INsite Magazine

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sister Hazel spends a weekend in Gainesville

Gainesville natives Sister Hazel played two shows this weekend. John Davisson was there to take some photos, enjoy the music and get the scoop on the band's charity event. To see a photo slideshow of the weekend's events, check out our Web site.


Sister Hazel performed at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts on the UF campus Friday night (Sept. 18) to support their latest album, Release. Release has already become the band’s highest-charting album ever, entering the Billboard Top 200 at No. 37, and reaching No. 1 on the iTunes rock chart. No surprise then that the Gainesville show was sold out.

Their Gainesville shows always seem to sell out, as Hazelnuts come from all over to celebrate with the band’s friends and family. To me, they are still a local band, even though they have been releasing albums for years. The show in Gainesville was a great celebration of new material and of the material that launched their careers.

And they are still grooving with modern technology; it’s not enough to have a Web site, a Myspace and a Facebook; now they regularly tweet to more than 400,000 Hazeltwits via their Twitter.

For Release, everybody contributed songs, and the diversity was reflected in the live show. It featured guitarist Ryan Newell’s songs “Release” and “Take a Bow,” Ken Block’s “Walls & Cannonballs,” and plenty of songs by Ken Block and Andrew Copeland. Copeland played a piano ballad and rocked a Gator guitar (the band was going to the Tennessee game the next day).
The band also covered Tom Petty’s “American Girl” while Tom’s former drummer Stan Lynch (who co-wrote two songs with Copeland) played drums. Stan stuck around to play guitar on the next song. Throw in a Molly Hatchet cover and it was a well-rounded Southern-rock show.

Aslyn opened the show playing solo, just her and a piano. Although she is now based in Atlanta, she grew up in Chiefland and her parents were at the show; it was family event for both bands.

There was also a packed after-party where the band mingled with friends, fans and Hazelnuts. Nobody gives back to the fans as much as Sister Hazel, who always seem to be smiling and will sign almost anything you ask for.


September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and Saturday, Sept. 19 was the first annual Lyrics for Life Day. Sister Hazel played a benefit show at Common Grounds that night.

Frontman Ken Block founded Lyrics for Life in memory of his younger brother Jeffrey, who ultimately lost his four-year battle with cancer. The charity raises money through concerts and auctions for organizations that work to find a cure or aim to help patients and their families. Ken said he wants everyone to “set one day aside to help spread the word and make a difference in our fight against pediatric cancer."
The day began with a meet-and-greet at Beef O’Brady’s on 43rd Street, where the band took donations and sold merchandise, CDs and the last tickets for the Common Grounds show for Lyrics for Life.

Hazelnuts were there to get autographs and pictures with the band members. One guy had a guitar autographed (nothing unusual there) and one guy had a stuffed corn hat autographed (that’s probably unusual). One fan showed off his calf tattoo of Super Ken, while another showed me her tattoo on her foot of Sister Hazel; I think tattoos take fandom to a new level.
That night (after the football game), the band took the stage at Common Grounds for a hot, sweaty performance. Aslyn opened the show again and played a great set of her own songs and a couple of covers.

Sister Hazel’s set, though lacking some of the production values of the larger venue, was even more exhilarating, due to the close proximity to the fans and the nostalgia of returning to their old stomping grounds. In their Gainesville days, Sister Hazel played many shows at Common Grounds (then known as the Covered Dish) and Ken talked about how playing there in the past was like sitting at the “cool kids’ table."

After the show, you’ll never guess what happened. Yep, more meet-and-greet and autographs. If you wanted a Sister Hazel autograph this weekend and didn’t get, you weren’t trying.

—Story and photos by John Davisson

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