Hootie & the Blowfishs Homegrown Concert and Roundup about giving back, investing in future
By Harris Cohen | Wednesday, August 15, 2012
If you go
What: Hootie & the Blowfish’s 10th annual Homegrown Concert, featuring Justin Moore, Early Ray, Southwood, The Blue Dogs and Collective Soul
When: Gates open at 6 p.m. Friday, at noon Saturday for the afternoon show and at 6 p.m. Saturday for the evening show
Where: Family Circle Tennis Center, 161 Seven Farms Drive, Daniel Island
Price: Tickets for the evening shows start at $35; tickets for the afternoon show are $5 or free with evening show ticket
For more info: www.familycirclecup.com
Many musicians, actors and actresses, and other celebrities support charities, but South Carolina’s Hootie & the Blowfish have become well-known for charity work in addition to their music.
They lay out their vision on their website, hootie.com:
“The children in our state are our best resource and our most hopeful investment. With proper funding, our children can receive a well-rounded and meaningful education based in practical studies and the arts,” Darius Rucker is quoted as saying.
The band meshes its duty to this philosophy, saying the group has a responsibility to use its celebrity status to help improve the lives of those in need, especially children.
Among Rucker’s numerous commitments, he has headlined a concert in Florida that provided funding for kids through fitness, nutrition and life-skill programs; performed a concert of Frank Sinatra songs to benefit the MUSC Children’s Hospital; headlined Divas Nashvegas for a Nashville, Tenn., facility that helps homeless and at-risk teens; and he held his third annual “Darius and Friends” concert and golf tournament for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
And there are other events scheduled, including a concert to benefit youth education in Virginia.
“We feel a responsibility to give back, but it’s also what we want to do,” Rucker said regarding charity.
When asked where this began, Rucker recalls a childhood memory, “Back in the day, when I was little, a neighbor’s husband was away in the military. Mom told my brother to go cut her grass. He knew without it being said that if he came back with money, he was a dead man. This left an indelible impression on helping people and just doing the right thing.”
And while the band does “the right thing” for children nationwide, it’s the kids a little closer to home that hold a special place for the quartet that got its start at the University of South Carolina.
In 2000, the Hootie & the Blowfish Foundation was established with the purpose of benefiting the children of South Carolina through education and school music programs. Since that time, it has grown into a national campaign.
In the early 2000’s, Hootie & the Blowfish performed a six-city tour through the Southeast to benefit public education. Fans were asked to bring school supplies to be redistributed to the community schools.
At the inaugural Hootie & the Blowfish Homegrown Concert in Charleston, fans brought so many pencils, rulers, notebooks, folders and other materials that the donations filled a 55-passenger school bus.
Then, during a trip to Texas, the band saw an event where services were provided to students.
Lead guitarist Mark Bryan remembers thinking what a great idea that was, saying, “We couldn’t give back more directly than that.”
That led to the band establishing Hootie’s Homegrown Roundup in 2007 in conjunction with, but separate from, the concert.
What began 10 years ago with that initial request for school supplies has grown to what foundation director Chris Carney calls “not just a fundraiser but a community event.”
And while Rucker said he gets enjoyment in performing for charity and satisfaction in knowing the items and funds generated aid the beneficiaries, he said his favorite part has always been interacting with the kids.
“It’s a great feeling being up close and I’m blessed with a life that allows me to do this. I love just hanging out with the kids and doing whatever they want to do,” Rucker said.
This year, Hootie’s Homegrown Roundup will assist 1,700 high-poverty students from eight Charleston-area elementary schools. The Charleston County School District rotates eight schools through the Roundup each year to share the benefits with as many student as possible.
“This event has been such a wonderful partnership with Hootie and the community,” said Shelia Grier, director of downtown community education for the Charleston County School District.
“The supplies and services make it easier for the kids to be prepared for the school year. We have seen the positive effects of closing the gap among students and helping to raise graduation rates. The event has also engaged leaders and others in the community to volunteer and participate in additional ways in the education process in Charleston.”
Alexa Devine, event manager at Empire Sports that was brought on board to manage the event as it has expanded, said, “This event has grown to not only supplies, but also to essential services.”
Dental checkups, eye exams and even haircuts are provided to the children.
“The dentists, optometrists and barbers were friends of the band and golf buddies. They were more than happy to help out,” Rucker said. “Unselfishly, they don’t worry about the costs to time and they bring their assistants.”
“It’s not just the band but the whole community giving through this platform,” Bryan said.
Carney added that there are fun activities planned for the kids registered for the noon-4 p.m. event Saturday at Burke High School, 244 President St.
Those still interested in donating supplies can do so today and Friday at any of the following official drop sites: Lowcountry Plastic Surgery Center, Crab Shack, Qdoba, Great Clips, Homes for Heroes, Kevin’s Transmission, Roof Top Bar at Vendue Inn, Atlantic Bedding & Furniture, Angels and Rascals, Bayer Heritage Federal Credit Union, Papa Murphy’s, Shades of Charleston, Tides Folly Beach/Blu Restaurant and Ye Olde Music Shop.
Taking the stage
And let’s not forget the Homegrown Concert, which helped start this whole movement.
There are two concerts, actually, due to popularity and demand, as a second day and show were added last year.
In addition to the strong opening acts of upcoming country star Justin Moore on Friday night and ’90s rock mainstay Collective Soul on Saturday night, there’s a three-band show starting at 1 p.m. Saturday (gates open at noon). The lineup consists of Rock Hill’s edgy country boy Earl Ray and, from Charleston, pop-rock Southwood and country-rock Blue Dogs.
Though Hootie & the Blowfish doesn’t actively tour, only playing a couple of shows a year, Rucker admitted the band only rehearses the day before the Homegrown Concert.
“It’s like riding a bike. We’ve been friends for 25 years. We all walk into the room and everything falls into place,” he said.
Rucker also admitted that playing in Charleston brings more than the normal pre-show nervousness because there are so many people he and his bandmates know in the audience, though it’s short-lived.
“Those feelings fall away once we start playing as we’re there to have fun,” he said. “Charleston is the best. We’re with friends and it is such a great feeling to see the audience singing and dancing the whole way through.”
Bryan agreed, adding, “As we haven’t been playing but a few concerts per year for some time, these are our biggest shows of the year. It’s amazing. It sells out, tailgating even. The little butterflies immediately turn to positive energy once on stage.”
Beyond the Blowfish
When the lead singer becomes the de facto face of a band, there can be the unrelenting temptation to pursue a solo career.
Peter Cetera left Chicago and never returned. David Ford left Easyworld, and that was the end of the band.
On the other side of the spectrum is South Carolina’s own Rob Thomas, who found success with his platinum solo album, “Something To Be,” in 2005 and won three Grammy’s on Carlos Santana’s hit “Smooth” in 1999, but says he never left Matchbox Twenty to do so; in fact, they have a new album set to be released in September.
Rucker said he is firmly in the latter category.
“There’s at least one more album and tour in us. My solo career and country music is just my day job.”
In the meantime, Rucker will be releasing his third solo album early next year with a supporting tour to follow. The first single, “True Believer,” is schedule to be released within the next couple of weeks.
Even with the huge success of this first two solo albums and being awarded the Country Music Association’s 2009 New Artist of the Year Award, Rucker feels no pressure regarding the upcoming release.
“With the first album, I had no expectations and I was just blown away and humbled with its success. I thanked God,” Rucker said.
For his second one, “Charleston, SC 1966,” he said, there was a lot of pressure to prove his country debut was not a fluke.
“This one is a simple ‘Thank You’ to all the people who bought the other ones,” Rucker said.
His new solo album will be a progression from his last album and less introspective in its subject matter.
“This one will sound a little different. More R&B mixed in and it will rock a little more but it is definitely country,” Rucker explained, jokingly adding, “Country enough, more or less country.”
In addition to Rucker’s successful solo career, the other members of the band have been keeping busy in music and other ventures.
Lead guitarist Bryan just released a new single, “If You Saw Her,” that is receiving airplay on The Bridge radio station, and he’s expected to play it at the concert. Drummer Jim “Soni” Sonefeld recorded a worship album, and bassist Dean Felber bought and is managing Perception Wines Winery.
When pushed further for a probability of a new group album given the band’s last studio album, “Looking For Lucky,” was released seven years ago, Rucker said, “One-hundred percent. No doubt.”
With 2014 being the 20th anniversary of the release of “Cracked Rear View,” Rucker said the timing is perfect.
When asked, “So 2014 is going to be the year of Hootie?” Rucker simply replied, “And the Blowfish.”