After more than 20 years, rock band Downtown Brown to play final show in Detroit

Down, but not out

Aug 2, 2022 at 11:18 am
click to enlarge Neil “Neebo” Patterson Jr., center, and his band Downtown Brown. - Doug Coombe
Doug Coombe
Neil “Neebo” Patterson Jr., center, and his band Downtown Brown.

Like many people these days, the pandemic prompted Neil "Neebo" Patterson Jr. to quit his job — only Patterson's job was one that plenty of people only dream of having.

With his band Downtown Brown, Patterson has toured the country, performing with acts like Insane Clown Posse, Andrew W.K., Fishbone, Dead Kennedys, Presidents of the United States of America, and Flipper, among others. Not bad for what Patterson describes as a goofy "punky, funky" band from metro Detroit that featured a poop-themed superhero on the cover of its debut record, 2001's ridiculously named Moist & Ridiculous.

But now, Patterson is calling it quits, at least as far as Downtown Brown is concerned. The band will play its final show on Saturday at the Shelter in Detroit in what is being billed as a 20th anniversary show for Moist & Ridiculous.

"There are things I do and say on some of the songs in an attempt at being humorous that are kind of cringey to me now," Patterson, now 41, tells Metro Times. "I'm just not a 26-year-old guy full of piss and vinegar, trying to shit on the world and just make fun of everything."

He adds, "The songs were all written by a different person. It's me, but it was like a way different version of me."

The band got its start playing raucous house parties, building a fanbase that it found soon translated into ticket sales. "Once we started playing in the bars, they were like, 'Hey, we can make money off these guys,'" Patterson says. "I remember I turned 20 years old and they gave us our first gig at the Shelter, and we outdrew the national act."

The band also won a Metro Times contest, earning free ad space in the newspaper for a year, which Downtown Brown used as leverage to get on bills with bigger artists. In 2005, Downtown Brown got invited to join the Warped Tour — an opportunity Patterson says they immediately blew by getting too drunk, with one of his bandmates punching a festival employee and resulting in the band getting kicked off the bill.

After a particularly drunken 2008 show at Saint Andrew's Hall, the larger venue located upstairs from the Shelter, Patterson made the decision to quit drinking alcohol.

"I couldn't remember the gigs," he says. "And that was huge because, you know, you're living in the moment and you have these moments that you're sharing with other people in real time, and a lot of times, it gets you higher than any drug."

Patterson says he hasn't had a drink in 14 years.

"The doctor said I was going to die young if I kept doing it," he says, adding, "It wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be, because that's just how done I was with it."

Patterson kept at the band, though, moving to Los Angeles and becoming labelmates with some of his heroes, the ska band Fishbone, on DC-Jam Records. He also started going to therapy, and launched a podcast, SUPcast with Neil P, where he and guests discuss mental health and addiction.

"We'll talk about music and life," he says. "It seems like anyone who's an artist has trauma that they deal with, usually through self-medication. And I feel like most people that seek validation outside of themselves are missing something in their childhood or something, so we're all messed up and we talk about our feelings."

Patterson says that he made the decision to end the band recently. In recent years, Downtown Brown had splintered into two bands, one based in L.A. and the other in Detroit. The idea was that the bands would be used depending on where the gigs were booked, but Patterson says practicing with two bands had become exhausting. The pause on live music due to the pandemic gave him time to reflect, and last year he and his girlfriend decided to move from Los Angeles to metro Detroit in search of a quieter life.

In deciding to end Downtown Brown, Patterson says he was finally able to truly appreciate the band and its accomplishments.

"I feel like the expectations that I put on myself were so grandiose, it made me unable to enjoy a lot of the amazing things we did, because I was thinking, 'Oh, we should be doing more, we should be bigger,'" he says. "I felt entitled to more success, because in my mind, I'm like, 'Well, I'm working really, really hard, I deserve more' — when really, I was having the time of my life with my best friends."

Outside of his studio, he has a piece of paper on the wall inscribed with his mantra: "Make cool shit before you die."

He says, "I didn't achieve the type of success I wanted to, but in hindsight, I'm pleasantly surprised with all the amazing stuff we got to do."

Patterson says he won't quit making music, but has made the decision not to release new music as Downtown Brown, known for hits like "Orange Bitch," a tongue-in-cheek track about women who excessively tan that Patterson now thinks should just be left as "a product of the 2000s."

He adds, "I'd rather not have to explain it. ... Ultimately, I'm just sick of playing a song I wrote in 2003 about white girls who tan. Like, am I the best person to comment on this?"

Patterson says his future music will maintain a sense of humor, but will also be a bit more serious.

"I'm also a goofy dude, so whatever I do, after this, I'm going to be idiotic — but at times, I want to be really heartfelt," he says. "I just want to write from where I'm at right now."

Downtown Brown will perform with Koffin Kats, Carmel Liburdi, and Hillbilly Knife Fight at the Shelter; 431 E. Congress St., Detroit; 313-961-8961; Doors at 7 p.m. Ages 18+. Tickets start at $15.

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