Go to enough shows around town, and eventually you’ll run into Pat Walsh. By his own count—he keeps a Google spreadsheet for such things—Walsh attended 272 shows in 2011, sometimes as many as four in a single evening. An Imperial China show at Black Cat? Walsh is there, thrashing to the post-punk trio’s blistering power chords. Late-night DJ set at U Street Music Hall? Walsh is jumping feverishly, dousing himself in sweat at 120 beats per minute.
But Walsh isn’t a music writer, or even a blogger. He’s not playing in a band or working for a label. He’s just a guy who moved here and fell hard for the music scene. In just the first month of 2012, he’s exceeded last year’s frenetic pace, hitting 33 lineups in January. Having arrived in town with scarcely a friend, he’s become something of a mascot for the local rock, punk, hardcore, and electronic dance music scenes.
Walsh, 25, is about six feet tall. He has rounded features and generally keeps his curly, dark-blond hair short. He has an engineering degree from the University of Rochester. He first came to the area for a job with the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers. “When I moved down here I lived in Alexandria,” he says. “For the first five months I knew nobody and it sucked. When I got into the District I started being able to go to more shows. Really, I just went to a lot of shows and talked to random people.”
In late 2009, Walsh says, he saw the band The State Department at a house show. A woman at the show invited him to a party a few weeks later, where he struck up a conversation with Patrick Kigongo, the Ra Ra Rasputin guitarist who also plays in The State Department. They debated the differences between the U.S. and British versions of Simon Reynolds' post-punk history Rip It Up and Start Again. A friendship ensued. “He knows everybody,” Walsh says. Walsh came to do the same. He became involved with the activist group Positive Force, and now books many of the organization’s legendary benefit concerts. He gets shout-outs from the stage after nearly every set.
A few weeks after our first interview, Walsh invites me over on a Saturday morning. He loves to cook for people. Today’s lineup includes Thomas Orgren, his roommate and the drummer for The Torches, Protect-U’s Mike Petillo, and Brendan Polmer and Ryan Little (a Washington City Paper contributor), who make up Tereu Tereu. There’s also Josef Palermo, who works for party-planning impresario Philippa Hughes. Palermo’s first Pat Walsh Brunch Experience—yes, these meals have a quasi-official name—came soon after he moved to D.C. when he was nearly flat broke.
“I tweeted, ‘Can anyone feed me?’ ” he says. “So Pat tweeted me back.”
Walsh tells us he was up late the night before prepping croissant batter per a Cook’s Illustrated recipe. “It’s a whole fucking process,” he says. Fresh from the oven, the crescents of pastry are sublime. I eat one and start on another before noticing Walsh has also whipped up a tray of piquant chilaquiles.
There are other obsessions, too. Walsh, sartorially fastidious, scrounges the Internet for lightly used clothing to fill his wardrobe, pocket squares and all. “I don’t fuck around,” he says about his dapper threads. (For concerts, a T-shirt and jeans will do.)
One evening in mid-December, I met Walsh at ChurchKey for a quick update. It also happened to be the evening of a birthday party for Dave Stroup, the civic activist and relentlessly idealistic local Twitterato. Stroup offered everyone his business card from his day job at the Sierra Club. Then he reached into his coat for another stack of cards: “Dave Stroup. Concerned Citizen.” The card had no contact information whatsoever, just a tiny District flag in the top left corner.
A couple people joked that Walsh, too, should get an alternative set of cards. The ones from his day job offer only information about the appliance-makers’ lobby. If the earnest Stroup had cards telling everyone just how worried he is about the state of things, why couldn’t the enthusiastic Walsh let people know he’s into their bands, recipes, and used clothes sites? “It’s refreshing to know people who enjoy stuff because they love it,” says Kigongo.
About a month later, I spy Walsh at a show featuring Volta Bureau, the electronic trio of Will Eastman, Micah Vellian, and Outputmessage. As usual, he’s dancing furiously. Seeing me, he stops for a moment, reaches into his pocket, and yanks out a fresh business card: “Pat Walsh. General Enthusiast.”
The article originally misspelled Josef Palermo and Mike Petillo's names.