It's an age-old proverb: A prophet is never revered in his home town. That is, not until he moves to Los Angeles, signs a record deal, makes a brilliant debut album and becomes the hottest brand going.
That the story of Patrick Park, Morrison native and Columbine High School graduate. But Loneliness Knows My Name, his just-released, debut full-length on Hollywood Records, would earn my praise no matter what town Park lived in. To me, it ain't where you're from, it's where you're at.
Once upon a time, in what seems like another lifetime ago, Park was at the helm of a barely memorable outfit called Idle Mind (which also included Czars guitarist Roger Green). Outside of a small faction of fans, the band was hardly noticed -- and with good reason. Even though sessions for Idle Mind's 1996 eponymous debut album were overseen by noted provincial knob-turner Kirby Orrick, I found the album underwhelming, especially when held up against releases by the likes of Christie Front Drive and the Christines -- the band's peers at the time.
And Park doesn't disagree with my original assessment.
"It's a horrible record. I was like fifteen years old when I wrote those songs," says Park, his chuckle audible all the way from Los Angeles. "I don't think it resonated with hardly anybody."
Idle Mind broke up not too long after the album was released, and Park kicked around Denver for a few years, honing his songwriting skills and working at the Bluebird Theater -- time that would later prove to be well spent. Still, when Park quietly departed the scene in 1999, almost no one noticed, myself included.
Unlike most struggling musicians, Park didn't head to Los Angeles to pursue his career. "What spurred the move was, at the time, my girlfriend was moving to Los Angeles, and I wanted a change," Park recalls. "I came out here mainly for a change and to try something new. Obviously, I was definitely going to be doing music -- that was kind of always the plan. But I wouldn't say that it was the only reason. I wanted to see how it went out here.
"And initially, it went absolutely nowhere. I really had never been to L.A. before -- it's an enormous place -- and I didn't know anybody here. So I really had no idea of where to start or what to even look for. The result of that was I just worked on writing better songs. Eventually, I got to know the place a little better and started playing out a little bit and then kind of just went from there."
After several years in L.A., during which he worked odd jobs as a waiter, stock boy and karate instructor, Park ran into Dave Trumfio, a renowned producer (Wilco, Billy Bragg, Koufax) whom he recognized from a show that Trumfio's Chicago-based band, the Pulsars, had played at the Bluebird a few years earlier. Park gave him a demo of the songs he'd been working on, never expecting to hear from him again. But Trumfio called the next day, and the two became fast friends. Trumfio wound up recording and producing Park's Basement Tapes in his basement studio. The self-released, four-song EP took on a life of its own and eventually led to Park's signing with Hollywood Records, a turn of events that still surprises him.
"Basically, I did that just to have something to hand out to people," he says. "I wasn't consciously trying to make anything happen."
Prior to signing with Hollywood, Park recorded and released Under The Undermining Skys on San Francisco indie imprint Badman records. The six-song EP contains some covers, a few previously unreleased songs and a couple that made the final cut on Loneliness. Over the course of finding his sound, he's recorded quite a few songs that will probably remain unreleased, he says, because "you're always onto what you're doing now. Like what you're doing now is always the most important thing. Maybe when I'm like fifty or whatever, I'll go back and look at the songs that nobody ever heard, but right now, I don't really see the point."
More than one reviewer has compared Park's sound and persona to Pete Yorn. I hear more Heartbreak-era Ryan Adams, an assessment that Park is quick to dismiss.
"People have made both of those comparisons. But I don't really put too much stock in comparisons," he says. "Everybody has to have a frame of reference, I think."
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However you categorize Park, one thing is certain: He's one helluva songwriter. Loneliness Knows My Name is one of my favorite albums this year. And that's quite a feat, considering that my idle mind was doing the devil's work when Park was just cutting his teeth.
Catch Park's in-store performance on Thursday, October 2, at Twist & Shout Underground. On the following night, he'll be warming up the stage -- in what's sure to be one of his last stints as an opener -- for My Morning Jacket.
Upbeats and beatdowns: Hell Camino will fire up the pistons this Friday, October 3, at Cricket on the Hill, with Acoustic Trauma and Motor Mouth rounding out the bill. Across town that same night, Orion's Room and Silence will hold things down at Herman's Hideaway. On Saturday, October 4, the Indulgers will bring their unique blend of Celtic rock to Darcy's Irish Pub and Bistro (4955 South Ulster Street) for a free show, while Rubber Planet, Maggie Got Jacked and You Call That Art? hit the Soiled Dove. Then on Monday, October 6, Jag Panzer and Tyfoid Mary welcome the return of one of Germany's most heralded metal bands, Helloween, to the Ogden Theatre.
A few weeks ago, I reported that Michael St. James had left the Soul Thieves and was pursuing a publishing deal with EMI. According to the band's remaining members -- Greg Ferguson, Ryan Donley, Jeff Martin and Dani Hofer-Harrison -- more than a few people interpreted that to mean that they were gone, too. But in fact, the Soul Thieves are soldiering on, and if their show at the Blue Mule on Friday, September 26, was any indication, their revised lineup hasn't missed a beat. What it may soon be missing, though, is a name: St. James reportedly owns the rights to the Soul Thieves moniker and has started legal proceedings to halt further usage of it.