Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Remembering My Brother Jesse Patterson

Greetings to all,

       Although there are many things going on in the local music scene, there is only one thing that deserves my full undivided attention in this month's post.  For any who've been spared the heartbreaking news,  regretfully I inform you that our beloved Jesse Patterson has passed on from this world.  I'd like to take this opportunity to remember one of the finest human beings I've ever know.

       I first met Jesse in kindergarten where we struck up a good enough friendship to earn me an invite to his TEE-BALL Birthday Party.  I recall the party being a blast (even though picture evidence shows 6 year old me sporting some ridiculous high cut red shorts) but what also sticks out in my mind is the memory of me being the first guest to arrive at Jesse's house.  Before the other kids arrived Jesse and I walked around his backyard getting some things ready for the much anticipated tee-ball.  I remember taking in how funny he was as he interacted with his little sister and how cool he played it off after his mom came outside to inquire why the same little sister just ran in the house screaming.  Jesse was a cool guy even back then and I'm certain had we lived closer to one another we would've been great friends.

       As we continued through grade school I continued to know him but we didn't often have classes together.  Middle school was not too much different for the same reason.  There was certainly some overlap in our class schedules but at the time I knew him most because he was the best friend of my good friend Shawn (who I also met in kindergarten).   When 8th grade came to a close Shawn had fantastic graduation party that was full of cheese doodles, impromptu swimming in White Meadow Lake (there's nothing quite like going swimming in the pants you'll be wearing the rest of the day) and LIVE MUSIC.  Now, when I say live music I don't mean there was some hired guns at the party.  It wasn't somebody's uncle's lame, half-assed cover-band.  No, this was a couple kids with a crappy guitar rig and a dilapidated drum-set on Shawn's lawn and they were wailing the hell out of it.  It wasn't just anyone doing it either, it was Jesse and Shawn.   I never really thought of it this way until now (it's quite fitting really) but I guess technically this was my first show.  Although there were a few others that rocked out on the lawn that day, my memory holds strong to the imagery and feeling I had seeing these two buddies of mine doing something I wished I could.  Me and the rest of the kids (including James, our mutual friend since kindergarten) in the crowd spent what seemed like hours leaping off of big rocks, bouncing off each other, and acting completely goofy all the while a live rock n roll soundtrack was played by our friends.  There is video of this "Rockaway Underground" floating around somewhere and I'm sure if I saw it now we'd all look like silly little kids.   Regardless of what I'm sure the reality of that video footage is, it can never take away the feeling and the memory of that day and the way I still see it in my head.

       The following year dealt another trying blow to the consistency of our possible friendship as Jesse and James went to one high school and Shawn and I another.  Freshman and sophomore year blew by and as I remained good friends with Shawn he inadvertently kept me in the loop about Jesse.   I heard Shawn talk about them making music together and starting a band with some other kids on numerous occasions.   The concept was intriguing to me as I too had finally mustered the courage to learn drums in hopes to get good enough to play in a band with another couple of my closest friends.  Cut to junior year when me actually being in a band with my buddies became a reality (in the interim Jesse and Shawn had shortly been in a band and since dissolved).  In November 1998 I got the chance to play a show or two locally and I was thrilled to see that in the audience were my old friends Jesse and James.  A couple of months later my band played another local show.  Shawn, Jesse, and their friend Joe (who was from their old band but helped them out for this one show) played the opening slot as The Panic Squad.  It was pretty great to see them play that night.  The songs were short, taught and catchy.  Even though the music my friends were making once again made me want to bounce around, the skill and musicianship between Shawn and Jesse had come a long way since I'd seen them rocking on Shawn's lawn a few summer's before.   A couple months later Shawn and Jesse found their permanent bass player in Liz and with her they became Annoying Customer.

       It's no secret that Annoying Customer is my favorite band of all time.  Right out of the gate I loved everything about them.  Are there people that can play instruments with more technical skill than them? Sure.  Are there people that play with more intensity? Sure.  Is there a more perfect band out there that gives me exactly what I'm looking for any time I listen to them? Not a chance.  I defy you to find music that satisfies my ears and soul the way it does when those three individuals play together.  Seeing Annoying Customer at that point in my life was incredible.  Here are my peers the same age and grade as me and they're making music that I could listen to ALL the time.  Music that I WANTED to listen too all the time!  With most live bands I've ever seen I will often find myself focusing on the drummer.  I watch that individual, observing what and how they're playing, mainly to see how I might incorporate some of what they're are doing into my own playing.  Annoying Customer was no exception and in those days when my drumming skills were in their infancy, I endlessly borrowed and blatantly ripped off Jesse's beats.   The great thing about Jesse is that he is a drummer that does exactly what the song needs.  Sometimes you can watch a drummer and think "huh that was a really odd choice for that part of the song" or "wow we really didn't need a crazy drum fill over that quiet part" but when you hear a Jesse drumbeat it just works.  You listen to the song and just know that's exactly the beat that is supposed go along with Shawn's guitar riff.  It's magic.  Around this time I started figuring out how to play something other than the "devil's haircut by beck dust brothers techno" beat.  I was just kind of getting my head around the old, straight forward, punk one-two beat but when I watched Jesse play "Pants On Fire" at an A.C. band practice it blew me away how much subtle variety and nuance can make a difference in a song.  The slight variance of the bass drum to accentuate the guitar riff in that song was a revelation to me.  It's such a simple straight forward thing but I was just a dumb kid that had no formal drum training so seeing this and understanding it was something that really laid down the building blocks of all my future playing.   I think that and also Jesse's break down beats (particularly the triple snare hits in songs like "Eternia" and "Girl I Knew Not") are the things that have had the biggest impression on me and have stuck with me to the point where I still rip them off today.  On top of his ability to play really well Jesse always demonstrated a marvelous ability to not take himself too seriously, to have fun, and to have an excellent sense of showmanship.  Often times at a show if Annoying Customer was playing "Lemmings", easily their most aggressive song, Jesse would break out a wolf mask and play the entire song wearing it.  Quite a few times during the bass/guitar solo in their vintage hit "Wynnona Ryder" Jesse would take advantage of his free time by getting up from behind the drum kit to hurl handfuls of candy into the crowd.  I don't think Jesse could make it through a set without making a goofy face while playing a fill or taking advantage of drum break with his patented head turn straight arm cymbal smash.  He would do these things but never at the expense of the song.  He'd never miss a beat doing it.  If you spotted them, these were little things that made Annoying Customer that much more enjoyable to see live.  Out of all the people who've borrowed my drums at shows over the years, Jesse is the only person who I would allow to use my cymbals.  Not because I knew he wouldn't break them, but because I loved the music he Shawn and Liz made so much that I didn't care if he broke them while doing it.  I just wanted to see them play no matter when, where or what it cost me.  My drumming owes a lot to Jesse and the fundamentals he unintentionally taught me.  I'm forever grateful for that.  Even though it's devastating to imagine Jesse's absence from the music scene I know and love, the music he and Annoying Customer created over the years and the show's they've played will forever live on in my heart.

       Between show's and the newfound freedom  a couple of friends with licenses gave us, Jesse became a regular figure in my life more than ever before.  On memorial day of 99 a bunch of us friends got together at a local park to have a bbq/picnic. We spent the day eating good food, hanging out, and playing softball.  I really believe on that day our core group of friends was established.  A group that through thick and thin has persevered through the years as we all grew up together.  Since then we continued the memorial day tradition every year and as the amount of attendees expanded and contracted over time I don't think there has ever been one that Jesse missed.  He was a regular fixture at these events taking on the captain role at the grill and tearing it up playing bocci ball.  I always looked forward to these yearly gatherings and for me it didn't really matter who showed up because I always knew that at the very least Jesse would be there and that meant I was guaranteed a good time.

       As I got to know Jesse more and more the more I liked about him.  He was easy going, super funny and very kind.  During senior year of high school Jesse and myself (as well as friends James and Ned) took jobs at the local ACME supermarket.  At the time I did not have a car and Jesse often was the one who would drive me to or from work.  We would all often take our lunch breaks together and Jesse and I would bond over Evil Dead quotes, music, our love of Star Wars, Willow, Jim Henson, and horrible customers (I recall one particular gem where Jesse thwarted a customer's attempt to smuggle lobster tails in a bag of corn).  Senior year eventually made way for summer which rolled out with many more group hang outs, shows, pool parties (including the Jesse burger incident) and a very memorable trip to the shore.

       Summer came to an end and our group of friends all went in different directions to attend different colleges and such.  This is a time that, in a lot of peoples lives, ends up being when old friendships go by the wayside as new people come into the mix.  Certainly we all met new friends at school and other places but our core group of still remained tight and damn near unbreakable.  It seemed like every time an extended weekend approached or holiday break we all jumped at the chance to get together and hang out again.   During Christmas vacation of my freshman year of college I was invited to, and brought aboard an already longstanding tradition in Jesse's household, the Christmas Eve Taco Party.  This party had been going on annually since Jesse was a kid and now I was finally in the mix friends who was a part of it.  This was the first time I was reintroduced to Jesse's family since the TEE-BALL party and I was so taken with what pleasant and caring people they were.  It made sense why Jesse was such an awesome guy.  He came from a family of amazing people.  The kindness and love that was extended from them to all of us big kids (then and every year since) was/is awe inspiring and not taken lightly.  Christmas was always my favorite holiday but Christmas Eve soon became a day of the year I looked forward to more than any other.  The Patterson Taco Party is something I wouldn't miss for the world.  I think the only person who looked forward to it more than me was Jesse.

       The following years passed by with many other grand adventures: camping, trips to the shore, memorial day bbq's, fourth of July picnics, fireworks, shows, hikes, poking rattle snakes with sticks, midnight movies, video games, flea markets, and weddings.  Through it all our group of friends swayed a bit here and there but always remained strong and intact.  In these later years Jesse had become a very good and dear friend to me.  He was always willing to donate his time for me whether it be acting in my movie or offering to burn hundreds of CD's for NotRock compilations.  But more than anything I enjoyed his company.  You always felt at ease in his presence and welcome in his home.  This is such a silly thing but there was a time when all my friends refused to play monopoly with me because I'd always win or they were warned by others not to play with me because I always won (also people refused to play such a long game).  Regardless none of that mattered to Jesse and one night he invited me over to play.  Stoked at the prospect of playing and defending my title again, I went over his house and he proceeded to kick my ass.  He kicked my ass and you know what?  I had a blast relinquishing my monopoly crown to him.  He deserved it.  See the thing is that Jesse is one of the smartest people, if not the smartest person I've ever known (His cleverness should not be understated either.  He wrote the lyrics to Annoying Customer songs "Pokemon", "Eternia" and "Purple K" (the greatest A.C. song never written).  The wealth of knowledge in that head was astounding to me and where that may seem like it should've been intimidating, it was not.  Without a doubt Jesse was a smarter person than I but he never acted like it or viewed it this way.  You always felt as an equal when talking to him.  You always felt he was fully engaged in taking in anything you had to say.  He made you feel appreciated and overall it just felt good to be around him.  I don't think I've ever felt funnier than when I was hanging out with Jesse.  Without fail, more than anyone, I could always make him laugh.

       Jesse was an awesome guy plain and simple.  He's a guy who did everything right in my book.  I looked up to him.  He had a cool job, a house, a cool cat, rode a motorcycle, was a beekeeper and had lovely wife.  He was going through life the way most people dream about and I admired the hell out of him for it.  "We really need to hang out with them more often." was something my ladyfriend  and I said anytime we had just seen Jesse and Jae.  Fortunately we had the privilege of going on quite a few adventures with them but we'd always wished it was more.  Jesse and Jae were the best kind of company to be in and I truly admire the loving relationship they had with one another.  Jesse was easily one of the greatest people I've ever know.  He's the kind of man and friend all should aspire to be.  I am honored, privileged, and grateful to have had such a friend in this lifetime  but I, as many are, am now heartbroken knowing this amazing person's absence in my life is a void that will never be filled.  I will forever cherish the times we shared together and the amazing memories we made.  Jesse you've been my colleague in film and music, you are my friend, you are my brother, and I love you.  If there is something that happens after this life then I hope with all my heart to see you there.  Until we meet again, rest easy my brother.  Rest easy and in peace.

- John Thomas Fisher

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