Thursday, December 18, 2008

One Last Show To Close The Year

The first time I saw Sister Hazel was at the Marathon County Fair in Wausau when they were promoting their first record. (OK, their second record...but the first one that had any commercial success.)

They flew in shortly before they were supposed to go on stage, and for whatever reason, their lead singer was on a separate flight, and his was delayed. So the show was held up for a bit, until the band decided to go on without the lead singer. Hard to expect much when that key member of a band is missing, right?

They rocked.
Musically impressive, and vocally, too.

Granted, the lead singer's unique voice was missing from the songs, but I can say that it was the best (only) performance I've ever seen by a band without its frontman.

Last night, I saw Sister Hazel for the third (or maybe fourth) time...quite a few years and a handful of records later. And if I tell you again that they rocked, I'm sure some opinionated music lovers might say, "Sister Hazel can't rock. It's musically impossible." some, Sister Hazel might be floofy. (not a technical musical term.) But a big fan. Judge me if you will.

They played at The Rave in Milwaukee, and while I've visited my share of intimate venues this year...I think "empty" better describes the room we were in last night. There was a cozy little group of a couple hundred of us around the stage, and the rest of the room...freeze some water and you could have a miniature hockey rink.

So this Sister Hazel experience was up close and personal.

There were two opening acts to start the evening...a young guy named Luke Mulholland, who had the blues and a booming killer voice implanted in him at birth (not to mention crazy good guitar skills) and another singer named Pat McGee, who my buddy's seen before, and who was equally as impressive. Both guys came out on the small stage alone, with guitar and mic, and impressed the small crowd.

Sister Hazel is made up of four guitar players and a drummer from Gainesville, Fla., and, unable to cope with the low temps and wind chills in Wisconsin, the four front members all sported the long-sleeve T-shirt under short-sleeve T-shirt fashion choice for the performance...with lead singer Ken Block's shirt proclaiming, "OBEY," on it.

After a 20-minute set by Mulholland, and a 45-minute set by McGee, there's only so much more musical entertainment you can squeeze out of a 16-dollar ticket, so Sister Hazel's set was little more than an hour, with two encores bringing that total to maybe an hour twenty.

Two-thirds of the way into the set, the band played the song that got the most air play, "All For You." But if you follow the band at all, the group's put out so many better songs on subsequent albums.

We were told that the set list rotates for every performance, and that our set was chosen by bassist Jett Beres, who, I swear, saw Kenny Loggins' look decades ago, copied it, and never looked back. They're twins.

Beres obviously liked more of the edgier, funkier tunes that the band has written...while I would have liked to hear more of their mushier, relationshippy stuff, which I think has more poetry in it. (to recap...this concert review contains the words "floofy," "mushier," and "relationshippy." Rolling Stone, here I come.)

It wasn't a bad concert by any means. Quite the contrary. Any time I can see Sister Hazel from a dozen feet away, I'm all in. But if I was choosing the set list, I would've gone with more weepy stuff. Maybe I'm just...weepy.

One highlight of the night was a song called, "Starfish," off of the record that broke 'em big. And while the song on the disc is nothing special...they rearranged it a little last night, added a banjo, and did it bluegrass-style.

Yep. That worked for me.

I don't know when I might get to see them again, but they're quickly becoming one of the handful of groups that I'll go see anywhere, any night, when they come through my state.

"Lend me your ear, and I'll
tell you about the things I fear.
Open your heart, and I'll tell you
why I'm torn apart, maybe.
Lend me your car, and we'll
go chase down a falling star.
Give me your hand, cause it
takes that fire to understand."
—Killing Me Too, Sister Hazel


  1. 1) Glad you had a good show

    2) Screw those narrowed minded folk who can't appreciate music

    3) One hour & twenty minutes...not NICE

    4) Starfish? I'm thinking that's not the same "Starfish & Coffee" by Prince whom Nathanson does a better rendition?

    5) No "Change Your Mind"...???...damn, wrong set

  2. Yeah, they played "Change Your Mind." Good good song.

    And nope...not Prince's "Starfish & Coffee."