Cracked Rear View Turns 20, What Does That Mean?


Not much, really, would be the short answer, though at the time it was a pretty big deal around these parts. Columbia, South Carolina was not exactly a hotbed of popular music, or even a ‘hip scene’ like Athens, Georgia or the Triangle area in North Carolina. The anomaly that was Hootie & the Blowfish wasn’t even really much a part of the original music scene in Columbia, anyway, as their fan base came from years of playing the cover band bar circuit. One of the most fun cover bands of their time at USC, the guys covered everything from the Police, U2 and R.E.M. (lots and lots of R.E.M.), to Hank Williams, Jr. and obscure tunes from the likes of 54-40, The Rave-Ups, and The Replacements.

My own personal experience with the guys in Hootie comes mostly from that time, when as a USC freshman I spent many Friday nights at their gigs in Pappy’s, the local college burger joint and bar across the street from our collective dorms. Serving as a DJ at WUSC alongside Hootie guitarist Mark Bryan meant I heard the original versions of most of those ‘obscure’ tunes the band was covering. Mark, Darius, Soni, and Dean were as much music fans as they were musicians, and these early years hashing out others’ songs were invaluable experiences.

What folks who weren’t there for the pre-Cracked Rear View years don’t know or don’t realize is that the band worked hard for years in the same kinds of crappy college bars, even after they started playing more and more of their own original music. They were successful not just because they got lucky but because when it was their turn to be lucky they were ready to capitalize on that luck and translate it into a career.

Cracked Rear View, in hindsight, came along at just the right time and place in music business history. Grunge music, the raging genre of the time, imploded with the death of Kurt Cobain and I think the public was just ready for some sunnier-sounding material. “Hold My Hand” isn’t Dylan or the Beatles, but it certainly is easy to sing along with, as are “Let Her Cry” and “Only Wanna Be With You”, the other big hits from the album. The irony is that for the most part the album is full of fairly serious topics, from the flag protest “Drowning” to songs about deaths in the family, “Going Home” and “Not Even The Trees.” Don Gehman’s production kept everything sounding upbeat and positive, however, so the overall effect was still fairly uplifting especially compared to what was on the charts at the time. My personal favorites are two of the less-played tracks, “Time” and “Hannah Jane,” both feature good harmony singing on the choruses and catchy wordplay that’s not quite as trite as the big hits.

From a local standpoint the most important outcome was the proof that lightning could strike in Columbia; whether it would again didn’t matter as much as the fact that it had, once. A blessing and a curse at the same time, now every band wanted to be as successful as Hootie, and many of them thought they deserved to be even if they were wrong. Not for lack of trying, several acts attempted to follow in the band’s footsteps with varying degrees of success. Cravin Melon, Edwin McCain, Treadmill Trackstar, Jump Little Children, all of them had major deals for a while; none of them kept them for long (though McCain had some hits including a #1 single, “I’ll Be”).

There will never be another Hootie & the Blowfish, from Columbia or anywhere else, given the current upheavals in the music business; the band itself has said they are still interested in pursuing one last album together at some point. Given Rucker’s current hit country music career, that might not happen for a while, however. Until then, throw Cracked Rear View on for another spin, it’s held up well for its age.

You Can’t Go Home Again? Tell That To Rockafellas Reunion


They say you can’t go home again…in the case of the dedicated patrons of the long-shuttered Columbia music scene landmark Rockafellas, that has been true, up until now.

Closed in 1998, the tiny venue hosted a staggering number of touring acts during its decade-and-a-half run, everyone from Roger McGuinn of the Byrds to The Flaming Lips, shock rockers Impotent Sea Snakes to Aussie college radio faves Hoodoo Gurus, hardcore from G.B.H., Stretch Armstrong, and more, a lot more. Rockafellas was also a breeding ground and training facility for local bands, which brings us to this month’s Rockafellas Reunion event on Saturday, October 26th. The show will feature a slate of local acts that once called the club home, including Isabelle’s Gift, Kindread Soul, Danielle Howle and her current band Firework Show, and Myrtle Beach band Dead Cut Tree.

Chris Sutton of Isabelle’s Gift was instrumental in organizing this year’s event, the third such ‘Reunion’ but the first to be staged inside the walls of the original club, now open as Jake’s Bar & Grill.

 “My idea was pretty simple. I wanted to put together a gig comprised solely of local bands who not only played at Rockafellas on a regular basis, but bands who’d put in their time there. I wanted the bands who stood the test of time and earned their spot the hard way. It builds a different type of appreciation and I only wanted groups who, at least at their core, would look back down that bar one last time as they were performing and feel MOVED.”

So, they say you can’t go home again…on the 26th, we’ll just have to see about that.

The show is on Saturday October 26th. Tickets are $15 and are available at Brown Paper Tickets, here,  and Jake’s. It’s an early gig and the doors open at 6:00pm. The show starts at 6:45 and will be over at 11:00pm. The order of bands is Dead Cut Tree, Kindread Soul, Danielle Howle + Firework Show, Isabelle’s Gift. There will be a costume contest and DJ Scott Padgett will be out on the deck. There’s also an after party at The Art Bar for anyone who is interested.

For more on why Rockafellas was such a big deal, see my previous posts from last year’s BOA reunion at the Jam Room Festival and the series of memories I posted in 2007 on the occasion of the first Rockafellas Reunion shows by clicking here. (keep scrolling to read the older posts, and click “Older” at the bottom for a few more.)

April Video A Day: Pocket Buddha, “Wanderer”

The UU Coffeehouse series in Columbia is the longest-running listening room environment in the area, bringing in national folk acts on a regular basis for close to two decades now. In recent seasons they have begun to feature more local talent along with the headliners, including this acoustic group, Pocket Buddha, who opened a show there last fall. Featuring Darren Woodlief on lead vocals, this song was written by band members Julia Englund and Ken Mixon, who add harmony parts. With this and others in their set, they brought a bit of groove-rock energy to the more typically laid-back UU.

April Video of the Day: The Spring Standards, “Queen of the Lot”

After posting their new music video last night, had to follow up with today’s pick from the live video archive, a song from The Spring Standards’ only Columbia, SC appearance: June of 2010, opening for Wakey! Wakey! at the New Brookland Tavern. This is one of my favorite songs of theirs, check the channel for the rest of their set from this show as well as most of the headliner’s, too.