Egan helps aspiring musicians plug in to the music scene
"You’d think the sound guy would know to turn the sound on," Pat Egan quipped before switching on his own guitar.
Egan, musician and audio engineer, was host, performer and the "sound guy" at a listening room-style concert featuring My Grandma’s Cardigan and singer/songwriter Amanda Jay Fuller at Gray Duck Theater & Coffeehouse last month.
It might have been a moment of absentmindedness, but forgetting to switch on his own guitar seemed like a symbolic moment. Egan, so concerned about how everyone else is sounding, neglected his own needs.
The show was the first in a "Songwriters in the Round" concert series. Egan, a retired engineer who worked at IBM, brought his own equipment, borrowed some things he doesn’t have and donated his time for the event.
For him, performing was secondary. Establishing a concert series showcasing local talent in a setting where music is the focus and not a background distraction is his main goal.
The "Songwriters in the Round" series isn’t the only event or venue where Egan lends his gear and experience.
For about a year, he used his equipment and ran sound for Canvas & Chardonnay’s Tuesday concert series, "Art Heads Live." On some nights, Egan would accept a small payment of show revenue. Other nights, he volunteered his time and equipment, forgoing payment to the musicians.
"The main impetus there was to get something going at a smaller scale," he said.
Since that concert series, other venues and opportunities have opened for musicians to put on small shows. The Castle has opened, Thesis Beer Project is hosting shows via Uptown X, Gray Duck is hosting the songwriters series, and the Rochester Art Center has started a monthly open mic.
For now, Egan also volunteers his time to run sound for the RAC open mic.
One reason he volunteers his time to help others get a chance to play is he wants to cultivate a music scene with shows he wants to go see.
"So many entities and bands got their start at open mics," he said.
Bar shows hold little appeal to him.
"I want that listening room-type place," he said.
The Gray Duck events and the RAC open mics fit that description, he said.
Egan also wants to pass on some of the help he got as a musician. Open mics gave him a venue and a motivation to write his own music and make it more of a hobby.
Although Egan had been playing music since he was a kid tinkering on an out-of-tune piano his family kept in the living room, he never had lessons. When he was younger, smokey bars would trigger his asthma, he said, adding that open mics like the ones he helps run gave him a chance to do more.
"Some of it is to give back to what got me to where I am," he said.
Egan said he has another advantage being retired.
"I’m willing to lose money doing this," he said.
However, that’s not a permanent arrangement. Egan said he wants to find other hosts for the Gray Duck events. One, he says he already has plenty on his plate. Two, people might get tired of seeing him play every event.
"I know as an audience member, I’d have an issue if it was the same every week," he said.
What: "Songwriters in the Round," featuring Becky Schlegel, Luke Hendrickson and Pat Egan
When: 7 p.m. March 25
Where:Gray Duck Theater & Coffeehouse, 619 6th Ave. NW