Photo Credit: Todd & Chris Owyoung

RoseCatherine James and Samira Nematollahi 

Hootie & the Blowfish is back in Columbia for the first time in eighteen years. Wrapping up their “Group Therapy” national tour with the Barenaked Ladies, the Columbia natives ended up having to add two extra shows to their stop to account for the outpour of enthusiasm. 

Opening the show, the Barenaked Ladies put on a remarkable, and often laugh-inducing, performance. They played fan-favorites such as “One Week” and “If I Had $1,000,000,” but also surprised the audience by performing mash-up covers of hits old and new such as “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X and “Another One Bites The Dust” by Queen. Unexpected covers continued from the Barenaked Ladies to the headliners, Hootie & the Blowfish – namely, “Losing My Religion” by R.E.M. and “Hey Hey What Can I Do” by Led Zeppelin. Introducing their cover of the former song, Darius Rucker, lead singer of Hootie & the Blowfish, cited the band R.E.M. as one of their biggest influences in their early days. 

The band, on hiatus since 2008, formed in 1986 while attending the University of South Carolina. While many believe the band was an overnight success with the hit of their album Crack Rear View, which has sold over 16 million copies in the U.S. alone, South Carolinians know differently. Darius Rucker, Mark Bryan, Dean Felber, and Jim ‘Soni’ Sonefeld began playing at frat parties and in five points bars gathering local buzz. 

Throughout Hootie & the Blowfish’s performance, their set design reflected back on their start at UofSC. Each song came with a different background image, and one in particular featured a bar, much like one that they likely had performed at before, with rolling images of their time at South Carolina and early band promotional materials. Their performance of the song “Let Her Cry” was also coupled with a large image of the southern restaurant chain Waffle House, an establishment that they have referenced before in their music with their album Scattered, Smothered, and Covered. 

As a young college band, Hootie & the Blowfish were often featured on WUSC – UofSC’s student run radio station. As a non-top 40 station the band has grown so popular that it can no longer be played on the station that claimed them thirty years ago. Current WUSC DJs now hear the tales of playing Hootie before they were known and wait to look for the next big band to come out of Columbia and WUSC. 

Mark Bryan, Hootie’s lead guitarist and WUSC alumnus, now has fourteen albums under his belt, three of which were solo projects. Joining the station as a Freshman, Bryan went on air weekly from 3-6 a.m. discovering new music and highlighting artists that many other Columbia stations would not. His senior year Bryan worked to gather underwriting for the station from a local bar that his bandmates, Rucker and Felber worked at. “It was one of the most fun things I did in college,” Bryan explained. 

Citing WUSC as one of the reasons he came to UofSC, Bryan, now an adjunct professor at College of Charleston, Bryan looks back fondly at his time at WUSC and the university. “It became a really cool part of my life. It’s a great memory that I have, and it also was a 

foundation for a ton of music that I still listen to today and probably some of what I write today.” 

With a new album debuting November 1, 2019 Hootie & the Blowfish gave Colonial life arena a sneak peak, playing two songs from the album Imperfect circle.