September Newsletter Blog

After being uninvited to play a Battle of the Bands, we had one August gig: the Mohegan Sun Arena. I’m still waiting for the “official” pics/ video from the venue but below are my pics from my perspective. I also kept a timeline on Twitter via the “#CTSunGig” hashtag.

New blogs: Men’s Health Article | When Art Precedes Sound | Will the Audience Really Care

The Mohegan Sun Arena Play-By-Play:

Prior to leaving my gear was packed: 2 acoustic guitars, an extension chord, DigiTech pedal board, Fishman acoustic amp, electric guitar (for anthem), Marshall gig bag &  sitting stool.

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Arriving 2 hours before game time.

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A look at the passes and tickets for the event.

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An assumedly sick joke.  We walked out on to the court to see 2 vocal microphones???

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Rich sound checking at center court.

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I assume this is the backstage area for bands (KISS played the following night).

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The small area next to the stands where we stashed our gear waiting to go on.

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The performances

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I’m hopeful this is how everyone reacted to the performances…

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Men’s Health Submission

** Back in 2012, I submitted an article to Men’s Health for consideration but never heard back. Here is the article in its entirety. Thank you to friends and published authors Patrick Kennedy and Max Klau for their insight, ideas and expertise in reviewing my submission.**

The Beatles!!  Billy Joel!!  Elton John!!  Patrick DeCoste??  Hi, I’m Patrick.  Like the three before me, I’ve played Shea Stadium.  Attendance on record that day was 51,7495.  Granted I wasn’t there to perform a full-length set but I did land the coveted Star Spangled Banner gig.  One minute and 16 seconds of U2-inspired instrumental guitar licks (and a virtually guaranteed standing ovation!).

Like those around me, my life consists of working full-time, family, mortgage and car payments.  But once the clock hits 5pm, I morph from office drone into semi-professional rock guitarist. I may not be running to the John Varvatos store in NYC or Kat Von D’s Hollywood tattoo shop while trying to hang on to those fleeting moments of rock stardom – but I have managed to fit a few hours of guitar into my daily life.

Not just practice time–stage time. My guitar and I have had some unique experiences over the years, from the Shea Stadium gig to toiling in the orchestra pit for the Broadway musical, HAIRSPRAY.

It wasn’t always easy, and not everything went as planned.  My music-biz experience has consisted of rejections and mistakes.  However, I have scored a few important call-backs.  I’m no Eddie Van Halen, any more than my Sport Management degree makes me Theo Epstein. (I’m a grant manager for a major university in Boston as my day job.)  But those shortcomings only make me work harder.

GOING BACK TO THE BASICS

With no less than 50 hours of my week dedicated to working for “The Man”, how did I go from bedroom to ballpark? A quick rehash of the ABC’S:

Ability: No good job can be achieved without skill.  Take the time to hone your craft a day at a time.  Read, listen and communicate with those in your field.  Ability breeds opportunity, which breeds networks, which breeds opportunity, which breeds networks – you get the idea.

Balance: Finding “me” time can be as hard as finding time to dedicate to those things you have to do (you paid the phone bill this month, right?).  But that doesn’t mean it’s any less important.  If you can commit 45 minutes to the gym three days a week, why not dedicate that same time to your craft?

Commitment: After allocating time for achievement, you now have the ability to go for it.  Write down goals (long term and short term), time frames and start making it happen.  Stick with it–you owe it to yourself.

Sacrifice: With love comes misery.  Expect that you’ll hit some road blocks and stumble along the way, and know you’ll be giving up some nights out with friends or lazy evenings watching TV (pro tip: $8/ month will get you instant access to almost all of your favorite shows).  Moving forward will only make the rewards that much sweeter.

LANDING THE GIG

Scoring stadium gigs and orchestra pit forays don’t happen overnight nor did it happen without its up and downs along the way.

After sending my demo off to most (if not all) professional sport teams from Maine to Pennsylvania, I had my share of rejections. One front office wise guy went so far as to say he was protecting me from getting booed by not booking me.  Typical protocol included getting the contact info through the team’s website, mailing in a demo package and then never hearing back.  Every once in a while you’ll get the “Don’t contact us, we’ll contact you” postcard, even more rare is actually getting booked.

CASE STUDY

In 2010, I was approached about being the guitarist for HAIRPSRAY during its three-week run at the Cape Playhouse in Cape Cod (“where Broadway goes to summer”).  I couldn’t read music, could barely play by ear, and couldn’t improvise.  I played at bars in bands–not at theaters in orchestra pits.  With only three months to learn skills which takes years to learn, I had to find a balance between my full-time job, family and being the best musician I could be.

Comparing a theater gig to a club gig is like comparing a pick-up basketball game to joining a league: same skills, but more rules and higher stakes.  I quickly had to master skills like volume control, page turning, and “vamping” (repeating the same notes over and over until a set or wardrobe change was finished and the show could move on).

I took my first guitar lesson in 15 years.  I didn’t know the first thing about HAIRSPRAY, so I immersed myself in the musical–movies, bios, sheet music, iPod music lists on repeat.  I worked HARD, and I pulled it off because I believed and was believed in.  Before the first note of “Good Morning, Baltimore” was played, there was no one more prepared than me.

As my three-week run in the orchestra pit for the Grammy-winning, Tony-winning musical came to an end, I began to fade.  I was still working my full-time day job-during it’s busiest season!-while playing eight three-hour shows a week and commuting over 200 miles a day.  The brutal schedule took its toll but the rewards far outweighed any negatives.

WHAT I’VE LEARNED ALONG THE WAY

After the gear is packed and the bar is just a room full of empty bottles rolling around the floor, the ride home allows me to reflect.  What went right, what went wrong?  What’s next?  Through reflection, you can accurately access your positioning and plan for the future.

Dreams vs. Reality: playing Guitar Hero on Xbox doesn’t make one a guitar hero, just as playing Monopoly doesn’t make you a banker.  Take the time to work and hone your craft.  Accept the rejections while making adjustments along the way.

Opportunity vs. Entitlement: No one wants to work with someone who feels they deserve something.  Be humble.  Work harder for less.  Giving someone an excuse to not hire you is never a good career move.

Start small, think big: I labored in the Boston “open mic” scene for years.  That meant late nights performing between the old guy who wanted to be the next Paul Simon and the sorority girl doing Alanis Morissette covers.  Being a small fish in a big pond allows you find your niche, brand yourself and build momentum while collecting small victories along the way.

Remember that trip to Paris?  Or those college parties?  They happened because you were there.  You make the choice to go for it.  Make that your mantra–-do it.  Do it now.

MAKING IT WORK FOR YOU

Personal goals are labors of love.  You do it because you love it.  I can’t make mortgage payments on the 33 cents I make off each MP3 download.  Nor can I afford a week-long tour in half-filled bars, 11 p.m. set times or numerous trips to studios for recording time.

What I can do, however, is throw my acoustic guitar in the back of my 2-door Honda Civic and head out to the neighborhood bar to entertain for an hour.  My man cave (i.e., my allotted space in the back corner of my basement) allows me to record music on my laptop to distribute online.

Make your craft work for you.  Let your enthusiasm for your art shine, and enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve found a way to pay the bills while still cultivating your passion and sharing it with the world.

IN CONCLUSION

Armed with tips and tricks to start making your hobby work for you, those “what if?” questions should hopefully become “why not?”  Be inspired.  Be grateful.  Be opportunistic.  Be who you wanted to be.  Fight through the adversity.  Do it.

Every day I look back at what I’ve accomplished and feel the thrill of satisfaction.  I also see how the work I put in yesterday sets me up to achieve even more tomorrow.

How do you want to be remembered?  How do you want to be perceived?  One thing is for sure: sitting there won’t get you where you want to be.

Get up.  Plan it.  Do it….and enjoy the ride along the way.

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Video From Arena Performance

On 08/09/13, Patrick and Rich performed at halftime during the Chicago Sky vs Connecticut Sun in the Mohegan Sun Arena. The video is in and picks up at the medley which included George Clinton’s “We’ve Got The Funk“, Bee Gee’s “Stayin’ Alive” and Dave Matthews Band’s “Crash Into Me” before jumping back into Patrick’s SRV-influenced “In Step“.

The video also captures the beginner of the 2nd song, “Slán Abhaile“.

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As bonus, Patrick was asked to perform his famed “Star Spangled Banner” just prior to tip-off.

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Like what you hear? Please feel free to download/ listen/ share to the originals!

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The Boston University Speech

On 03/21/13, I spoke on the Boston University Medical Campus at a public speaking workshop.  Ironically, I chose to speak about not speaking.  Below is the draft reference I worked on prior to stepping to the podium.

The Art of Speaking Without Having To Say Anything

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]’d like to start by saying I’m not up here because of my fear of being in front of people.  I believe a lot of one’s anxiety in public speaking is not being vocal but the thought of being the center of attention.  I can honestly stand in front of you today and say… I’m fairly comfortable.  Being the center of attention ISN’T my issue – whether it’s in front 5 people, 15 people or 50,000 people.  The number of people watching me doesn’t bother me.  I will however say my nervousness comes from the actual act of speaking – my inability to think on my feet, to get the information out of my head and say it confidently and intelligently.

I’m able to say I feel confident when standing alone in front of 50,000 people – because actually – I’ve done it!  Let me take you back a few years to August 8th, 2007.  Does the date ring a bell with anyone?  It was a Wednesday… it was raining… Anyway, that morning I had packed my bags and drove out to Queens, NY.  It’s a 5 hour drive from Boston and made the trip because I agreed to take a job.  It didn’t very pay well (actually it didn’t pay at all!) and I was “hired” for to do something that lasted 75 seconds.  So if you’re a finance person like me and are crunching the numbers in your head, yes – I drove 10 hours roundtrip for 1 minute and 15 seconds worth of work.

You probably think I’m crazy… and you’re probably right!  But hear me out: this opportunity found me standing in front of 51,749 people with TV cameras everywhere and literally all eyes on me.  I wasn’t in any work group, part of an audience or a member of any team.  It was just me standing in 108 degree weather wearing jeans and a long sleeved collared shirt – and I was surprisingly okay.  I was surprisingly okay because the beauty of the story is I didn’t have to speak – AT ALL!

Here I was standing in the middle of Shea Stadium, with ESPN cameras surrounding me and no one to rely on.  All I had to do was play guitar.  My “job”, that day, was to play my instrumental version of the Star Spangled Banner before the Mets/ Braves game on ESPN’s Game-Of-The-Week.  In the very stadium which hosted Billy Joel, the Stones, the Beatles, Elton John – the very stadium where my beloved Boston Red Sox lost game 6 on the 1986 World Series when the ball went through Bill Buckner’s legs in one of the most dramatic sports moments of all time.  There I was playing guitar surrounded by it all.  How well did I play?  That’s up for debate… I find it a bit drastic for the Mets to demolish the stadium a few months after I left.  But regardless, the beauty of performing the anthem is the guaranteed standing ovation!

From that experience, I was able to take advantage of many other amazing experiences where I stood alone before large crowds.  I’ve played the anthem in other arenas, shared the stage with some of my guitar idols and even performed in the orchestra pit for a Grammy-winning musical.  But again, none involved any amount of speaking – AT ALL.

With that being said, I admire the steps you are taking to build your public speaking skills, for whatEVER reason you may have, whether it be personal, professional or otherwise.  I’ve looked forward to my time here with you – seeing you overcome your fears and become the speaker you want to be.  I’d like the same for myself!

Thank you for awarding me this opportunity and hope you can be just as comfortable with speaking as I am with having a guitar in hands.

Thank you.

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The National Anthem Blog

For the past 8 years, I’ve had the amazing experience of playing the Star Spangled Banner in some of the biggest & most historic venues in the USA.  Here are some of the questions I’ve been asked over the years:

 How Did You Get The Gig?

From what I’ve learned, the music business is a business of contacts and thick skin.  “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is an understatement.  Anthem gigs are the one exception.  Shea Stadium was my first anthem experience and that came about by simply going to the sports team’s website, getting the contact info to mail/ emailing my press kit and hoping to get a call.  That’s how most of my anthem gigs happen.  As my resume gets stronger and I gain more contacts in the industry, so will my chances – hopefully.

What Goes Through Your Head When Playing?

The more I think about it, the worse it is.  All preparation happens during practice beforehand.  I try not to over-practice, take care of my sounds/ equipment (ie echoes, distortion, amp noise, etc.) and eliminate any potential problems days before the gig.  If I can downplay the experience and take it for what it is (1min and 15sec of music), the smoother it usually goes.

How Do You Prepare For Something Like That?
YouTube.  Imagination.  Past experiences.  If I can research the venue prior by watching other anthem videos and seeing where they stand, how they sound, and the amount of people in the crowd, I can get an idea of what to expect.

What Equipment Do You Take?
Less is more.  The faster I set-up/ break-down, the smoother things are.  I always bring 2 guitars (1 main guitar, 1 back-up) and an extra shirt (I tend to sweat when playing in 104 degrees).  Here’s my checklist.

What’s The Most/ Least Amount Of People You’ve Playing In Front Of?
The Shea gig was 50,000+ – everything else, not so much.  I have different guitar settings for the amount of people in the crowd.  The emptier the arena (especially domed arenas), the more sounds will echo.  If it’s a packed house, I add echoes to my sound but let the venue dictate the echoes in less crowded settings.

Why Not Play It Like Hendrix?
1. Because I can’t.  2. I’m not Hendrix.  3. Because it’s been done.  4. It’s a different era.  Sport teams want a conservative version.  Years ago I sent a crazy rock version I did and got a call back from a team saying I’d get boo-ed if I played it that way.  I still think what I put together was original, catchy and enjoyable but oh well.  The more violent the sport, the more likely I’ll play a rock version than a conservative version.  There’s only been one occasion where someone hasn’t asked if I would play the Hendrix version.

What’s The Process To Get Booked?
After mailing in your submission, they’ll get back to you if interested.  Sometimes they have a number of dates to pick from or just one to fill.  Parking, arrival times/ sound check, comp tickets, etc. are sorted out beforehand.  When you get there, you’ll usually get your pass(es) at will call/ front desk.  The person I’ve traded emails with is usually the game time contact but not always.  If there’s a soundcheck, it’s before the gates open and usually lasts about 1 minute (ie “Can you can hear your guitar?  Yes?  Ok – we’re done”).  Then you wait for hours and are expected back about 10 minutes before performance time.  It’s over in a flash I get off the court/ field asap.  Hopefully there’s a secure place to store my gear so I can enjoy the game!  No two anthem gigs are alike – even if you’ve played the venue before.

Any Crazy Stories?
Aside from the time I forgot to bring my guitars? True story – I left my house with everything except my guitars one time.  Luckily, my wife did the “idiot check” (ie ask me what I’m forgetting) and we had enough time to turn around and get them.  Then there was the time the front desk employee told us to stand and wait in the corner for 20 minutes while the Game Operations staff came to get us.  I remember one time getting the countdown to when I’d be live and still wasn’t getting any signal out of my guitar until 3 seconds before playing (a cable became unplugged when it was being moved around by game staff).  All those things happened at the same gig, by the way.  I won’t even get into the time I was told to be back in the waiting room at 6.45pm and heard my introduction at 6.40pm while I was roaming around the stadium…

How Can I Get Those Gigs?
Keep trying: I get rejected (ie never hear back) more than I get accepted.  Be thankful: build upon each experience, learn from them and use that knowledge to better yourself. Lastly, remember to send your submissions in well before the start of the season.  Some baseball teams won’t accept submissions after mid-February even though the season starts in April.  Be courteous and mindful that they get 1,000s of submissions each year so make what you send stand out.  Never burn any bridges – it’s not worth it.

Have more questions? Please leave them in the “Comment” box below!

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