Marys and an Our Father, and to sin no more. I'll concede that it can be fun to guess what the band will play next, but when I'm listening to an album I love, I'm rarely disappointed that I know the order of songs. Preparing for a climax that you know is coming any minute can be enormously invigorating.

I've seen four of these one-album shows, and I'm all for them. First I saw Liz Phair doing Exile in Guyville at the Paradise Rock Club in good old Allston, MA. Then Mike Doughty, twice, doing the first and best Soul Coughing album, Ruby Vroom, which includes "Screenwriter's Blues" and "True Dreams of Witchita," two of many "hits" for Soul Coughing fans on this album. And most recently, I saw the Irish American punk outfit Titus Andronicus do The Monitor beginning to end and back to beginning again (they played the first track twice!).

Now I'm ready to lead a campaign in which we the public conscript the band Spoon into service playing A Series of Sneaks beginning to end. Either that or Telephono, their first album.

Not sure if it will be an old-fashioned letter-writing campaign or if I'll employ social media. Stay tuned on those details. 

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Ladies and Gentlemen, Please Welcome The Umlauts

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I'm thinking of rounding up the boys and reviving the old rock band thing one last time before it's too late. We could reprise our versions of Cheap Trick's "Surrender" and Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" – our terrible versions of those songs – which we had played at the New York State Fair, circa 1978, in a "talent show" judged by a man named Allen A. Allen. To be honest, I don't know if the judge's name was spelled Allan A. Allan, or Allen A. Allen, or whatever. The only thing I know for sure is that not a lot of talent was on stage that day.

At the time our group was named "The Krash," a misspelling that we hoped would lend us a tiny bit of rock cred, enabling us stand out in the crowded world of teenage garage bands. By eliminating letters or swapping out one for another that is phonetically similar, we were following in the footstep of our heroes "The Beatles" and "Led Zeppelin." ("Def Leppard," which had formed a year earlier, wasn't particularly influential in our naming decision.)

Other bands went farther with "alternative lettering" by borrowing an umlaut or two from Germanic languages and placing them helter-skelter over whichever letter they thought looked cool, as Mötley Crüe did in the early 80s. "Spin̈al Tap" did those bands one better by putting the umlaut over the N. How cool would it have been if we had put the umlaut over the R, so we would become The Kr̈ash?! Alas, we didn't have a good enough sense for humor for that. (Double alas: the umlauts over the n and r are barely noticeable! The creators of the text editor that I'm using in this blog apparently didn't foresee the need to give bloggers the option of sticking umlauts over random consonants.)  

Soon, we jettisoned the name The Krash as well as my friend Pete's younger brother Tommy, our singer, for a guy we met in high school a few months later. Then we added a guitarist, then Pete's older brother Rob, and finally settled on five of us with the name "Eclipse," which included my old buddy Johnny G., who occasionally made use of a beach towel on his fret hand to assuage the sting of callouses.

We were pretty bad, me in particular. I was an expert at hitting the drum skins hard and often, but keeping a steady beat was a challenge. "You're speeding up!" was a common refrain from Pete. Didn't sound that way to me. Everyone else was slowing down. It never really mattered that we were not particularly good. Kids showed up at our shows anyway because we were loud and had flash pods that blinded them for several seconds at a time. We got paid for this, and now and again I was asked to sign autographs and had girls I didn't know calling me on the family phone.

Now that my drums are set up in the basement again, I'm working on keeping a steady beat in case the lads want to pull out the old leather jackets and start screaming into microphones again. Gotta admit, it would be a nice change of pace. 

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The New Normal

Now that the damnable pandemic "is over" (I actually found myself uttering that phrase recently), I can finally take in a good old-fashioned rock show again. And I deserve it, having had 18 months of my precious early-mid-life stolen from me by the evil virus. 

Prior to the unwelcome arrival of the bug in spring 2020, I was in possession of three sets of concerts tickets, including the horn-driven afrobeat New Yorkers Antibalas, and that Australian bad seed himself, Nick Cave.

And also Pussy Riot! Having by that point in late winter spent many an hour pedaling my bicycle while wearing an un-mandated mask not unlike the variety of balaclava used by those rocking Muscovites, I could not imagine myself donning one on a sweaty rock club stage, as the anti-Putin collective did nightly whilst hollering undecipherable epithets into microphones. 

These days wearing a face covering indoors in sweaty nightclubs is pretty much required. Look, if that's what's required, I'm in. 

Tickets started going on sale in late spring,and I snapped them up for Thee Oh Sees and The Mountain Goats, even though it seemed entirely unlikely that these shows would ever happen, given the rise of the malevolent delta variant of COVID-19. The tickets represented hopes and dreams rather than actual plans.

But those awesome concerts really did happen, as did a recent show by the Garden State punk outfit Titus Andronicus at the Sinclair in Cambridge, the best venue in the history of small rock show venues. Playing their second album in its entirety, Patrick Stickles and his bandmates brought back the energy that had been missing from my very late nights for a year and a half.

Titus Andronicus at the Sinclair Club

Unlike Pussy Riot, Titus band members didn't bother wearing balaclavas or any other face coverings while bellowing into mics, but for obvious reasons indoor mask mandates don't extend to touring punk bands while they are on stage.

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J'Biden Era Haikuage

 

People's Arms. That's right!

200 million shots

In 100 days

 

We are good people

But we still have far to go

Repair. Restore. Heal.

 

There's nothing new here

The Affordable Care Act

We're restoring it 

 

America's Day

Democracy is fragile

The world is watching 

 

Strategy is based

On Science, not politics

Truth, not denial

 

 

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