PAWTUCKET — At the tender age of 18, Pat Baron chose to leave Tolman High School early and drive to southern California to pursue a career in music. Naturally, his parents, Albert and Diana, weren't pleased.
“They were astonished I was leaving for L.A.,” Baron smiled Friday afternoon. “I don't think they believed I'd do it. In fact, I had just got through packing up my old, beat-up van with my two buddies, and my dad was still trying to talk me out of it.
“I wanted a change back then,” he added. “I already had learned all the stuff I felt I needed to — except for music. I left that morning — June 28, 1991 — with $348 in my pocket.”
When asked how he made it on such a pittance, he chuckled, “Gas was cheaper, MUCH cheaper, back then, and we brought our own food. We left with a cooler full of sandwiches and other stuff.”
Now 39 and a lead guitarist/singer of a band entitled “From: The Inside Out,” Baron has returned to his roots, and he couldn't be happier.
He and long-time friend Armenta made the trek from Austin, Tex. on Wednesday for two reasons: To create a music video for Facebook (one called “Outta Sight,” which they accomplished on Saturday); and to deliver a show to family and friends, which they'll do at the Celtic Pub tonight at 8.
(There's no cover, Baron beamed, and all are welcome).
“I will say they're happy I'm back, and that I stuck with music,” he said, referring to his parents.
“When I was growing up, they both loved music, always had the stereo blaring. It was on far more than the TV was. They actually saw me play at an old club called 'Faces' in East Providence, but they were less than impressed.
“Now they're excited to see me play back here,” he continued. “You know, I've never done a show in my hometown, and I've always wanted to. I've played in Providence numerous times, like at 'Babyhead' and 'The Living Room,' but not here. This is too much! We're just hoping that the video comes out great, and that people have fun at the show.
“Brett Davey is great to work with; he's a friend of mine who I call my Rhode Island agent. He helps create opportunities for me, for us, back here, so I owe him a lot … I'm thrilled about this, and consider it a blessing to play in front of my immediate family. My grandmother will be there at the Celtic, as well as my parents, brother, sister, nephew, cousins and all my friends.”
As co-lead guitarist and vocalist, Armenta — a 29-year-old native of Detroit, Mich. who chooses to go only by her first name — noted she couldn't wait to visit Darlington and Baron's old stomping grounds.
“I've been wanting to meet his parents and family for years now,” she insisted. “I've heard so many funny, amusing stories. This is a great opportunity for both of us. I know he's looking forward to it, and so am I. I do think that, nowadays, his parents argue about who gave Pat his musical talent.”
Their fellow band members — including Andres Acevedo, 24, a bass guitarist from Colombia, and Anthony Keyzer, 25 and the Madison, Wisc.-born drummer — didn't make the trip, but the quartet is in the process of making its first-ever CD. (Baron's buddy, John Reddington, will serve as drummer during tonight's show).
It will include “Outta Sight,” a tune Armenta called a haunting, moody song about desiring love, but not getting it; “Ding,” “Lonely Blue Sky” and “How High You Get.
“We don't have a working title yet, but we'll have some of our originals on it, probably nine or 10,” Baron stated. “We hope it's out in the next four to six months. It may be sooner, but we don't want to rush it.
“We do have a following; we don't play all the time, because, the way we look at it, we want quality over quantity,” he added. “We're pretty damn good, or at least I think so. We can definitely hold our own. I've had the privilege of jamming with some legends, from Kid Rock to Pinetop Perkins, so maybe that's why.”
When Baron was a young teen-ager at Tolman, he played in his first band, called “Dirty Minds,” with two buddies, including Nelson Martinez and Shawn Kelly.
“I'd call it sleazy rock,” he said. He called himself “naive” to think he, Martinez and Kelly could reach the L.A. shoreline on $348, but they did. In fact, they needed just under four days to do so.
“It was a big step, but I've always considered myself an adventurous spirit,” he laughed. “Our goal was just to meet people and start a band. We had to live out of the van for about six months, but we finally got it ('City of Candles') going. We showered at Venice Beach, you know the ones with the push-in knobs?”
Baron got the itch to move again four years later, this time to Detroit.
“That's where I got infected by the blues; they're amazing,” he explained. “I was in some bands there, but the one that did the best was 'Strip Club,' which I started in about 2000. A guy in the band was Mike E. Clark, and he's a really well-known producer. He produces for Kid Rock, and also 'The Howling Diablos.' I used to do a lot jammin', too.”
While in Detroit, he began a group named “Pat in the Hat” (he adores wearing different chapeaus), but later ended up in “The Walkers,” that started by Armenta. Tino Gross and Mo Hollis of “The Howling Diablos” played in Armenta's back-up band, and she stated they all had great support when Baron joined the club.
“We met at a sushi party four or five years ago when I was still in 'Pat in the Hat,'” Baron revealed. “It was a private party in downtown Detroit, and Armenta was with 'The Walkers.' We just started talking about music. Our friend had wanted to introduce us because he thought we'd get along.”
Mentioned Armenta: “Boy, was he right!”
About 30 months later, in 2008, the tandem decided to move to Austin, home of the University of Texas and its Longhorns.
“The economy started to get really bad, and three of my favorite blues clubs, the ones I loved jamming at, closed,” Baron said. “I remember being home one night thinking, 'Man, I've got no place to go. This s----!'
“I had never been there before, but I heard it was the live music capital of the world, and that it has more live venues to jam at per capita than anywhere else globally,” he added. “It also has the largest amount of music festivals in the world, so I thought, 'We can't lose!' It's the best place I've ever lived.”
He hesitated, then smiled, “No offense to Pawtucket. I love it here, and I'm really glad I was raised here. Pawtucket's so unique. There's really no other place like it. I think people who live here don't realize what a jewel it is. It's so eclectic.”
Their two other members didn't make the trip south, but Baron and Armenta did, setting out to find two new musicians to help out. That's when they met Acevedo and Keyzer.
Fact is, Armenta came up with the name “From: The Outside In,” despite the fact it was “Pat in the Hat” lingo. The two, by the way, are not an item, merely premier friends.
“He kept saying, 'You've gotta live life from the inside out, not the outside in,'” she giggled. “He said, 'You've gotta live from your heart.' I think that's about being in touch with your soul, and not letting outside negativity rule you.
“I wrote it down on a piece of paper, showed him and he loved it.”
Noted Baron: “I was shocked. That's one of my sayings, and it was perfect. I never thought of it as a band name until she brought it up; that was about two years ago.”
Armenta explained she considers their type of music as psychedelic blues, funk and Detroit rock.
“As far as the psychedelic part goes, I do some crazy things with my voice, like Jefferson Airplane kind of stuff,” she said. “Pat brings a Rolling Stones-like feel to it.”
Baron, who said his band is “like the Stones meet 'Jane's Addiction,' with a little 'Weezer' thrown in, noted they both love Austin because it's so vibrant.
“The bars are always full, and people bar-hop like crazy, which is great for bands,” he said. “You can finish a set, take a 20-minute break, come back out and see a whole new audience.”
Baron and Armenta met Pinetop Perkins, a legendary blues musician, in Austin, and the former immediately grew to adore him. He said he was shattered when Perkins, at 97, died back on March 21.
“It was the first day of spring,” Baron said. “Did you know he won a Grammy the month before he passed? He was the oldest living Grammy winner ever, beating out George Burns.
“We were very close; I used to take care of him at his house, and I'd bring him to shows,” he continued. “There was one bar in Austin that he loved going to, and he'd perform. If we didn't see him there, we'd just turn around and leave.
“I was very sad when he died. I mean, you can't meet someone who's 95 and not know his time is limited. That's why I spent so much time with him. He also improved my outlook on life. He was such a positive, loving man, he rubbed off on me. I became addicted to his his personality, as opposed to other addictions you could have. Musically, he showed me some tricks, like the 'Three-Finger Boogie-Woogie' on the piano.
“He always told me to keep it simple, that he didn't like a lot of notes. If he saw a band do that, he'd let you know.”
Offered Armenta, who also is in an all-girl group named “Danger*Cakes”: “I wasn't able to communicate with him the same way Pat did, but he was always sweet to me. In fact, he told me he loved me one time, and I almost cried.”
Pinetop isn't a reason Baron returned home, but did say Davey's new video camera did play a bit part.
“We had talked about it, then we sent him two songs for him to check out,” Baron said. “He really loved them, especially the one (in which) we're going to make the video. He sent back a 30-second scene to 'Outta Sight,' and we were blown away. It was that good, so that's another reason we came back.
“We plan on doing one scene at the (Adult Correctional Institution) prison in Cranston, and another at a party store,” he said. “We'll incorporate a lot of cities and towns in Rhode Island.”
Truth be told, the two songwriters have great confidence in each other.
“I think she's great at it,” Baron said. “She's very true to her art form; everything she writes is a story about her life experiences. I love that.”
Stated Armenta: “I wish I could write like him. He knows how burn to people, but in a very funny way. He pokes fun at the faults in our society in a very ironic way. I love one song he wrote, 'Die With a Smile.'”
When the music video was completed, Baron wanted to post it on Facebook.
“We just want to give our fans a bit more,” Baron said. “We want to give them more to enjoy before our CD comes out. As for the show, there's no cover, so I can't wait to see everyone, those I haven't seen in a while.”