WELLFLEET – On Sunday in an iconic beach bar, friends of Patrick “P.J.” O’Connell gathered to celebrate the life of the recently passed musician.
In the middle of a reflective yet extremely joyful celebration at the Beachcomber was O’Connell’s brother, Ed, who is also a musician.
Here is a five minute-video mashup from the day. See also the Incredible Casuals mashup from the same event.
A Personal Note: I never met O’Connell. I never saw him play music. But I interviewed him one time for a profile I wrote of Chris Blood, the longtime sound guy at the Beachcomber.
I remember it took several emails and phone calls to get through to O’Connell, who lived in Orleans. I think we played a long game of email tag. With the story nearing completion, I was about to give up when the phone rang. It was O’Connell. He said he would be happy to help on my story.
Three hours later, the call ended. He was so talkative, I almost couldn’t get him off the phone. But I finally had to. I had a story to work on.
Still, It was such a fun, fascinating phone call that I told O’Connell I wanted to profile him. You know, at some later date.
When I heard of his passing, I recalled the conversation and how nice he was. He was also funny, sarcastic, self-deprecating and very intelligent.
While I was writing about Chris Blood, O’Connell shared some of his story with me, which was what made me make a note to profile him… someday in the future. As I looked back at some of my notes, O’Connell’s story struck me as one of triumph over tragedy.
I won’t, or rather can’t recount a lot. I was working on a different story, so I didn’t take a lot of notes when he was telling his story. I was interested in his thoughts on Chris. But I took enough notes to know some of the basics.
He grew up in Connecticut when he “started seeing NRBQ and Commander Cody in roadhouses. These were great bands,” he said.
He moved to North Carolina, drove a Coke truck, got several degrees, including a law degree, and eventually started a band in Ashville, North Carolina called, The Flying Pigs. The band cut a record.
O’Connell got married, and had a daughter, who was damaged at birth. “It was a hospice situation. Finally, our daughter died at the age of seven months.”
He described Ashville as “beautiful” but in 1988 he moved to Connecticut and worked for a large law firm. “I wanted to come back and sue people, and still play music and stuff,” he said. He “won a big class action lawsuit” as a lawyer, he said. He told us what the suit was. We didn’t write it down… it was for a story in the future.
Then O’Connell had a “horrible car wreck. I had a severe head injury. A neurosurgeon operated on me for 10 hours, and I was in a coma for a month,” he said. His IQ was several points lower when he recovered, he said. “My brothers claim it was an improvement,” he laughed.
And that was essentially was O’Connell told me of his story. He ended up on the Cape though an Incredible Casuals/Chris Blood/NRBQ connection, somehow. There was so much more to ask… for that day in the future when I was going to profile him.
Besides his kind words for Blood, we also talked a bit about the Cape music scene, which he adored. But he also called it a “bipolar scene” with too much competition for gigs in the summer.
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He talked about a musician he knew who was in two very dysfunctional bands and that was difficult because the musician “happened to have a foot in each mental hospital.”
And he noted that, in music, stereotypes are not true. “Sometimes the heavy metal bands are the sweetest guys and sometimes the folk artists are the biggest assholes,” he said.
At the end of the long, laugh-filled interview, he asked for my mailing address. About a week later, four CDs showed up.
And they were great – catchy with great lyrics and brilliant music. His CDs are played often at the worldwide headquarters of Cape Cod Wave.
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– If you like Cape Cod music, here is a 6,000-word story that Cape Cod Wave did on the Cape Cod original music scene. We interviewed 20 musicians, four club owners, and two radio deejays – Cape Cod Music And The Joy Of Being Originally Alive
And here is a link to our growing collection of local music stories and videos – MUSIC
Please see, based on the true story of a Cape Cod land deal, from Cape Cod Wave: YOU CAN’T SELL RIGHT FIELD, A Cape Cod Novel
Thank you, Brian, for your wonderful coverage of last weekend’s “Patstock” celebration, honoring my late brother Patrick, and for spotlighting the special homegrown musical talent that performed at the Beachcomber. Our family is deeply grateful to all of the musicians, the stage crew and the rest of the team at the Beachcomber for producing this event. A couple of biographical refinements to PJ’s history: Patrick’s North Carolina musical endeavors were centered in the Durham-Raleigh area (rather than Asheville), where he played in various bands as a student at Duke in the late 1970’s. He formed the Flying Pigs in the early 1980’s, and he returned to live in North Carolina in the mid-1990’s prior to moving to Eastham. As noted in your article, Patrick loved the musical community on the Cape. Your readers are blessed to have such a vibrant scene, and one that spans multiple musical family generations. Again, my heartfelt thanks to you and Cape Cod Wave for remembering my brother and spotlighting the Cape’s local cultural treasures.