Patrick's live grrl revue
Michelle Breslin and It's Patrick's cast of thousands
BY C.J. O'CONNOR
In every constellation (the men with the telescopes say) there are the stars which shine conspicuously -- these are the ones we can namedrop, replicate in plastic souvenirs or point out to those special someones for first-date impression points. By the time their light filters down to the lowly earthbound, they also say, the stars are fizzled.
But in the same constellations there are other stars, stars which don't appear before the untrained eye but sparkle in a light of their own. And without the Baedeker's Guide To Local Luminaries (he wrote, stretching the transition to Silly Putty) you can still spot your hHeads and your Rustys, your Pilates and Dankos and Bills (Cadillac to New), but can you I.D. Michelle Breslin? If you're half the wizened scenester you think, you'd better...
She played guitar in proto-gothcore outfit Die Screaming, then linked up with Fifth Column, only to transfer over to Trans Love Airways. She formed the first band that Alison "MAdE" Maclean ever drummed in and along the way has variously hooked up with Beverley "Phono-Comb" Breckenridge, Dallas "Sadies" Good, Brad "Polyester Explosion" Morrison, among others, drawing them into It's Patrick, a kind of rotating project whose associate member roster rivals that of the American Auto Workers. Probably. Michelle, is there a local musician who hasn't been in It's Patrick?
"Don't worry," she beams. "There are still a lot of people I want to work with, definitely. There's always new musicians popping up. I also find it really exciting to work with people who're just starting out."
Michelle, see, makes a point of recruiting the Enthusiastic But Inexperienced... something like L. Ron Hubbard, except her records are better. Alison Maclean was only one in a string of neophytes that's encompassed Lucie "TLA" Montgrain, this very writer and publicist Jackie Kirsh, whose acquaintance with the guitar barely stretches to a year.
"Actually, not even that," says Michelle, "but she's playing really well. Also, I just started playing drums, so it made it pretty exciting for me, too. I just like being around the enthusiasm of new musicians, cos they haven't really learned 'right' and 'wrong' ways to play yet, and also cos I remember how great it was to be able to play with other people when I was first learning. And I learn sooo much that way -- I always have."
This semester, though, It's Patrick is down to an independent study course as Michelle attempts to distill that Mo-Tucker-Solo-Album-mit-Fuzzbox sound into a one-woman/one-guitar show. Reviews have been of the thumbs-heartily-aloft variety, though Michelle's still adjusting to the whole process.
"It was really scary at first," she admits, "having to go up there with just one guitar and voice... and it still is. I feel really nervous every time I have to go up there, cos I know I'll be there alone. But doing that's made me really aware of my songwriting, and the strengths and weaknesses I have to work on."
And maybe it's this Woman Alone stance, her egalitarian approach to jamming or -- in these pathologically optimistic end times -- her lyrical determination to go spelunking in the dark muck of the psyche, but everyone from Denise Benson to GirlTalk zine (who stuck her in their Women Who Rock '97 calendar) have pointed to Michelle as a kind of counterpoint to the ongoing Ye Olde Girlie Pop In Latex fetish.
"Sometimes I don't know what to make of that," she admits, "but I do love the influence of other women, playing shows with other girls and seeing women out at gigs. When I started playing guitar, there really weren't many women to play with or look up to, so doing the GirlTalk calendar was important to show young girls that, yeah, there are women out there doing this. Playing with Fifth Column did open my eyes to a lot of great things, but I didn't want the music I'm doing in It's Patrick to be overly political. If it's encouraging other women to at least think about those kinds of things, then that's great. And as for where I'm going with it..."
She shrugs. "I dunno. One thing about It's Patrick is that I'll always love surprises."
It's Patrick play the Rivoli Sept. 11 with Squirrel and Secret Agent.