Pat McGee Band: history and review

Pat McGee Band & Friends: That was the bill, and it was already rumored some old school would be brought. Some history first:

Pat McGee’s first CD was him alone (with some help from eddie from ohio). He formed his band about 10 years ago, consisting of Al Walsh (guitar/vocals), Jonathan Williams (keyboard/vocals), John Small (bass), Chris Williams (drums) and Chardy McEwan (percussion). I first caught them in 1999 in Herndon at Friday Night Live and was smitten. Pat had great songs, and the harmony vocals of Al and Jonathan intertwined with his voice to great effect. Al left the group in 2001 and was replaced on guitar by Brian Fechino, who while a more aggressive and talented player, didn’t sing and left the group with only Jonathan doing backing vocals, which didn’t have the same magic. Jonathan started disappearing, occaionally replaced by Michael Ghegan (ex Fighting Gravity). While mostly known for his saxophone skills, Michael was a good keyboard player and singer as well.

On a parallel track, I’ve been following Todd Wright since 1994; his group The Excentrics played great power pop. Matt Micelli was their last guitarist, having joined in 1999. They’d been trying to break through for years, but professional and personal issues had them call a halt in 2002. Todd and Matt continued playing together, and recruited Chris Reardon on bass and vocals to form the Getaway Car in 2003. I love seeing them and catch them fairly often, especially when they play in Herndon or Vienna.

In February 2004, I went to catch the Pat McGee Band at the Birchmere, and was shocked to see Todd Wright on keyboards/guitar/vocals. Getaway Car was doing ok for a local band, but Todd’s got a kid to care for, and with Jonathan officially out of the band and a new CD out, they needed a replacement and Todd had stepped in. In late 2004 John Small left, and Chris Reardon was tapped as his replacement. This meant that the Pat McGee Band finally had two guys on backing vocals, definitely my preferred way of seeing them. Todd’s voice was more of a counterpoint to Pat’s, but they worked well together, and Chris had worked with Todd long enough to fit in.

All good things don’t last, though, and Todd’s beloved dog started having severe health problems. Todd started travelling home every time the band had a break, and this wore on him, eventually making him leave the band in the fall of 2005. Surprisingly, his replacement was a returning Jonathan Williams. And even though Todd left, Chris Reardon remained with the band (which never meant a stop to the Getaway Car – they’d play shows when the Pat McGee Band was on breaks).

Which brings us to last night’s show at the Birchmere. No openers and the band took the stage right at 7:30 with their current lineup and “Must Have Been Love”. Guests during the first set were Todd Wright and Michael Ghegan, highlighted by a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Time -> Breathe”. I was loving it but the second set was even better. Al Walsh showed up, the first time I’d seen him in nearly five years and turned in some great harmonies with Jonathan and Pat, especially on “Passion” and “Haven’t Seen For A While”. And Matt Micelli came up to duel lead guitar with Brian. But the best part was getting all the current and past members up on stage to jam on “Rebecca”, which didn’t finish until Pat and Michael had gone out playing on the tables and back again. The encore consisted of “Eligy For Amy” by just Pat and Jonathan, followed by a sloppy cover of “I Want You To Want Me”.

Definitely my favorite Pat McGee Band show yet – a shame if we don’t ever see that lineup again.