Partying with Pat
Pat McCurdy, a local fan favorite, is back after a three-month absence
by Trevor Kupfer
As the Stones Throw venue rapidly packs in a crowd and the red-tinted lights beat down on the small concrete stage, the anticipation swells into a thick smog. The clock ticks toward 11 p.m., the time the next performer will step onto the stage.
Although the performer has given virtually the same solo show for 17 years now, the audience has come to expect it will be surprised.
With dance parties, obligatory slow dances, sing-alongs, stage invitations and lap dances, Pat McCurdy's concerts have become highlighted events rather than live shows, said fan and senior Alex Galston.
"(McCurdy) rocked," he said of his fifth McCurdy concert.
"It was good to see him back. He was definitely in full form, and it was great to hear some new songs."
After a three-month absence from Eau Claire, McCurdy repeatedly told fans how great it was to be back in front of what was the greatest audience he has ever had in one of the greatest cities in which he has ever played.
With growing popularity in Minnesota, Illinois and his home state of Wisconsin, McCurdy said Eau Claire is a recent favorite.
"Up until a few years ago, we couldn't get a show here," he said, "but I love Eau Claire. The last time I was here we had the whole balcony with their pants off ... let's try and do that again tonight."
For what McCurdy would call "Pat Virgins," trying to describe one of his shows without any experience is certainly a hard thing to do.
"I can't really compare Pat's shows to anything," McCurdy veteran and senior Scott Heatwole said. "He's like a one-man comedy act."
McCurdy's songs range from "Camping with Lesbians," "Ruin my Life" and "Choking the Gopher" to the always popular 80s and 90s covers and "Sex and Beer." However, on top of his regular set list, McCurdy plays around with variations of Irish songs and dances as well as country songs sung with the lyrics of Gwen Stefani, Lil' John and Juvenile.
Over the years, McCurdy said, he has played over a thousand songs, making his set lists for each individual show very versatile. However, there are certain favorites McCurdy always plays, because he feels that's what he is paid for, he said.
With songs dealing with topics all over the board, McCurdy says he draws inspiration from all over the place. Merely based on the content of his shows - with references to Paris Hilton, "Napoleon Dynamite," "Office Space," Britney Spears and "American Idol," to name a few - it becomes obvious the type of media junkie McCurdy seems to be.
"I listen to lots of radio and read lots of newspapers," he said.
Although McCurdy has released eight albums, his music remains geared for a live show experience, he said. The hard-working artist is nearly booked every day for the rest of the year, according to road manager Brian Murphy, meaning McCurdy will play a different city every day for more than three months straight.
"Pat has a wife and two kids that he watches during the day, but at night, he's on the road playing yet another show," Murphy said of his long-time friend who sang at his wedding. "He has even played as many as five shows in one day, all in different cities."
Even though McCurdy has reached a fan base and popularity that he said is the highest it's ever been, he wants to stay a star of the Midwest.
"I would hate to have people telling me what to do," McCurdy said of the prospect of nationwide stardom. "Plus, this way, I never play to an empty house."
However, when he was just getting started at the ripe age of 20, he almost accidentally broke into international stardom on the opening season of "Star Search." Although his band didn't win, McCurdy said the entire show was a fix, just like much of the reality TV we see today. However, he said he is glad his popularity didn't explode in a similar fashion to ex-winners Justin Timberlake, Alanis Morissette or Usher.
McCurdy said with the state of the music scene today, one of his shows may just be a refreshing surprise in contrast to what is often released.
"I like any song or music that surprises me, but so few modern songs are that way," he said. "In most videos today, you see a bleached-blonde guy with a guitar on a beach singing a song like: 'I'm depressed because I'm so good looking' ... and 'Hollaback Girl' isn't the definition of music, is it?"
Recently, McCurdy has begun efforts to help Hurricane Katrina victims. Of every item that he sells for the next month or so, $1 will be donated to the Red Cross.
"I gotta do something," he said. "It's infuriating, because I can't imagine something like this happening in Boston ... anywhere else, they'd have sent ships with supplies."
For this fall and winter season, McCurdy and Stones Throw have agreed on three more shows spaced out about one every five to seven weeks. Also, he has shown great interest in beginning an annual show in Zorn Arena, but the details of such a show have yet to pan out.
"I'm definitely planning to see him again," Galston said. "His shows are a great place to meet people and party."