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Surf rock and bronies and Star Trek

Patrick O'Connor has long worn many musical hats. And while he tries to avoid "crossing the streams" of his myriad projects, they'll converge for an epic weekend at the Melody Inn.

Dubbed The Sonic Cataclysm, the first show on Dec. 6 will be "Surf Rock Night." The Madeira, O'Connor's instrumental surf rock band, will record a live album (they'll also headline the second night). Fellow surf torchbearers The Volcanoes from Detroit and Grand Rapids' The Concussions round out the bill.

On Dec. 7, O'Connor's other two active projects, Five Year Mission and The Shake Ups, will celebrate new album releases for the Melody Inn's Punk Rock Night. That means O'Connor will indeed perform in three bands that night.

"I guess I'm trying to kill myself," the guitarist said during a recent phone interview. "But I think it will go fine."

The idea for The Sonic Cataclysm started with O'Connor's want to mark The Madeira's 10th anniversary next year. The band — rounded out by drummer Dane Carter, lead guitarist Ivan Pongracic and bassist Todd Fortier — didn't have enough material for a new studio album. O'Connor suggested recording a live one instead. The rest of The Madeira, as well as Melody Inn owners and Punk Rock Night organizers, were on board. It's set to be released next year on Double Crown Records.

The Madeira have organized surf rock showcases once or twice a year for over a decade, which have attracted a devoted audience.

"We've sort of imagined how surf would've evolved if it hadn't died off in the '60s," O'Connor said of The Madeira. "Surprisingly, there are a lot of other bands around the world doing that too."

With Five Year Mission, the focus is on Star Trek. The punk-rock quintet is in the midst of a five-album arc basing a song on each of the original series' 80 episodes. Year Three is up now and features some of the most famous installments, including "Mirror Mirror." With the sci-fi franchise experiencing renewed popularity, O'Connor said the band has exceeded all of its members' expectations.

"We knew there was a big fanbase for Star Trek and the original series," he said. "We just didn't realize the breadth and depth the fanbase had."

The Shake Ups take such pop culture fealty to a seemingly strange realm: My Little Pony.

"I wanted to do something that would be considered even more geeky and outsiderish — so that I could be a nerd again," O'Connor said, jokingly.

Actually the idea for The Shake Ups in Ponyville album started with drummer Steve Hinckley's wife, who collects My Little Pony memorabilia. She hosts an annual gathering of fans of the cartoon, and asked The Shake Ups to perform at it this past summer. For such an audience, they wanted material that was in the spirit of the event.

"We rewrote the lyrics to a bunch of our songs to be about the show," O'Connor said. "We played this event and it went surprisingly well."

That led to an EP of the reimagined songs and now the full-length The Shake Ups in Ponyville, which is based on the My Little Pony series Friendship is Magic.

"We've had more interest from that than anything we've ever done," O'Connor said of The Shake Ups. "So we decided to keep going with it."

They even recently performed at a child's birthday party.

"It was a charming and really fun thing to do," O'Connor said. "I always wanted to do a children's album or something that's for all ages. This seemed like a good chance to do that."

It's not a gimmick for the band either. They actually do like My Little Pony, a cartoon that debuted as a movie in 1986. Even though it's geared toward adolescent girls, O'Connor, who's an anime fan, enjoys the show because it incorporates many of those characteristics. ( The online "Brony" subculture — bros plus ponies, natch — is worth a Google search.)

"It's got some really colorful characters and a lot of quirky humor," he said.

Though O'Connor is scratching many creative itches (a fourth vehicle, Destination: Earth!, is currently on hiatus), he's found they all have crossover appeal.

"People like to put bands in little boxes," he said. "But when you get down to it, there's really only two types of music: good and bad. It's everyone's guess which is which."

Wade Coggeshall

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