As a lifetime admirer of music and musicians, I’ve
been an avid supporter of a broad range of styles and forms.
Music—the arts as a whole—has stimulated my
interest and imagination ever since the 1970s and ’80s,
an era of my life when I was exposed to a wide variety of
the arts, and, over time, developed my own selective musical
ear, my own extremely discriminating tastes. For me, being
a music enthusiast has come with a number of privileges,
the most unforgettable of which is being invited to visit
a band in the studio and permitted a front-row seat at a
rehearsal: a view of the artists’ inner workings,
their interaction, and the characteristics which make them
For Pat Llewellyn and The Parade, "home” consists
of a sizable, neon-lit studio in New Jersey, an exclusive
domain where the magical process of creation bonds those
who cross the threshold—those who have music in their
heart, in their blood, in their soul. Entering the room
and approaching the stage and elegant instruments, I was
greeted by each musician, given a warm, generous hug, and
thanked profusely for being on hand.
To the left was a portion of Llewellyn’s gear: An
effects-board with pedals; a Fender Jaguar guitar Classic
Player Special HH. Nearby, I spotted, tucked in a corner,
a Vox AC 15amplifier—reliable equipment for a surefire
musician. Llewellyn himself, fans should know, has thrived
as a solo artist, having made music most of his life, having
published a number of songs since his early days. A multi-instrumentalist,
he plays—besides guitar—the mandolin, the banjo,
and the trumpet. Pat Llewellyn and The Parade is his first
collaboration with Dan Rodriguez, Mike Bell, and the Pultz
brothers, Nick and Steve—a collective bound for stardom.
I, for one, can’t wait to witness their ascension
to the top of the charts.
As many music aficionados would agree, they are well on
their way. Time, patience, resilience, their evolving sound,
will put the Parade at the forefront of the scene. According
to bassist Mike Bell, “Playing rock music, being in
this band, is like having eternal youth.” That, to
me, sounds like the inspiring maxim of a prosperous, fulfilled
musician. “It never gets old,” he continues.
“We started from scratch. And we had instant chemistry
when we got together. No growing pains,” he adds matter-of-factly.
Having been present in recent weeks at some of the Parade’s
jam sessions, I knew Bell was speaking earnestly. Their
chemistry makes them even more stimulating to watch, leaving
me to wonder how many other bands share such a durable rapport.
Very few, I surmise. Their musicianship, their level of
performance, their creativity—attributes to marvel
I surveyed all the equipment as we exchanged salutations.
As for general impressions, I found the men bright, lively,
and disarming, both individually and as a band. Rock aficionados
often discuss the personalities of rocks stars, wondering
how on every level they conduct themselves off stage, separated
from sparkling and shifting lights, screaming fans, and
altogether frenzied environs, in addition, of course, to
the goings-on backstage, the meet-and-greets, the signings,
etc. Well, curious minds, as I discovered in Paradeville,
these particular rock stars—mild-mannered, even-tempered,
and introspective—have alternate personalities. I
mean “alternate” subjectively, of course. They
are endearing without coming off as overly eccentric, arrogant,
or pretentious, a rarity in the rock & roll universe.
In fact, as I got comfortable on the large couch just inside
the entrance door, trying to sort through my scattered thoughts
while scribbling notes on my pad, I observed the band sharing
notes of their own: verbal notes, that is, pertaining to
the song they were about to launch into.
Each player had something to contribute. Each spoke in language
probably only musicians could comprehend: discussing speed,
tempo, key, and other musical components. For now I viewed
the band as ordinary men (which they are, by the way, ordinary
men with stupendous talent) talking in code, as if preparing
for a clandestine mission of some sort, although from my
perspective, the atmosphere, laid-back and informal, was
conducive to further observation and reflection.
And I took advantage: At my sides, two massive amplifiers
on stands stood guard. Guitar cases leaned against the walls,
their lustrous surfaces sticker-covered. On the left side
of the stage, mounted on a microphone stand, was a plastic
skull, “grandma,” watching over the band. No
story behind the skull. It just looks cool, the men say.
Pultz’s drum-kit, made by Dark Horse Percussion (his
sponsor), glistened in my peripheral vision. Steve Pultz’s
guitars and PA were equally eye-catching, as were Rodriguez’s
and Bell’s set-ups. Nick and Steve Pultz, moreover,
have enjoyed notable success in past years as members of
Royden, a rock band that once toured the festival circuit
accompanying other prominent acts. Also noteworthy is Bell’s
current role in the much-talked-about metal band Comb the
Desert, as well as Rodriquez’s musical background:
he started his journey on drums and then progressed to guitar
by the sixth grade. A born axe-man he is, though, through
and through, having been influenced by Jimi Hendrix, Eric
Johnson, and John Mayer, to cite a few masters. Rodriguez
reflects: “I remember hearing Llewellyn’s ‘Peaceful
Man,’ and I thought, ‘I’ve got to get
something going with these guys. They’re fantastic.”
Rodriguez grew up across the street from band-mate Nick
Pultz. “I’m fortunate that our paths have crossed
again,” he says, “Nick, and this group, are
Guitarist-vocalist Steve Pultz came into the studio having
written a song a few days earlier. “I was sitting
around at home,” he says, “just casually playing
my guitar, and my wife liked what I was doing. So I kept
playing, and out came this,” he continues, strumming
the cords. The Parade members were tweaking that song, doing
whatever possible to make it a fuller, more dynamic piece.
Some adjustments came off easily while others seemed very
complex, requiring extensive thought, analysis, fine-tuning
and restructuring. The men were lost in the tides of serene
creativity, dutifully composing material for their stunning
new album, Do You Believe?, which is coming soon.
The scene was oddly tranquil and reflective. Stillness pressed
within the walls, the sensation of being in a train station
just before a locomotive charges through, or moments before
a forbidding storm gathers and bears down. I myself could
for the interim think meditatively, and I kept my pen moving.
Soon a song would imbue the room, and its beat, I was certain,
would dominate all present. The band continued deliberating,
and my gaze floated about the studio—left and right,
up and down—taking note again of the equipment, the
lighting, and absorbing the overall pungency of the atmosphere,
one of fun and of unequivocal creative freedom. The band,
sorting out the intricacies of the tune, were respectful
of each other as critiques bounced back and forth between
them. Nobody seemed insulted or offended by the unreserved
evaluations. This studio, a place of genuine support, encouragement,
and unmitigated openness, its inhabitants, from my vantage
point, egoless and humble, had a singular vibe. Steve Pultz
turned to me and said, “You never know where ideas
are going to come from, man. One of the joys of being a
musician—spontaneity.” His band-fellows, smiles
forming, nodded in agreement. I thought: This band’s
slogan should be Fear not the invisible boundaries.
My genuine appreciation of all I was being allowed to experience
had climbed yet another notch.
Suddenly, as if a bomb had detonated, Llewellyn and company
exploded into a catchy, epic-sounding, made-for-radio song,
“We Will Be Free,” from their forthcoming album.
The sound, gushing from the amplifiers enclosing me, felt
like a burst of nitroglycerine, though this drugless fix,
paradoxically, completely refreshed my mind, my train of
thought, and my focus. The day’s troubles and tensions
had dissolved. For the duration of the song I was awe-stricken,
rendered wordless, so much so that I couldn’t swallow,
my mouth had become cotton-dry. How intoxicating the sound
of real music, of real talent, of real, tangible ambition,
the spectacle unfolding before me in a feverish blur. Each
member had slipped into another mental and emotional zone,
taking on his own stage persona, even though playing to
an audience of only one—me. Privileged to be on hand?
Indeed I was.
The men, in a matter of moments after they had struck the
first chords, became supercharged characters, having what
I interpreted, more or less, as an out-of-body experience.
This singular mindset, this total immersion into craft,
sparked within me a lasting impression, buoying my fascination.
It is my opinion that all musicians, regardless of discipline,
live for these surreal moments of transformation and of
connection with themselves and their audience. And I experienced
the rush with them, though I had no instrument in hand,
nor the ability to play one. The sensations surging through
me were alluring. Although I had been nothing more than
a mere spectator, I felt otherwise, like I was a member
of the Parade, on a float—their stage. Then they played
“Utopia,” a forceful track, as well as a series
of other adeptly wrought tunes, and multiple takes of each,
jamming toward more cohesive versions. From the couch, the
view, the sound, was truly transfixing. This ambitious Jersey
band has a vision: not limiting themselves to a single outlook.
During a short break, the band sat on the edge of the stage,
and we chatted. I asked them about expectations, about what
the masses demand of them in a live setting. Though extremely
impressed by the exhibition I had just seen, I was still
curious as to how my question might be answered. Drummer
Nick Pultz was quick with a rejoinder, expressing confidently,
“We are entertainers. We know how to put on a show.
We give off a lot of energy. The fans deserve our best.”
An honest, direct response. No frills. As it should be.
The Parade has been exploring every fulfilling musical direction
within the sphere of rock & roll, remaining, as ever,
limitless, prospering within the groove that feels truest
at the moment. Rest assured, devout listeners, Llewellyn
himself has never been hampered by a dearth of material.
There’s so much more to come, numerous songs to write,
and a long string of shows to play. “I’m always
writing,” he says. “I can’t not write.
I’ve got too much on my mind.” And their devoted
fans—I myself one of countless—haven’t
stopped yearning for an inkling of what might happen next,
from the creative minds of five virtuosos, who have assembled
for a purpose. What is that purpose? Well, New Jersey, the
Parade—a musical revelation—is about to surface.
Entitled Do You Believe?, Pat Llewellyn and The
Parade’s upcoming album will give Jersey a reason
to feel triumphant, a reason to rock hard and tirelessly.
The rock & roll universe is lucky to have them. Come
fall 2016, buy the album, attend a show, be part of the
Parade, and spread the vibe.
Friday June 3, 2016 - Stanhope House, 45 Main St, Stanhope,
Pat Llewellyn and The Parade, The Mosers, Day At The Fair,
Hidden In Plain View
(Pat Llewellyn & The Parade perform at 7:30 pm)
is an independently published music fanzine
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