Band set to perform two sold-out shows at the Keswick Theatre
STORY WRITTEN BY ROB NAGY
For Digital First Media
In the summer of 1980, an unknown Celtic folk rock group called “The Hooters” played their debut gig at Maddie’s Place in Levittown, Pennsylvania. No one at that time, not even the band, could have imagined the massive success that would descend upon the Philly based quintet.
Offering a unique blend of guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, mandolin, saxophone and their signature hooter (aka melodica), The Hooters became known as one of rock’s hardest working bands. Playing high schools, colleges and clubs throughout the tri-State area, the band’s unique signature sound rapidly earned them a significant following, critical praise and the support of regional FM radio.
Thirty-five years later, The Hooters (consisting of Eric Bazilian (vocals, guitar and mandolin), Rob Hyman (vocals, keyboards and melodica), David Uosikkinen (drums), John Lilley (guitar), Fran Smith, Jr. (vocals and bass) and Tommy Williams (guitar), are still thriving as the darlings of Philly and beyond.
“It’s not a big deal to me, but it is to everyone else,” says Eric Bazilian from his home in St. David’s, Pa. “To me, it’s just what we’ve been doing all along. We’re just a band. We’re not a pop band. We’re a rock band doing some unexpected Christian tunes and musical influences. The fact that we use mandolins, accordions and saxophones makes it interesting. I think the fact that we have a Celtic folk influence makes it interesting and that our lyrics attempt to speak to the human condition. We’ve been really lucky that we still like each other. We get along, and the music has proven to be worthy of that legacy. It’s still fun to play.”
With several well-received independent singles under their belt, The Hooters released their highly successful debut independent album “Amore” in 1983. That record, featuring their cult classic “All You Zombies,” caused the record labels to take notice.
Signing a major deal with Columbia Records allowed The Hooters to attain international prominence with the release of their platinum debut album, “Nervous Night,” in 1985. On the strength of the records singles “And We Danced,” “South Ferry Road,” “Day By Day” and “All You Zombies” and “Where Do The Children Go,” The Hooters earned heavy rotation on global radio and gained significant video exposure on MTV.
The band maintained commercial success with follow-up album releases “One Way Home” (1987), “Zig Zag” (1989) and “Out of Body” (1993), which was their last charting studio album.
Success in the recording studio and on tour earned the The Hooters a roster spot at the historic “Live Aid” (1985), “Amnesty International” (1986) and “Berlin Wall” (1990) concerts.
“I look back on them as significant, because there probably will never be an event like that again — with a cause behind it and with that kind of focus on the music,” recalls Bazilian. “There are festival concerts now, but none of them will have the power that “The Wall,” “Amnesty” and “Live Aid” had. In some ways “Live Aid” was a pinnacle of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. It was a fulfillment of the Woodstock legacy. It was amazing!”
Following a 1995 concert tour, the band took an unexpected extended break. They did not perform again until Pierre Robert’s (WMMR) 20th Anniversary show at the Spectrum in 2001. The successful reception they received at this one show led the Hooters back on the road, igniting a rebirth with their Philly fans, as well as those in Germany, Sweden and Norway, where they continue to be a significant concert draw.
Fourteen years after their last studio album, The Hooters released “Time Stand Still” in 2008, a collection of newly penned songs plus a remake of Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer.” Subsequent album releases, “Both Sides Live” (2009) and “Five By Five” (2010) and the soundtrack song “If I Should Fall Behind” from the movie “Backwards” (2012), have helped fuel enthusiasm from fans old and new.
“When we wrote the “Time Stand Still” album, we didn’t know we had it in us, and then, all of a sudden, it was there,” recalls Bazilian. “That seems to be the way it goes. In some ways it’s my favorite Hooters record. It’s only gotten better since then.”
With numerous bands from the 80’s taking to the road in record numbers, The Hooters have chosen to move forward on their own terms.
“Nothing would make me happier than to take this band as it exists now on the road throughout the U.S. and show people what we can do,” says Bazilian. “People are blown away when they see us, because we’re really better now than we’ve ever been.”
“We don’t have the audience to support a U.S. tour,” adds Bazilian. “People have approached us to do 80’s package tours, but that’s not what we are. We’re not an 80’s band. We’re a band that happened to enjoy its domestic career spike in the 80’s. Our only goal has been to make good, timeless music. It just happens that we did it at a very opportune time. The 80’s were a golden age in a lot of ways.”
With no immediate plans to release a new album, The Hooters are returning to the Philadelphia region in early November, playing two sold-out shows at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside. Tickets were gobbled up within the first hour they went on sale.
“Everyone in the band is driven to be great,” says Bazilian. “To give it all on stage every night and to keep making it better. It’s a calling. It’s just something we have to do, individually and collectively.”
“When I’m on stage, something happens,” adds Bazilian. “I get inhabited, and it makes me feel like I’m part of the universe. It’s bigger than me and it’s bigger than the band. We all become larger than life, not only everyone in the band — everyone in the audience. It’s really this huge communal gathering that happens. It’s like we’re playing for the first time. We’re still proving it every night “
Forever grateful to the hometown fans for the decades of support that has enveloped them, Bazilian and his fellow Hooters don’t take anything for granted.
“I would like our fans to know that we love them and that we are eternally grateful to them for keeping us alive,” says Bazilian. “For keeping our legacy more than a legacy — a living, breathing thing.”
The Hooters will perform two sold out shows at the Keswick Theatre, located at 291 North Keswick Ave., Glenside, PA 19038, Nov. 6 and 7, 2015 at 8 p.m.
To stay up to date with The Hooters visit www.hootersmusic.com