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With its first major-label release the Pat McGee Band hopes its grassroots fan base sprouts legions of admirers. 

Ready for Prime Time

When it comes to the rock 'n' roll game, Pat McGee seems to have his head screwed on straight. His band's first major-label record, "Shine," hits stores Tuesday, April 11, and there are months of steady touring and promotional stops ahead. McGee knows there is a lot riding on the next few months. But he's cautiously optimistic about a chance for bigger things.

"This is by far the most exciting time," McGee says while hanging out at his West End home as he gears up for a spring tour that will take his band throughout the South and East and north to Canada after a stop at Mulligan's on West Broad Street Saturday, April 15. "I never thought it'd get to this."

Since its formation in early 1996, the Pat McGee Band has experienced phenomenal grassroots success not unlike that of the Dave Matthews Band before its first major-label release. The band is a favorite on the East Coast college circuit and has sold out top national clubs such as New York's Irving Plaza, Chicago's House of Blues and the 9:30 Club in Washington. In July 1998, the band even sold out the more than 7,000 seats at Wolf Trap's Filene Center in Vienna.

McGee hopes the band's course of attack for the past four years, touring the country and steadily building wide-ranging fan support, will now start to pay off. He says the band had other offers, but waited to sign with major-label Giant until the right time. But McGee tempers his enthusiasm with a healthy shot of restraint. He admits he doesn't hear a lot of his band's acoustic-based, middle-of-the-road rock on the radio. He also knows that big corporate advertising bucks can only do so much. The Pat McGee Band has always been about winning lots of fans for the band, and not about winning fans for an ill-timed fluke hit tune.

"I hope radio is not our biggest disappointment," McGee says, "[but] there's no real reason to build up hope." He wants to sell CDs but for the right reasons. "I would hope it wouldn't sell due to advertising [only]," he says, "…that [people] would buy it because of word of mouth. That's the way this band has been from day one." As proof, the band has sold more than 100,000 copies of its three independent-release CDs, "Revel," "from the wood" and "General Admission."

Regardless of how "Shine" sells, McGee is pleased with the sound and the songs and with his first experience with corporate rock perks. First off, the band had the run of a studio high in California's Marin County hills from November to January. Former Talking Head and seasoned producer Jerry Harrison was brought in to head the project and the creative vibe was right. McGee has written or co-written more tunes for this recording than for past efforts. Musically, the band was tight and ready. Harrison kept them on the mark while letting the band's familiar lyrically driven, guitar and percussion sound through.

"He was very laid back," McGee remembers. "He let us do what we wanted to do, once we were past the rhythm tracks. There was no pressure. Everything you did, you did it 12 times anyway."

"Shine's" success remains to be seen. Based on sales, the band could record as many as six records or as few as two for Giant. But McGee says he's ready for whatever comes his way. He knows the band can always tour successfully regardless of radio or records. The music will find its way.

"Where the hell do I fit?" he asks. "If [radio] programmers decide ... it's frightening to think it's come to that.

"But I'm glad we waited. We're psyched. It'll find its way to people's homes
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