On Saturday, August 2nd, 1986, a few friends and I found out that The Jazz Butcher was going to be playing that night at The Underground, a bar (at the time) in downtown Milwaukee.
The Jazz Butcher was the brainchild of Pat Fish (aka Pat Huntrods), who along with lead guitarist Maximillian T. Eider and the rest of the band was touring the United States for their first time ever.
Pat Fish was an absolutely critical player in my youth and my wide and deep interest in music. Back in the 80s, when I was in high school, any time you could find new and alternative music that wasn’t mainstream, you had the power to listen to something that you could really call your own – especially at a time when everyone was establishing their identity and trying to claim ownership of anything that would set them apart.
Pat Fish spent his career writing creative, entertaining, clever, and experimental alternative pop music that should have been known the world over. Yet, for the reasons stated in the last paragraph, I’m selfishly glad he never was.
In fact, while he wasn’t widely known, he was known more than his inventory of music. Most of his early LPs and CDs went out of print pretty quickly after they came out, and I would spend a significant number of years checking every used record store and hunting until I would find every album and every single I could.
When we heard that morning that he was going to be playing, we went into action and drove to Chicago to get really bad fake IDs, hoping they would be good enough to get us in the door for the show that night. The drinking age at the time was 18, but we were all still two or three years short.
There were six of us, and we all told our parents that we were sleeping at each other’s houses so we could stay out for however late the show went. At this point in my life, I had already started attending live shows as frequently as I could, but this show still stands out as one of the most memorable and important in my life.
It was the investment of time, the anticipation of the event, and the stress and uncertainty of not knowing if we’d get in the show (or in trouble) that made the entire day memorable.
After the show, we didn’t have a place to stay, so we broke into a mutual friend’s home because he and his family were away for the weekend. We all slept in his basement and then snuck out before they arrived home the next morning.
Given the events of day and the way the entire evening played out, my memories of that day will always have a “Ferris Bueller”-like quality to it. It was an adventure from start to finish. There was a lot of luck. A lot of shared experiences that will always tie me to that group of friends. It was a defining moment in my youth.
We wanted something. We got creative. We weren’t going to be denied. We acted absurdly and unreasonably. We took a ton of chances. Spent a lot of money. Brushed with danger. Bargained with criminals. Broke a lot of rules. And proved what you can do when you really want something.
It had everything a memory from one’s childhood should have.
I’m reminded of this because today I learned that Pat Fish passed away this week at the young age of 64. The cause of death is, at this point, undisclosed. I knew he’d been having health problems, but I didn’t think he’d be gone so soon.
In the context of this site, which is largely about conservatism, Pat also reminds me of a time when politics was subservient to friendships, music, and shared experiences. Pat was not a fan of the Tories (he’s from the UK), but he didn’t hate them. All of my friends who joined me that night are also not fans of conservatives, but they’re all still my friends.
Unfortunately, the days when politics took a back seat are currently behind us. Hopefully, this story can remind you, or maybe inspire you, that politics are just differences of opinions, and what makes us truly human are things like shared experiences, and music, and daring, and fun.
Thank you for inspiring all of this in me, Pat. And thank you for giving me something that made me feel like I owned something others did not. It felt like you wrote that music for me, and you’ll always have a permanent place in the museum of my life.
For those who’ve never heard The Jazz Butcher, this was always one of my favorites: