When Time Stops: Pat McGee, Alanis Morissette, Aslyn & Perfect Moments in Live Music

When Time Stops: Pat McGee, Alanis Morissette, Aslyn & Perfect Moments in Live Music

“It’s like rain on your wedding day
It’s a free ride when you’ve already paid
It’s the good advice that you just didn’t take
And who would’ve thought? It figures”

– Alanis Morissette “Ironic” from Jagged Little Pill

On December 7, 2019, my wife and I went to see Alanis Morissette live at Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut. My wife Corinne is a huge fan, so I bought tickets and excitedly surprised her with really good seats. I had seen Alanis years earlier on August 8, 2004, at the Tweeter Center for the Performing Arts in Mansfield, MA. That was The Au Naturale Tour, and she performed with The Bare Naked Ladies. It was a terrific show, but what I remembered most was Alanis Morissette’s fantastic performance. She rocked, and even though I had always appreciated her music, style, and emotional power, I was musically transformed by her show.

Since my wife had talked of her wish to see Alanis live and the fact that we have connected almost from our very first date through our similar taste in music and musicians, I was excited when the opportunity presented itself. But Alanis Morissette’s show acted as a culmination of years of musical connections between my wife and I. Now, with the COVID pandemic canceling concerts and live events, it seemed a perfect opportunity to think back to that shared appreciation of music. So, break out the record player, dust off the vinyl, and hit play.

I have always had a wandering musical taste. Whether, as a young child, I was listening to my dad’s 50s music collection on a cassette tape in my Walkman, with those fuzzy earphones, in the back of the station wagon on a trip to New Hampshire, or, as an teenager, rocking out to my first album, Bryan Adams’ Reckless, I always seemed at peace when listening to music.

“Everyday, it’s a-gettin’ closer
Goin’ faster than a roller coaster
Love like yours will surely come my way
A-hey, a-hey hey”

– Buddy Holly “Everyday” from Buddy Holly

Over the years, my taste in music has morphed, changed, and adapted, but music is always a center of calm. I always enjoyed the music of Bryan Adams, and still do, and even more so since I saw him live at the Boston Rockland Trust Bank Pavillon on August 8, 2004. It was an amazing show, one I saw with my brother Jeff. He played for nearly three hours and included all of his hits. I rocked out, and left with a sense of fulfillment. I saw one of my favorite musician’s rock, and it did not disappoint.

While in the 1990s, I listened to mainly rock, the new millennium brought with it a reimagining. It all started when I took a Rock n’ Roll History course at UMass Dartmouth. In that class, we learned of every type of music from every era. It allowed me to open my mind and heart and give way to the sounds that hit my ears. The class helped me to focus, not on the genre, but the constructed sound. It allowed, and yes uncomfortably forced, me to consider what music connected with me and what I longed to feel. So, I explored, I tested, and I gave way.

In early 2000 I found the singer-songwriter, guitar strummer, the piano player, and much more stuck with me. Of course, I still loved Rock, but I gravitated more towards Alternative, varieties of pop, blues, and acoustic sounds especially brought me immense joy and comfort. It started, in one way, with early CDs I bought and constantly played by Michelle Branch and Norah Jones, who I saw live in Mansfield, MA, in 2004. But, on the other hand I still had Billy Joel, Tom Petty, and of course Bryan Adams on speed dial. But Pop Rock, Punk, Post-grunge, indie, and even Garage punk started to present new sounds. Bands like: Offspring, Weezer, the Killers, Fall Out Boy, Green Day, Lifehouse, Creed – all found their way into my CD player. While the Pop music of the era, like Brittany Spears or Christina Aguilera, or even Lily Allen, who I saw live at The Roxy in Boston, and boybands like Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync were never my jam, I respected the sound. I liked the Pop sound coming from Pink, and gravitated to Adult Contemporary, which included artists like Jones, mentioned earlier, and veteran of the musical sound Alanis Morissette. In the early 2000 world of R&B, I enjoyed Mary J. Blidge and was in awe of the talent of Destiny Child and Mariah Carey. I was not, and am not a big country music fan, but enjoy the country sound mixed wonderfully with Rock. This is a sound found with The Chicks (formally D*x*e Chicks), who are both talented and introduced a sound like nothing I had heard before. I listened to all of their albums and, still to this day, consider them one of the best musical groups out of any genre of music. Even their newest album, Gaslighter, with songs like “Gaslighter,” does what all perfectly written songs with amazing lyrics do, make you feel.

“Forgive, sounds good
Forget, I’m not sure I could
They say time heals everything
But I’m still waiting”

– The Chicks “I’m Not Ready to Make Nice” from Taking the Long Way

Even so, this blog is not about me giving a rundown of what I listened to, although if you want me to chat about Jason Mraz, Counting Crows, Tonic, and more, just for the fun of it I can and would love to. Instead, I want to provide an example of the popular sounds I began listening to for the first time. Still, my favorite music and musicians were those not on any billboards or selling out stadiums, even though some would attain this glory. They were those bands or artists rocking small venues in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. While seeing Alanis Morissette live was a significant part of this era, and Bryan Adams makes an appearance too, it was artists like Aslyn, Will Hoge, Gavin DeGraw, and more that indeed became the center of my musical universe. It is with the singer-songwriter and guitar and piano player my heart followed. I should say, I did saw Jason Mraz twice. I have enjoyed his sound since his Waiting for My Rocket to Come album with amazing songs like, “You and I Both” and “The Remedy.” I was able to see him in Newport, RI, where my wife and I actually met him, and took a picture with him in the local Starbucks, as well as saw him with my sister Becky, many years ago at Universal Studies in Orlando, FL when he played Mardi Gras. Both shows were amazing!

“Was it you who spoke the words
That things would happen but not to me
Oh things are gonna happen naturally”

– Jason Mraz “You and I Both” from Waiting for My Rocket to Come

The first major show I saw featuring any of these artists was Michelle Branch on Thursday, April 29, 2004, at the Ryan Center on the URI campus, as part of her Virgin College Mega Tour. I went to see her with my older brother Bobby, someone who has always shared an immense love for live music, especially Bob Dylan. While this was not a Dylan concert, he graciously joined me and enjoyed Branch’s setlist. One of the opening musicians that night was Gavin DeGraw. I fell in love with his sound instantly. His piano playing was terrific, he had a stage presence that I knew instantly would make him a star, and soon after noticed he guest stared on one of my all-time favorite television shows, Dead Like Me. I quickly bought his album, Chariot, after the show. DeGraw has continued to make amazing music and released solid albums, but for me, nothing has ever topped Chariot. With songs like “I Don’t Wanna Be,” “Chariot,” and “Follow Through” Chariot is an album that is timeless.

The fun part about buying music in those days was that I would buy CDs on Amazon and sample songs on the website before buying. Meaning, they would allow you to listen to around thirty seconds of a specific song. Not really enough to know if you really like it, but enough to know whether you wanted to give it a shot. Today, the world of Spotify, Amazon Music, and Apple Music has made sampling, and listening to music on demand an instantaneous experience. In the least, the early 2000s did not require me getting a blank cassette tape and attempt to record a song on the radio, by pressing the record button on a boombox, which was a part of my Sunday mornings in the 80s and 90s and never worked. From this one show, which was initially about seeing Michelle Branch, became a thread that I needed to pull and unravel more sounds like DeGraw. Unravel, it did, and more sounds were inevitably unveiled.

“I don’t want to be anything
Other than what I’ve been trying to be lately
All I have to do is think of me and I have peace of mind
I’m tired of looking around rooms wondering what I gotta do
Or who I’m supposed to be
I don’t want to be anything other than me”

– Gavin DeGraw “I Don’t Want to Be” from Chariot

In the years around 2003 and 2004, I found several musicians who shaped my musical interests for years to come. The discovery of one artist would eventually bring me to another, and this continued to happen until I found a core sound, I enjoyed the most. On one occasion, my brother and I went to see Marc Broussard in Providence on Friday, March 25, 2004, at The Call, a small but intimate venue. We enjoyed his rock/blues album Carencro, with awesome songs “Home,” “Rocksteady,” and “The Wanderer,” which are just a couple of songs in one album that proved Broussard’s incredible musical sound. We also, enjoyed the fact that he has a last name that someone from Massachusetts has a hell of a time saying! It’s like asking me to say, “Farmers Market Burger” it will not go well. Jokes aside, just recently, my brother and I went to see him for a second time in Rockport, MA at the beautiful Rockport Music-Shalin Liu Performance Center. Honestly, great place to see a show. Broussard put on another stellar show, and played his best songs and a couple new ones.

While at The Call, it was Broussard who was the Headliner, I was very interested in one of his two opening acts; Will Hoge. Hoge, a man from Nashville who has an incredibly unique voice, was the performer scheduled to go on right before Broussard, and I could not have been more excited. To be honest, I was there to see his band more than Broussard since I had discovered him first. Hoge’s album Blackbird on a Lonely Wire was insanely good and I had played it nonstop prior to the show. Even to this day, it is one of my favorite albums, and he is one of my favorite musicians. With songs like “Not that Cool,” “King of Grey,” and “Secondhand Heart,” I was instantly hooked. It was such a unique sound, which can be described as a mixture of country, folk, rock, and blues, and Hoge, who has now put out over a dozen fantastic, diverse sounding albums, is an incredibly talented singer-songwriter with no vocal equal.

“Excuse me
Do you have the time
‘Cause I’ve been here waiting since a quarter after nine
And it is not true love that I’m hoping I will find
No the truth is that I just don’t want to be alone tonight”

– Will Hoge “Not that Cool” from Blackbird on a Lonely Wire

That night at The Call, with my brother Jeff, was like a reawakening. I thought I had been discovering all these new bands to listen to, but hearing the music live by Hoge and then Broussard, was downright game-changing. They crushed it, and have followed their careers ever since. But, three musicians played that night, Hoge and Broussard where the second and third. The number 1, who opened the show, was honestly an individual I had not followed. It was only by chance that someone else was playing, and I was introduced to another musician of similar style. But this piano-playing singer-songwriter was, again, bringing a sound, somewhat in the DeGraw, Branch, and even Vanessa Carlton school of thought, but Aslyn I felt took it to another level.

“You look at me
Curious what I’m made of
Sugar or steam
And what kind of man I love
What I believe
What I know and what I crave
All my pet peeves
Where I’ve shed and when I stain
Do you know”

– Aslyn “Be that Girl” from Lemon Love

Aslyn is an artist I can’t quit. I listened to her that night as she opened the show, and I was left speechless by her talent, lyrics, and sound. She was amazing and stole the night for me. I left, still all about Broussard and Hoge, but Aslyn gave me something new to consider, and I left in search of her music. She had just released her first album, Lemon Love, and it was full of beautifully written songs and melodies. Each song seemingly pulling out a different emotion from me. Songs like “Just Enough,” “Be That Girl,” and “Wally” were catchy, had a perfect melody, and were just plain fun. Since that show, I wish she had released even more music that followed a similar sound pattern. Even so, the albums she has produced are listened continuously to, usually on repeat. Whether it is “What is the Difference,” “Love Engineer,” or “That’s When I Love You” from her Grand Garden: EP albums 1-4 or “Trying to Drive,” with Zac Brown Band, and “Your Best Thing” and “Me & You & Daises” from her Dandelion Sessions album. No matter the album or song, Aslyn is a fantastic musician. While I love her albums, her two main ones, or her EP, seeing her live was a whole different experience. You NEED to see her live. It is a thrilling performance, and her vocal range, piano skills, and overall presence rival so many artists I have seen perform. In the early days after YouTube had just come out, I would watch her live performances that were uploaded, just so I could get a live music feel, rather than just the CD in player sound. Whenever she returns to town for a show or unveils new music, I am there to support and take it in, because I need to relive that first Aslyn experience. Each time it reminds me of when I first heard her and those early days of music discovery.

Other musicians, and groups, like Matt Nathanson who I saw at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston in 2005, Ari Hest, Josh Kelly, Amos Lee (he opened for Norah Jones), Matt Wertz, Christopher Jax, Ken Block & Sister Hazel (a fantastic band I saw live), Stephen Kellogg & The Sixers, and others, were continually making their way on my playlist. Just a thought about Matt Nathanson, his album Beneath These Fireworks, was one of the best of the era as I searched for sounds. He is an amazing musical talent and I am so grateful to have seen him live twice. With songs like, “Angel,” “Suspended,” and “I Saw,” as well as from recent albums, like Some Mad Hope, “Come on Get Higher,” “Car Crash,” “Wedding Dress” Nathanson was solid, and his live shows were both musically appealing and visually entertaining. While, I remember him most from the show he did at the Paradise Rock Club, I saw him a year or two later at the Roxy in Boston and he crushed it. A singer-songwriter with a folk/rock sound and is from Massachusetts, I am all on!

“Now I’m not a monster
I believe like a liar would believe
Helps me navigate the wooden smiles, the raging seas
And all my heroes pull their heads
Like a fighter would, I guess
No one ever really likes getting older”

– Matt Nathanson “Angel” from Beneath These Fireworks

Amos Lee is another musician I would like to spotlight, for just a moment. You see I accidentally discovered his soothing and smooth sound. A singer-songwriter whose musical style includes and mixture of folk, rock, and soul, I saw him when he opened up for Norah Jones. I had great seats for that show, not even 10 rows back from stage left, and was pretty excited to see Norah Jones since I had really come to enjoy her music after seeing her music video on MTV and VH1, yes those were things…Google it! I bought her album, Come Away With Me and Feels Like Home, and thought they were fantastic. I loved the piano sound and her vocals were different than what I was used to. I immediately enjoyed listening and replaying her songs, especially “Come Away With Me,” “Don’t Know Why,” and “Sunrise.” So, when my brother Bobby, who was also a fan, and I got the chance to see her we went for it. But it was Amos Lee who stole the show. He opened up for Jones and his folk and soul songs were inspired and impossible to forget. I left the show, excited to listen to his songs again, and bought his album Amos Lee. I replayed, over and over again, his tracks “Keep it Loose, Keep it Tight,” “Arms of Women,” and “Bottom of a Barrel.” Over the years his albums and songs have only improved, which was a tall order, but recently his musical collaboration with Zac Brown Band led to the single “Day That I Die.” This song is absolutely brilliant with a sound that lasts for days and illustrates the musical talents and vocal power of both Zac Brown Band and Amos Lee, leaving you emotionally filled.

“I am at ease
In the arms of a woman
Although now most of my days are spent alone
A thousand miles from the place I was born”

– Amos Lee “In the Arms of a Women” from Amos Lee

While Nathanson, Amos Lee, and others were played often in my CD player, and even today remain saved on my music streamer, it was Broussard, Hoge, Aslyn, and DeGraw who defined the era for me. Nathanson, certainly, is situated as close to that group as is humanly possible. While they made up my core four, there was one that served as the uncrowned leader and the one band, and the lead singer would come to mean much more than a random album or song. The group that genuinely won the early and mid-2000s, and still to this day, is always on my playlist, is the Pat McGee Band.

“I’mnot a savior
So do me a favor
Stop in and see me sometime
Don’t need you to save me
I’m ready to break free
Just need somebody to say
You know you’re never too far away
You know you’re never too far away.”

– Pat McGee Band “Beautiful Ways” on Save Me

I don’t remember exactly how I discovered the everlasting sound of Pat McGee Band, but once I heard it, I could not, and would not, forget it. It was around this time they released their album Save Me, and one of the songs was on the local radio often. Pat McGee, himself, was living in Rhode Island, and since I lived very close to the MA/RI border, they played his song with local support. So I imagine, I found them that way, but no matter, I found them and never looked back.

I have seen Pat McGee Band live several times, and Pat McGee, well he has played alone a couple times, with one specific event in my mind, but more of that in a moment. I went to Providence in the early 2000s, with my brother to see Pat McGee Band, but the majority of times I went to see them, it was with my wife. This brings me to the main point of what I am trying to get across in this blog, finding the music that moved you, defined you, and stays with you. Pat McGee is an essential musician for my wife and me, and his band, their music, were a significant part of our budding relationship.

My wife and I started dating in the mid-2000s. We were both graduate students at Providence College studying History and had several classes together. After the first meeting in our Age of Jackson class, we started dating a year later, and now, almost two decades later, I consider myself so lucky to have met her. It was on the second or third date when we chatted about our musical tastes and both of us, without previous knowledge, said Pat McGee Band when asked our playlist and who was on top. Corinne, too, had seen Pat McGee live previously, and we immediately put on Save Me and listened and talked about the album’s best songs, which included “Beautiful Ways,” “You and I,” and “Must Have Been Love.”

The first time we saw Pat McGee live, together, was purely by accident. We were on our way to the Providence College campus, to do some work in the library when we heard music coming from the college campus, as we walked from the parking lot. As we are always interested in live music, we quickly abandoned our library needs and watched who was playing. We passed by a poster with a picture of Michael Tolcher, another artist who I had been listening to, but we noticed that his set had ended and another band was setting up, that band; Pat McGee Band. What were the odds that a band we loved would be playing on our campus when we pulled into the college? So, we took in their set, until one of their speakers overheated and started smoking, which cut their show short. Before leaving, we had the opportunity to chat with Pat McGee and commiserate about his album, other live shows we had gone to, and had a friendly conversation. It was a random, crazy fun, and strange occurrence, but as you can see makes for a great story and a lasting memory.

We have seen Pat McGee together a total of 4 times since, once at the Judge Roy Bean in Bristol, RI on September 19, 2007, as Pat McGee played a fantastic set and was doing co-headlining show with Josh Kelley, another musician I had been following. The next time we saw him was at Patriot Place around 2010 when he did an awesome jam session show. There we had dinner, drinks, and took in the fantastic music in a pretty hip and cool atmosphere. The last time we saw Pat McGee was at the City Winery in 2019, which was solid and we really enjoyed the venue, but most importantly, enjoyed the music of man we had not seen live since 2011. It was his private show for us, in 2011, that made for the most memorable and significant live performance ever.

Josh Kelley w/ my wife Corinne (left) & my sister-in-law Lauren (right)
Pat McGee at Judge Roy Bean

In 2010, my wife and I moved to Hawaii and were engaged to get married within the year. We decided to do a micro-wedding in Hyannis, MA, with only family, close friends, and a small dinner after the ceremony. As the day drew near, I wanted to do something special for Corinne and decided to contact Pat McGee’s manager and see if there were any way the musician would be willing to do a short private acoustic set for our wedding. After a few days of communication, Pat McGee agreed and expressed excitement to play for us. It would be the culmination for what had brought us together in the early days of our relationship, and now, at the dinner after our wedding ceremony, we would have Pat McGee play for us. He would sing for us, as we danced to our favorite and most personal songs. I don’t want to go into all the details, but my wife was so surprised, my brother as well! Pat played a fantastic set and made it a night to remember. I mean how often do you get to introduce your favorite musician onto a stage, and thank him for playing such an intimate moment? Take it a step further, by then dancing on stage as he sang and, just hanging out with him during such an important day. Perfect moment in time, for reasons that words in a blog cannot begin to decipher.

Live music is important to my wife and I and what brought us together and what continues to give us excitement and musical pleasure. We do not get to see enough live shows, so we decided a little over a year ago to make a better effort to search out concerts with musicians we love. That is why we went to the City Winery to see Pat McGee and remember back to our wedding and him playing solely for us. This goal brought us to TDBank Garden on October 9, 2018 to see Phil Collins, one of my wife’s favorite musicians, for his Not Dead Yet Tour.

For those reasons above, the need brought us to Foxwoods to see Alanis Morrisette in December of 2019, only a few months before the current pandemic would make concerts like this an impossibility.

In preparation for what was going to be a summer tour to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of her Jagged Little Pill album, Alanis Morissette played Foxwoods. Her setlist was tremendous, and she sang a lot of her classics and unveiled her newest single, “Reasons I Drink,” which is on her latest album, Such Pretty Forks in the Road. While the current pandemic forced the canceling of her summer tour, Morissette’s show at Foxwoods was terrific. While this is the second-time I had seen her in person, as I said above, this was my wife’s first time, and she never sat down the entire show, and both of us rocked out to the power of Alanis Morissette. Her lyrics, passion, energy, and presence are incredible, and we both would readily see her perform again, no matter the place.

At Alanis Morissette Concert at Foxwoods

“These are the reasons I drink
The reasons I tell everybody I’m fine even though I am not
These are the reasons I overdo it
I have been working since I can remember, since I was single digits”

– Alanis Morissette “Reasons I Drink” from Such Pretty Forks in the Road

I have seen some amazing musicians, both unknown and powerhouse. No matter the popularity of the artists, each show and musical style has stayed with me, inspired me and led me down new paths in search of new sounds. Many of those artists seemingly never stopped playing on my CD player, then, and my iPod today. The iPod, and iTunes, was a game-changer in searching for and playing my favorite music. I will always search for new music, always test new sounds, and see how they make me feel. Whether it is Zac Brown Band, or Ed Sheeran, or Common Kings and JBoog, new sounds continue to make me see the power of music itself. But, I never stray far from hitting play on Pat McGee Band, Alanis Morissette, Aslyn, Will Hoge, and those musicians whose live performances and incredible albums both offer a sense of comfort, not only in their lyrics but for the memories they dust off. With things as they are and no live shows to attend, for the time being, get the iPod ready, press play, and see where the music takes you.

“Cause I believe that I
Was born with a song inside of me
Never question why
I just kept on chasing that melody
And as time goes by
Oh it’s funny how time can make you realize
We’re running out of it”

– Zac Brown Band feat. Amos Lee “Day That I Die” from Uncaged

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