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Flyweil Thrives On 'Dinosaur' Label

Focus on: MUSIC

August 14, 1987|THOMAS K. ARNOLD

The back-to-basics approach favored by most of this town's original rock bands has yet to rub off on Flyweil.

Visually and musically, they're a throwback to Yes, Journey and other progressive rock veterans of the middle 1970s.

Their skin-tight spandex pants are as shiny as cellophane, and their brightly colored shirts and jackets are unbuttoned all the way down to the navel.

Instead of short and snappy pop songs, their repertoire consists mostly of long, complex displays of instrumental dexterity and flashy musical showmanship.

Why, they've even been known to throw in an occasional drum solo or extended guitar jam, both no-nos in the minimalistic world of modern, post-punk rock 'n' roll.

Patrick McMichael, Flyweil's drummer and founder, isn't happy with the "dinosaur" label commonly attached to his band.

"So many groups, locally and nationally, are always jumping on trends," said McMichael, 30. "But what people don't realize is that 1970s-style rock 'n' roll has remarkable longevity.

"Yes just returned from a national tour that was completely sold out, and their new album has already gone platinum. Boston, another so-called 'dinosaur,' recently released their first album in 10 years and wound up with their biggest seller ever."

Indeed, being branded a dinosaur hasn't hurt Flyweil in the least. Since moving to San Diego five years ago from their native Dayton, Ohio, McMichael and his four band mates--bassist Steve Tally, guitarist Danny Donnelly, keyboardist Kenny Rice and lead singer Michael James Christellow--have consistently been one of the most popular nightclub attractions in the county.

They regularly perform at such top rock clubs as the Bacchanal on Kearny Mesa and Park Place in El Cajon, where they're appearing tonight and Saturday.

On any given night, about half their songs are covers of tunes by such 1970s bands as Yes, Jethro Tull and Pink Floyd--"all the classic stuff we grew up with," McMichael said.

The rest of their songs are originals like McMichael's "Number One," a musical collage of soaring guitar and keyboard riffs, pounding bass and drum rhythms and mellifluous, up-front vocals.

"Today, the media says rap is the big thing with kids about 13 or 14," McMichael said. "But all you have to do is look at any sales or air play survey and you'll see these same kids are listening to bands like Yes and Journey, just as the kids did 10 years ago."

In December, Flyweil's belief in the staying power of dinosaur rock was solidified when they won the West Coast semifinals in the national Willie Nelson Talent Round-Up.

Along with nine other rock bands, they went to Austin, Tex., for the finals. They finished second, and received national television exposure when they performed in concert with the likes of Dickey Betts, Edgar Winter and Leon Russell.

Their victory led to a lucrative two-month tour of Alaska, from which they have just returned. And between local club dates, they're preparing a promotional package, including a five-song demonstration tape, that they plan to distribute to national record companies in hope of securing a record deal.

"This band is ready--boy, are we ready," McMichael said. "It's taken us a while, but now we're putting all our efforts toward getting a recording contract.

"We write and play only what we feel; instead of following trends, we follow our hearts. And after the recent successes of bands like Yes and Boston, we're hoping that the record companies finally realize that this type of music is here to stay."

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