When classifying pop rock, the important thing to remember is that neatness counts. Pop rock has melodies you can remember if not recreate in the shower--the stuff that lives in your head. Pop rock has vocals you can understand--no pop rock vocalist shrieks as if he’s getting his fingernails torn off between cat fights in a machine shop. Pop rock songs have structure--they have a beginning, a middle and an end. Pop rock songs are usually pretty short, so if you don’t like one, wait a minute.
Pop rock is sweet. How sweet? It’s ear candy; and if your ears were teeth, they’d have cavities. It’s cotton candy with a beat. It’s a rocking Twinkie that’s bigger than a Chrysler. And it’s alive and well--especially in Santa Barbara where Pat, Fin & Greg have been doing the pop rock thing for years.
What’s predictable? The sun will rise? The IRS doesn’t like you? Your mother-in-law doesn’t like you? The Cubs won’t win the pennant? How about Pat, Fin & Greg? They’ve played Thursday nights at Alex’s Cantina on State Street for three years and have never missed a date. I’ll bet they show up this Thursday.
“You know, a couple of years ago State Street was dead,” Fin Seth said in a recent interview.
“We sort of got this whole thing started,” he said, pointing out the window to State Street, which was doing a pretty fair imitation of the Mardi Gras on a Thursday night. “We’ve been playing here at Alex’s for three years, never missed a date--we have a lot of fans. We send out 500 mailers each month.”
A lot of fans is right. By the middle of the first song, some of the band’s fans were doing the wave, or trying, at least. By the third song, the place was packed. And the competition on lower State Street is intense. Something seems to be happening in every little hole-in-the-wall joint.
Pat, Fin & Greg play several times a week, mostly in Santa Barbara. Pat Milliken and Greg Brallier play acoustic guitars and Fin Seth plays electric bass. They play enough not to have day jobs. Seth and Brallier also have another band, The Tearaways--which seems like Pat, Fin & Greg on steroids, or with a keyboard player and a drummer. Seth and Brallier have been a part of the Santa Barbara music scene a long time. They used to be The Volcanoes.
“I’m originally from North Dakota,” Seth said, “but I’ve been in Santa Barbara for 15 years. I was going to Dos Pueblos High School and Greg was going to UCSB. We both liked the same kind of music--the kind that has real singing. And our voices blend so well.
“Anyway, after we finally got together, we played as the Volcanoes for three years--the band broke up in 1987. Then we got Pat who was doing a lot of solo stuff to play guitar, and here we are. Pat, Fin & Greg is not serious at all, just fun. But we do 250 gigs or so a year. This is what we do.”
The trio could probably play longer than the Grateful Dead--they know about 1,000 songs, mostly classics. They do stuff like “Angie,” “Walk on the Wild Side,” “Cinnamon Girl,” “Bus Stop,” a bunch of Beatles songs and some Tearaways originals. They even take requests.
“We don’t get stumped too often,” Seth said. “We’re pros at this acoustic stuff.”
And these guys can sing. They have these heavenly, happening harmonies that most of those yahoos on MTV can only dream about. Usually, it’s Seth and Brallier harmonizing, but sometimes Milliken joins in too, and it makes those little bitty hairs on the back of your neck want to get up and dance.
“Greg and I are classic rock fans,” Seth said. “We like the Beatles, the Stones, Cheap Trick, the Plimsouls--bands with real songs. But it’s tough in Santa Barbara. We’ve played in L.A. before and the record label people don’t know what to make of us. We don’t sound like this week’s hot band.”
So they struggle along, packing houses in Santa Barbara and waiting for Something Big to happen.
“Toad the Wet Sprocket got signed--it can happen,” Seth said.
“It’s not necessarily where you’re at, it’s just if the right person sees you. Like, we’ve never had an article written about us.”
How’s this for a mini-US Festival of pop rockers: the Beatles, Bad Company, R.E.M., Jellyfish, Durango 95 and Pat, Fin & Greg? It probably wouldn’t change your life, but you’d have plenty to sing about in the shower.
WHERE AND WHEN
Pat, Fin & Greg appear Thursday at Alex’s Cantina, 633 State St., Santa Barbara. For information call 966-0032. So what else can you do for a buck? The trio also plays Mondays at The Grill in Montecito.