August 11, 2013

The Pete Kilpatrick Band: A sound business plan

Thanks to advances in technology, making it in the music business nowadays is easier for everyone – and, just maybe, harder than ever.

By Ray Routhier
Staff Writer

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The Pete Kilpatrick Band plays to a packed house at The Big Easy recently in Portland.

Photos by Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

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Bandmates Matt Cosby and Pete Kilpatrick lug equipment into the Market Street venue before the show. These days, musicians often struggle to be heard above all the competition.

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At about 10:30 on a Saturday night in April, the five members of The Pete Kilpatrick Band walked through a packed dance floor at The Big Easy nightclub in Portland and climbed onto the 2-foot-high stage. A few young women in the crowd screamed; young men pumped fists and shouted, "Yeah!"

Two young men from Connecticut who have seen the band many times quickly elbowed their way to the stage for a better view. It was apparent that most in the crowd had seen the band before, as requests were shouted out before one note was played.

The band launched into an up-tempo ballad, "Coming Home," kicked off by a jangly guitar intro by Kilpatrick. Kilpatrick's voice -- the lead and primary voice for most of the band's songs -- is clear and warm, as adept at high harmonies as heartfelt soul. As he started singing, a dozen or so folks were singing along:

"The snow is falling lightly on the road/ Every mile that we drive brings us closer to home/ Coming down from the mountains, I can see the sky is blue/ It reminds me that I'm coming home."

Kilpatrick wrote the song soon after meeting his future wife. He was touring in Colorado, and was thinking about getting back to Maine -- and her. The song was featured in the 2012 teen romance film "The First Time."

A minute into the song, the rest of the band kicked in, with a deep, rolling electric guitar part that sounded slightly country, with a strong dose of Southern rock. The jazzy keyboard and steady drums helped get the crowd dancing at a medium tempo -- bodies swaying, arms and hips swinging.

Between songs, Kilpatrick told stories. He told the crowd how he and his bandmates played an April Fool's joke earlier that week on drummer Ed Dickhaut: They put his Falmouth house up for sale on Craigslist for $100,000.

Kilpatrick often tells the audience something about the song. Before launching into "Burning Star," he said it's about "a guy who goes off to war, the Civil War." Living in Brunswick, the home of Civil War hero Joshua Chamberlain, has sparked Kilpatrick's interest in the Civil War, and the conflict has found its way into at least a couple of his songs.

The song began with a jazzy, high-pitched electric guitar riff, and had a steady, medium-tempo groove, not unlike something from Dave Matthews. The tune sped up a little and slowed down as Kilpatrick sang, his words slightly muffled with emotion. His vocal volume rose and fell as well, reaching almost a shout on the word "war":

"Love, save me from the flame/ That burn the walls of war/ You're my saving grace, you're my favorite face/ You're my hope that the world is still capable."

For more than two hours, the crowd seemed spellbound by Kilpatrick's voice and the band's steady grooves.

Not too long ago, musicians relied on live gigs like this one to attract enough attention to get a recording contract. Now it's almost the other way around, because these days, a recording contract isn't the measure of success it once was.


Musicians used to have to rent a recording studio and pay an engineer; now they can make professional-sounding recordings at home for a fraction of the cost. Most consumers get their musical fixes online via services such as Spotify, Pandora or iTunes, which has made the act of buying CDs almost an anachronism.

All this means the profits and power of major record labels have been shredded as more people stream music online and no longer buy traditional physical recordings in big numbers. As a result, labels are no longer dangling big contracts to bands and developing talent like they used to.

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