Spring Arts Guide 2012

The Pat Walsh Way How to be D.C.'s best general enthusiast? It's a whole fucking process.

Photography by Darrow Montgomery

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.

Our Readers Say

You're only encouraging him, you know.
Hey John, you're just bitter because your beloved Hoyas lost to SU last night (notice the orange shirt under my jacket. That was taken on Saturday, which was game day for the Orangemen)
its Simon Reynolds'
33 shows in January alone? There were about 3 good shows in January! :)
Ha ha yes. Good game though. Nice piece by Ben.

You inspire me more than you'll ever know, my friend. <3
This is a very sweet little piece. Respect to both author and subject.

Life without unbounded enthusiasm is no life at all. You're crazy in the best way, Pat. I hope you live a long life and I hope we all catch whatever it is you've got.

This dude is a twee, local music celeb starfucker and gets a write up? Is this really the best you can do CityPaper?
Hey there, PtonManor, I'm so happy that I now have a WCP commenter calling me a "twee, local music celeb starfucker", this is great. Also, not entirely wrong, but what the hell else should I do?

I don't know, I like music and cooking a lot and I like meeting new people, so why not do that and celebrate it and try to make myself and others a little happier? Would it be better if I sat at home being mopey? I've done that before, it sucked. Shouldn't I fill the days I have with as much stuff I sincerely enjoy and think are productive/positive as possible? I can see why you might not think that's noteworthy, I'm just some kid doing what he likes, but I'm not so twee.
"but I'm not so twee" says the guy with a stack of business cards that read "Pat Walsh. General Enthusiast."

If you were any more twee you would have been a dancer in 500 Days of Summer. You would live in a shoebox with the mice from The Royal Tennenbaums. You would be the title of a Los Campesinos! song.
Yes, that is ridiculous and knowingly so. Also, it has a purpose, I found myself writing down my information to give to people to get in contact about any number of things, it just got to be easier to have a card to give someone. Also, I just designed them in 5 minutes one night and ordered 500 for $10. It's more of a joke that started out as such. And given my relative distaste for 500 Days of Summer and Los Campesinos! I find these comparisons a little offensive. Royal Tenenbaums on the other hand, I love, so I guess I'll take that.
Pat, that's a great price on business cards! Who is your supplier?
PtonManor scours city paper for things to complain about. Now that is a man with a calling and a purpose. I can only assume that PtonManor is the following: white, privileged hipster; confused about what twee means (It means maudlin. Pat is more whimsical. This is the type of distinction that would interest you if you were as intelligent and literate as you probably purport to be.); possessed of few friends and much time; a douche bag. I could sit here all day, but Pat is too modest to defend the kind of honesty I'm displaying.
Pat is a superb baker of cakes-- this I can attest from personal experience!
I'm sure Pat could well be a great guy, but I did find it odd that someone at the City Paper thought this article needed to be posted. It boils down to "local guy who sees lots of live music makes brunch," in essence, which is fine but not all that noteworthy or interesting. And it's inadequately wry or well-written enough to come off as a New Yorker-style "Talk of the Town" piece. A friend said it reads like it's out of The Onion, and I have to agree.
Also, Panini, twee means "affectedly dainty or quaint." It's pretty funny that you goofed that up when you were putting down someone else. (And it's pretty sad that I looked up twee, and am writing this. Such is life.)
pat rules hands down - good vibes go a long way! write about doug stailey too!
Yeah, Doug Stailey is great vibes all around!! Fun story - I met Doug at a house show in Park View. Screen Vinyl Image were playing and it was Jake and Kim's fifth anniversary, so I baked a couple cakes. The night ended with me a Doug singing a bunch of Christmas carols. This was the middle of July.
People in this town bitch so much and I certainly don't exclude myself. This town isn't interesting enough; it's too expensive; too many hipsters; too many type A careerists; and the list can go on into infinity.

Here's a sweet kid (full disclosure: Pat is a friend of mine) who has an unabashed love for this city and its music scene and isn't afraid to express his enthusiasm. A good person who genuinely cares about making his life and those of people around him a little better.

No, he is not an eccentric, the stuff of Joseph Mitchell profiles. But in his small, humble way, Pat is more of the kind of person I want to read about in this town rather than the snarky or too cool for school types that normally fill these pages.

The line of attack here seems to be that it's mean or cynical to disagree that this is worthy of coverage. But Mike hit it on the nose above. This reads like the Onion!

To further cement matters PTRQ confirms the level of starfuckery in 19.

Christmas carols in July! How fucking precious! Great vibes to all brah!
It should be noted, however, that Pat--wonderful guy that he is--is deeply wrong about The White Album.
I'd definitely like to read more about the different kinds of people, all kinds, who make up DC. I think that's a great thing to pursue. But something about the person has to be rendered universal -- the reader needs to see him/herself reflected in the subject. I didn't quite get that from this, but I think that's what the best profiles do. Otherwise, why should the average reader care?

Pat's path from knowing nobody in DC to having a lot of friends is interesting and something we all can relate to, so maybe more about that would have helped, for example.
Thing is, I agree with you on many levels, PtonManor, I too was surprised they'd want to write about me, I'm just some kid who goes to a lot of shows and talks to people. I'd also like to note that I bake cakes for friends and friends-of-friends who aren't in bands or whatever all the time. There were people at the brunch mentioned in this who weren't mentioned. They're equally important to me and I still want to express my admiration through baking stuff. I also just like baking and cooking. It's fun. And we sang Christmas carols because we met a girl named Holly. Then I started singing "The Holly and The Ivy" because it popped into my head and I thought it was funny that it had occurred to me just because there was someone named Holly. Then things went from there.
If someone had told me a piece about Pat Walsh would spark controversy I wouldn't have believed it -- but here we are :)

Pat is awesome and so is this article!
Shouldn't Stroup's card read:

"Bitcher and moaner, but not much of a getting things doner?"
this article + the comments = a high school yearbook
This is the best article I have read, ever, in my entire life.

I will be extremely surprised if this article does not win a Pulitzer Prize for Journalism.
He's kinda like the Bob Nastanovich of DC's music scene.
What Caroline said. ...And another vote for a Doug piece. This article helped to brighten my morning and made my commute a little bearable.
In all fairness, the croissants were fucking awesome.
Still waiting impatiently for the drone brunch to happen.
Yay Pat! To me, you'll always be "Apples"
Hey Ahmad, get on Cole about that. I've offered the brunch skills, it's up to him booking the drone part.
I have no way other than Twitter of getting in contact with him. Maybe he will see this and comment? Cole? This idea is too great to let fall by the wayside.
And to think it all started on SprimeTV! LOL
Pat, I have read about making croissants many a time and have been exhausted by the time I made it to the end. You are an inspiration. I was also hoping they would talk more about your bringing cakes to shows instead of conveniently packaging cupcakes...

Remember Pat- cupcakes have their place in the culinary world. Speaking of which, I think that criticism on that radio episode was much harsher than anything on this mild comment page.
Cupcakes' place in the culinary world exists, but is fundamentally flawed, misguided, and inappropriate. Cupcakes are never the best choice for any scenario. There's no excuse. And thus, I will never make them.
So...after reading this article and all these comments...CAN I HAVE SOME OF THOSE CUPCAKES? LOL!
Completely off-topic: The Onion is exceedingly amusing and well-written. It may take more time, more research and more editors to write a New Yorker article, but it hardly takes more craft or intelligence.

I read both religiously and believe that any smart, unpretentious reader who gets past the headlines can tell The Onion is among the best in its class.

On topic: Nice piece! It's light and fluffy, sure, but this is one of the things a small local paper should do: profile some of the unusual everyday people we rub elbows with on daily basis.

Hell, even the New Yorker and the New York Times do it. Here's one about a bartender in Brooklyn:

And another about a bartender in SoHo:

(Of course these pieces are far longer, the authors had far more time to write them, and they got paid buttloads more money for doing so, since they are some of the best in the nation.)

In any event, you're welcome to draw your own deeply personal opinions about the subject and his role in the community. But the very fact that you're doing so kind of proves it was a decent pick for a profile...

Anyway, the word "twee" in this context reads like an erudite stand-in for "f*g" or "pansy" to me, and I'd prefer we leave it alone.

And PS: WCP might think about adopting a real names policy in the comments. It may help keep criticisms (which are fine) less venal and intellectually dishonest (which isn't).

Leave a Comment

Note: HTML tags are not allowed in comments.
Comments Shown. Turn Comments Off.