End of the ‘Experiment’

SARANAC LAKE – If he hadn’t badmouthed Rock 105 to its employees, Pat McAvoy may never have gotten a job at the local radio station.

McAvoy said he was working as a “master-level unskilled laborer” on construction sites in the area when he was hired as a disc jockey at the station in 2006.

“I was listening to 105.5 like 40 or 50 hours a week at these job sites, and it was driving me nuts,” McAvoy said. One day, he went out for drinks at Lisa G’s bar in Lake Placid and met Bayly Winkler and Elexis Gaines, who worked for the radio station at the time.

“I had a couple in me, and I started saying, ‘Your radio station’s awful. They play awful music. I could do it so much better.’ And they’re like, ‘Why don’t you come in and try?’ So I went in and did much better.”

Seven years later, McAvoy’s eclectic Saturday radio show, which often ran against the grain of Rock 105’s standard classic rock format and had a cult following in the Tri-Lakes area, has come to an end. “The Pat McAvoy Experiment” was normally nine hours, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. every Saturday, but McAvoy closed out his tenure on the airwaves this weekend with a special show that started at 10 a.m. Saturday and ran through Sunday until midnight, ending with a long block of Beastie Boys songs.

McAvoy is leaving the area to take a new job as director of admissions for Penikese Island School, a nonprofit program for teens dealing with drug abuse and mental health issues, located off the coast of Cape Cod. He’s continuing a career path that began not long after he started at the radio station. For the past seven years, his “real job” was coordinating admissions for Adirondack Leadership Expeditions, a Saranac Lake-based outdoor recreation program for troubled teens.

“It’s time for a change,” McAvoy told the Enterprise Monday. “I got the seven-year itch on the radio show and my job at ALE, and I have a great opportunity to start this new program.”

When he started at Rock 105, McAvoy initially said he stuck to the station’s playlist of computer-selected songs, but it wasn’t long before he started changing things up.

“I’d start inserting some of those older tracks that just weren’t on the heavy rotation, like a Deep Purple song that hadn’t been played in three or four years,” he said. “‘Taking Care of Business’ (by Bachman-Turner Overdrive), I’d delete that and play some old Led Zeppelin song. Then I started adding stuff to the library, and that changed everything.”

The first song he added was “Gimme Danger” by Iggy and the Stooges. McAvoy said he stayed within the classic rock format for a while, uploading lesser-known Creedence Clearwater Revival, Led Zeppelin and The Who songs to the system.

“Then my whole thing was, if I can argue in my head that it’s a classic rock song, then I can play it,” he said. “Like John Coltrane. He rocks. He’s classic. Perfect. After a while, it was just whatever I wanted to play.”

Reggae, rap, funk, jazz, country, bluegrass, folk, alternative, electronic – just about any musical style could be heard on any given Saturday during McAvoy’s show, often in long blocks uninterrupted by commercials.

“There was one morning he started out with like an hour-and-a-half of Charlie Parker, and that was cool,” said Mark Coleman of Ampersound, who said he was a big fan of McAvoy’s show. “He was all over the board. He was very eclectic in his musical style.

“I like radio because someone else is the program director,” Coleman added, “and when it’s a human being as opposed to canned music, that human element that can bring out the eclecticity of music, and I think that appeals to people. I don’t know what I’m going to hear next, and I like to be surprised.”

McAvoy said it often tried to fit his playlists to what he would be doing that day or what the weather was like.

“If it’s a rainy, cold day, I’d play some napping music,” he said. “But if it’s a sunny summer day, like, the Allman Brothers I think are good for barbecuing, so I’ll play a bunch of Allman Brothers. I really liked the days when it was rainy and cold. I could have a lot of fun creating new liners (the segues between songs), adding new music, exploring new music and really getting the show dialed in.”

McAvoy estimates he put about 200 hours of music into the Rock 105 library over the years, even though he had been told specifically not to do so. He said he tried to fly under the radar of station owner Ted Morgan.

“I don’t think Ted realized what I was doing at first,” he said. “The reason I called it ‘The Pat McAvoy Experiment’ was, ‘How long before they fire me?'”

McAvoy also used his program to plug shows at local venues like the Waterhole and BluSeed Studios. The Roulette Sisters, Frankenpine, Big Slyde, Hot Day at the Zoo, Monsterbuck and Blind Owl Band are just some of the groups who recorded performances on his show.

“Any type of music I had at the Waterhole at the time, he would help cross-promote,” said former Waterhole manager Brandon Devito. “A lot of the bands I had there were local, regional or even some national stuff that didn’t fit in with the classic rock motif or the pop motif of the other radio station. He gave us one day of solid, more alternative music which was just awesome.”

McAvoy knew many of the artists who appeared on his show, as he’s also a musician. He played bass for Larry Stone and the Stoneground Express and, more recently, Crackin’ Foxy.

He said he knows that not everyone was a fan of the “Experiment.” When he posted on the Rock 105 Facebook page that this weekend was his last show, one person wrote, “Thank God.”

“I don’t play well in Tupper,” McAvoy said with a laugh. “Some people would come up and say, ‘I tuned in at like 5 o’clock, and you were playing I don’t even know what, it was so horrible.’ My thought is, somebody else was tuning in at the same minute going, ‘Oh my God, I haven’t heard this song in forever. I love this song.’

“This has been an amazing thing to basically make a playlist every weekend for everybody that wants to tune into it,” he said. “And I actually got paid. I got paid minimum wage, but it was fun. Ted gave me the freedom to do whatever I wanted and didn’t give me any slack.”

McAvoy said he’s sad that the show has come to an end, but he hopes to continue it sometime in the future. The results of the “Experiment” are inconclusive, he said.

“I think we have to let it fester a little bit and maybe come back to it,” he said. “I don’t think it’s over. I still have a key to the station.”

Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or cknight@adirondackdailyenterprise.com.