My experiences with Hootie and the Blowfish began in January 1995 when I saw the video for "Hold My Hand" on MTV.

      That following summer, I got their first album Cracked Rear View. That fall, I got the two-hour video Summer Camps With Trucks.

      In February 1996, I wrote the band a fan letter. I wasn't expecting any response back since I figured that they didn't have time to write me back with all the fan mail they probably get as well as their busy schedule with a new album coming out in April.

      That March, I got the surprise of my life. I got back to the dorm after class one evening, stopped by my mailbox to get my mail, and found a postcard waiting for me. It was from Mark Bryan.

My postcard from Mark

      I was so excited. My favorite band actually took the time to respond to a simple letter that I wrote them.

      That following April 23rd, I got done with class, went to dinner, and immediately went out to the mall to find Fairweather Johnson, Hootie and the Blowfish's second album. Of the three stores that I went into, only one had the album, and I got the only copy.

      In the fall of 1996, I started grad school at BGSU, and on Monday, September 16th, I ran across this ad in the school's paper:

      I was excited. My favorite band was going to be playing only about 20 minutes away!

      I got to the Ticket Master outlet at the Kroger store in Bowling Green that Saturday morning at about 9:00am. I'd heard on the radio that they went on sale at 10:15am. I was sixth in line, and got my ticket.

      Sunday, October 20th was an exciting day. I played both of Hootie and the Blowfish's albums and watched the video all day until I left a little before 5:00pm.

      I got out on the interstate to head north up to Toledo, and of all the times for it to happen, I started having car trouble. I got up to 65mph and the "Service Engine Soon" light kept coming on. I almost started panicking. Every time I pulled over, the light would turn off. Finally, I was able to go at about 55mph and keep the light off.

      I got up to Savage Hall and was parking in one of the back lots to the northeast of the building, and who should I see go jogging past but somebody who looked like Mark Bryan (the member of the band who wrote me the postcard last spring). It didn't hit me until after he was in the building that it was Mark. Apparently, he was out jogging around campus.

      Anyways, I went up to the main doors on the east side of the building and found out that they weren't going to be opened until 7:00pm. It was 5:30pm at the time, so I decided to walk around and see what was going on. I walked around the north side of the building where the big overhead doors are and where the band's trucks and busses were parked, and I noticed that the one overhead door was open. I could see technicians running around inside, but didn't see any members of the band, so I continued on. I walked around to the west side of the building, didn't see anything going on, and then walked back past the north side of the building. As I passed where I could see the open overhead door, I saw somebody who looked like Jim "Soni" Sonefeld getting on a treadmill that was just inside the door. I continued walking thinking that it couldn't possibly be Soni and then turned around and went back for a second look. Sure enough, it was Soni. A couple minutes later, some kids came by and began waving to him. He waved back, and about 15 minutes later, he got off the treadmill and came over to talk to us. He told us, "I guess you guys want to talk to me since it's cloudy, and you can't be here looking up at the stars." He signed his autograph for the kids, and then he signed the postcard that Mark had sent me and my ticket stub.

      While Soni was talking to us, we got to meet Elvis, the band's mixed-breed dog that they had on tour with them.

      Soni then had to go in and start getting ready for the concert, and he told me that he'd tell Mark that I was there. Right after he left, a couple of security people, including Paul Grahme, asked us to move away from the trucks (there were apparently people sleeping in them) and move over to the doors that lead to the locker rooms. I went over there until about 6:40pm and then, figuring Mark was busy with the concert and unable to come out, went around to the west entrance and got in line for when the doors opened. I later found out that Mark had indeed come out to see me just after I left.

      The concert started at 8:00pm with They Might Be Giants opening. They played until about 8:30 and then the stage was arranged for Hootie.

      Hootie came on stage at 9:00 and played until about 10:15 or 10:30. They then did three encores which kept them on stage until 11:30. They played all but a couple of songs from their albums, a couple of their songs that I've never heard, and some songs from other artists. Included was "Wipeout" and (I can't remember the name of) the song where the lines that keep getting repeated are "Don't give me no lines, and keep your hands to yourself." The last time Darius got to those lines at the end of the song, he changed it to "Don't give me no lines, and keep that big thing to yourself." The audience lost it at that point. What I couldn't believe was how so many people were getting up and leaving between encores while the band was offstage. They missed out on a great portion of the show. The band said that they did the encores because it was Soni's birthday, we were a great crowd, and we were having a great time.

      After the show, I purchased the tour T-shirt from one of the vendors out in the lobby. I then decided to walk around some and see what was going on. I went around to the north side of the building and joined a group of about two dozen people who were at the outside doors to the locker rooms behind the busses. A little while later, Darius Rucker came out and got on the bus. We were at first disappointed that he wasn't signing autographs, but then one of the security people said something about how Darius had been getting some threats or something recently.

      Dean Felber then came out and got on the bus, and a few minutes later, he came back out to sign autographs. He signed my postcard and ticket stub, too. He then rolled a cigarette, lit up, and said good night to all of us. A few minutes later, Darius came back out and signed autographs, too, and he signed my postcard and ticket stub. Then, Peter Holsapple, band's background musician, came out and talked to us and signed autographs. Unfortunately, I didn't get his autograph, but it was neat to get to meet him, especially since he was in the video I have from the band's tour last summer (1995).

      Soni then came out and signed autographs. He saw me and asked me if I got to talk to Mark yet and told me that he'd come out just after I'd left earlier before the show. I then got to shake his hand, and then he and the other guys in the band and their wives got into a couple vans that were waiting for them. I saw Mark briefly, but unfortunately, didn't get to talk to him. They then went out to one of the area bars to party and celebrate Soni's birthday. I watched until the vans were out of sight, and then headed for home.

      When I got to my car, I found a couple stickers placed under one of my wiper blades advertising the concert.

      I got home at about 1:30am that night. I was really exhausted, but yet I felt really good.

      The souvenirs didn't end with the concert either. That following Tuesday, I was at a laundromat and was reading the Sunday edition of the Toledo Blade when I ran across a nice article on Hootie and the Blowfish.

      I, of course, kept the section of the paper that the article was in and took it home.

      It was quite an experience to go to my first concert, see my favorite band perform, and even get to meet them.

      I sent the band a Christmas card with a small letter inside for Christmas 1996. It reached it's destination as I got a postcard back saying that I was now on the mailing list for the fan club. As for whether or not the guys actually got it, I don't know. I told them about this webpage, and I'm hoping that they'll see it and hopefully remember me.

      In May 1997, I found Hootie's Tucker's Town CD and bought it.

      In June 1997, I got the band's logo tattooed on my left ankle.

      In the fall of 1998, I got Musical Chairs and loved it. I also got the Koochypop CD when it was offered on the band's website. I've also gotten Mark and Darius's albums as well as Scattered, Smothered, and Covered.

      Of course, I'll always be keeping my Hootie pride.

Darius, Mark, Dean, and Soni: If you guys get to this webpage and read this, please know that you'll always have a fan and a friend in me!!!

Kevin L. Wagner

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