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Noted bands to play ‘Celebration of Love’ concert for B.C. agent with terminal cancer

‘I’d rather do it now than people waiting until I’m dead,’ Rob Pattee says
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Rob Pattee in a recording studio. The Surrey resident, who runs RPM Music Services, has worked as an artist manager, agent, talent buyer and music educator for more than four decades. (Photo: rpmmusicservices.com)

Don’t call it a pity party for Rob Pattee, who wanted to stage a Celebration of Love concert before it’s too late for him.

The Wednesday, March 13 benefit show at Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom will feature many of the rock, blues and country artists Pattee has worked with over the past 40-plus years, including Washboard Union, Wide Mouth Mason, Hot Hot Heat, Karen Lee Batten, Daniel Powter, Crystal Shawanda and surprise guests.

A Surrey resident since 2009, Pattee is dying of liver cancer linked to Alpha 1 Antitrypsin Deficiency, or A1AD, a rare genetic condition that took his sister Barbara last year.

“I might make it another year, another two, who knows,” Pattee said. “The medication I’m on seems to be keeping the situation at bay for me.”

A friend and ally of many in the B.C. music community, Pattee’s RPM Music Services is a hub for his work as an artist manager, agent, talent buyer and music educator over the past four-plus decades.

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A Surrey resident since 2009, Rob Pattee has worked as an artist manager, agent, talent buyer and music educator for more than four decades. (Photo: rpmmusicservices.com)

Raised in Montreal, Pattee’s career in music began in the late-1970s when he ran a bar in Jasper, Alberta. Seeking “cool” original bands to play the place, he made connections with agents and others in the business, leading him to a job at Expo 86 at a time when Vancouver was exploding with live entertainment. He later found work with Sam Feldman’s talent agency, starting in 1992.

“These are bands that I worked with from their beginnings, you know,” Pattee said of the lineup for the March 13 concert at the Commodore. “Daniel Powter hadn’t written the hit song ‘Bad Day’ yet, Wide Mouth Mason were young kids out of Saskatoon, Hot Hot Heat we saw in a crappy bar on Pender, the Pic Pub, and I loved them right away. There are more, but I called a few to ask if they’d do two or three songs at this concert, and told them the story of how I wanted to do this party and see everyone again, have a party, you know.

“I was reluctant at first,” he added, “because I didn’t know if it was weird, I just wasn’t comfortable with it. I wasn’t sure I wanted to tell the whole world that I was dying of liver cancer. But I’d rather do it now, have a celebration of life, rather than people waiting until I’m dead, you know. Screw that, let’s have a party. If there’s 200 or 300 people there, I’d be happy with that. It’ll be fun.”

Tickets are sold for $56 on ticketweb.ca, with partial proceeds donated to Alpha One Canada.

For Pattee, the condition has impacted his career in music, which has involved work with House of Blues, Live Nation, Whistler World Ski Festival and other concert presenters on the West Coast.

Last summer, Pattee’s doctor gave him the bad news that radiation did nothing for the cancer that’s killing him.

“For years I’ve had problems with shortness of breath, and anybody that has played golf with me, or knows me well, knows how out of breath I get,” Pattee explained. “Even in the Commodore days, which is 20 years ago, I would run up the stairs, go up to the dressing room and at the top of the stairs, I’d be playing with my Blackberry pretending I was texting because I didn’t want to go into the dressing room to visit April Wine, or whomever, and be out of breath. I would catch myself to the point where I could say, ‘Hey, guys, how are you doing?’ and not be out of breath.”

Shaun Verreault, Wide Mouth Mason’s singer/guitarist, posted about the March 13 concert on his Facebook page.

“My friend Rob Pattee has responded to a terminal cancer diagnosis in the most Rob Pattee way possible: By throwing a banger of a celebration of life at the Commodore full of friends and musicians he has worked with in his career as a dedicated and diligent agent. Safwan (Javed, co-founder of Wide Mouth Mason) will be out of the country but I’ll be there to represent WMM and to help surround my pal with love and gratitude and singing and stringing and camaraderie as we’ve enjoyed together for many years.”

Likewise, Crystal Shawanda posted about the concert to celebrate Pattee, who has managed her career in blues/country music.

“I’m incredibly heartbroken, and we are quite honestly struggling with it all,” Shawanda wrote. “We met Rob at a time when we needed him very much. After having gone through some tumultuous experiences in the music business in toxic atmospheres, I had my walls up high. Never again, I said. However, Rob was patient…. I grew to learn and trust that he only wanted the best for me, for us, always. Even still, the last few months he has made introductions with a new agent to take over, so that he knows our family will be okay.

“Robbie is truly one of a kind,” Shawanda continued, “and has been an integral part of our team for over 14 years, and most importantly he has been our friend, our family. The laughter we have shared is my favourite part of our friendship. He has always entertained all our crazy dreams, and when I decided to switch from country to blues, he just dove in and learned everything he could to help support my latest crazy idea! And we did it, together we won the Juno award for blues album of the year. And that’s why I gave him the title Sir Robert.”



Tom Zillich

About the Author: Tom Zillich

I cover entertainment, sports and news stories for the Surrey Now-Leader, where I've worked for more than half of my 30-plus years in the newspaper business.
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