The electric crowd horseshoed around the community room stage area on Friday night, clapping with the rhythm as the one-man act continued long past the Ore Dock Brewing Company’s midnight closing time. Trying to wrap up multiple times, it finally took three encores before the crowd finally let him leave the stage.
Cousin Curtiss, born Curtiss O’Rorke Stedman, just kept smiling the whole time.
“I really didn’t know what to expect tonight, but this has just been way too awesome,” O’Rorke Stedman said to the crowd.
Friday was the second of three shows for O’Rorke Stedman in his Marquette stop. He played at the Wild Rover on Wednesday to a packed house.
This tour started up in Alaska, where O’Rorke Stedman is a high school English teacher in Juneau. Despite this being his fourth and largest tour, he continues to make his musical pilgrimage each year to the town that gave him his start in music.
While a student at Northern Michigan University, he started organizing open mic nights in the resident halls lobbies. As student groups would sell grilled cheese sandwiches to the students coming back to the dorms, O’Rorke Stedman would be there with a guitar and a harmonica to keep the kids in for the night.
“That’s really how the whole Marquette following started,” he said. “People would come back from a party and instead of trying to go downtown, they would stay and listen.”
As he gained popularity, the lobby open mics turned into gigs at different bars and night clubs and the creation of a band called “The Lovers”. With each performance, the musician would meet more and more people through town. The networking led to a chance to perform with another Northern Michigan product in country singer Jason LeVasseur.
“We hit it off at an open mic and had a lot in common,” O’Rorke Stedman said. “As much as we tried to stay in touch, we didn’t really stay in touch. But when he returned, we met back up for a show. Instead of an open mic though it would be a show and I would be opening act.”
The increased exposure and connection to LeVasseur led to Orourke Stedman’s first album recording in 2008. He is now on his third album, a five-song EP titled “Feast of Thrills” which is available on iTunes and Spotify.
Marquette music fans are still supporting Cousin Curtiss, despite him moving away. His last show in Marquette was almost a year ago to the day, at the Wild Rover on June 26, 2013.
“The Marquette fan base is still strong. I’ve gained new fans as new generations of students come to the area,” he said. “The same faces I’ve seen when I went to school, I haven’t really lost them. I just play in new areas.”
O’Rorke Stedman does not have a manager, so he handles all tour dates, merchandising and travel himself. The control allows him to have more control over when and where he plays. Most of the tour dates are at microbreweries and locations that promote locally-brewed beer.
The vast differences in microbreweries give him the ability to learn about people that turn hobbies to jobs help with the business side of his work.
“At each stop I get to talk to an owner or a manager and find why they brew what they brew or if they bottle or can or stick to just the brewery. Marquette has two microbreweries in Ore Dock and Blackrocks that started up at practically the same time and have two vastly different systems. That helps when you have to figure out what kind of stuff will make your money back,” he said.
O’Rorke Stedman’s last show in Marquette will be at the Wild Rover at 9 p.m. before heading downstate. For more information, visit www.CousinCurtiss.com.