Saturday, August 30, 2008

Always a fan, always a friend

More than a dozen years ago, when I was in college in Denton, Texas, I got invited to the dank, smelly little music club right off campus. My roommate's friend Laura had been raving about this singer from Austin named Patrice Pike, who was in town with her band, Little Sister. I desperately wanted Laura to think I was cool, so I was more than happy to go along (I had a little crush on her, although I still didn't really know it at that point — I was pretty dense). I didn't really know much about the band, other than Laura loved them and the dean of the journalism school was a big fan. I'll never forget Dr. Wells telling me, "You've got to go see that chick in Little Sister. She's like fuckin' Janis Joplin, man." Yeah, our j-school was a little different.

I confess that I don't recall many details about the show. I remember that I loved the music. I remember that I had a great time. I remember Laura whispering in my ear, "Isn't she so sexy?" But even though a fair amount of it is fuzzy, that night started something. Since then, Patrice and her music have been constant threads running through my entire adult life, in ways I never would have expected. Corny, sure. But true. So while I stood on the dock last Friday night at Clinton Lake in Lawrence, Kansas, watching Patrice charm and enchant a crowd of my friends (and a few strangers), I thought for a moment about my 20-year-old self. If someone had told me that over the next decade, I would see Patrice in dozens of shows — including one in my own driveway — would I have rolled my eyes? If somone had said that this amazing singer, sweating and writhing on the stage in front of me, would one day consider me a friend, would I have believed it?

If the name Patrice Pike sounds even remotely familiar to any of you (well, any of you who don't know me), it could be a few things. Two summers ago, she was on "Rock Star: Supernova," that reality show where Tommy Lee was looking for a lead singer. Patrice did well; she was the third-to-last female to be eliminated. I wanted her to last longer, but truth be told, I didn't really want her to win. That band of Tommy Lee's hasn't done jack squat. I just wanted her to pick up some more fans. That's happened, although not to the degree I would have hoped. If she had been able to play this song, "Kiss Me Baby," on national TV, I'm guessing she would have picked up a few more. Not exactly a Tommy Lee kind of song. I wish there was full video, but you'll get the point. Panty-dropper.

But if you didn't catch her "Rock Star," Patrice has also been on the Lilith Fair, she's played at the Michigan Womyn's Festival and countless other similar chick shindigs (this is a neat moment from one of those), her band Sister 7 (Little Sister had to change its name) had some radio and VH1 play with a song called "Know What You Mean." In Austin, she's beloved; she's in the Texas Music Hall of Fame. But if you haven't heard of her, that's okay too. It's the whole reason I'm writing this. If it makes even one person check out her music for the first time, then I'm happy. It's not just that I think her music is worth sharing with anyone and everyone (although it is), it's also because outside of Texas, I'm not sure how well-known she is in the lesbian/bi community, despite being an out-and-proud bisexual who actively supports and promotes gay causes. I consider the song in the snippet below (it's not the full song) a great "fuck you, I'm queer" song.

I got to know Patrice, oddly enough, when I moved away from Texas. Down there, at a Sister 7 show the club would be packed wall-to-wall. In Kansas City, it was a little different. Good crowds, but nothing like that. So it's hard to miss when the same people are coming to the shows over and over again (sometimes on consecutive nights in different towns). My friends and I became faces that she was used to seeing when she came to town, and she would always make a point to say hello to us. But I didn't really get to know her until one weekend nearly seven years ago, when Patrice and her band at the time got booted out of a Sunday-night gig in Lawrence at the very last minute. (The owner of the club and its manager had unknowingly each booked a band for that night; Patrice's band lost out.) My roommate Sarah and I were commiserating with Patrice after the Kansas City show that Friday, and being a bit drunk and mouthy, we were like, "Fuck it, just play the show at our house." Patrice didn't miss a beat. "How many people do you think you could get?" Sarah and me: "Uhhhhhhhhhhh ... what? Seriously?"

So, 48 hours later, Patrice Pike and the Black Box Rebellion were playing a fully plugged in, all-out, two-hour show in our driveway for a few dozen of our closest friends. It was one of the most fun experiences of my life, something I'll never forget. And I know Patrice won't either. She's said several times that the experience meant a lot to her, and knowing that means a great deal to me. I generally try not to get too personal in this blog, mostly because I think it's kind of boring. I tried several times to write about Patrice without getting personal, but it just didn't work. And I don't want to give the impression that we are close friends; that's not the case. Because I've been listening to her music for so long — and because it was such a huge part of my life when I was figuring out my sexuality, moving to a new town and making new friends — it would be intensely personal to me whether I knew her or not. But because I do know that she is every bit as kind-hearted and genuine as she is talented, it makes me want to share her music with others all the more.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading about her, and I hope you check her out: and OK, enough shameless promotion. I'll leave you with a photo from the Driveway Show, plus a snippet of one of my favorite Patrice songs ever.

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