78°F
weather icon Clear

Hootie & the Blowfish hit Las Vegas on anniversary tour

The years have come and gone, but not the incredulity in his voice, his words freighted with two decades of disbelief.

Sometimes, dreams come true and you still feel like you’re dreaming.

Mark Bryan knows.

You can hear it when he speaks.

On a recent weekday afternoon, the guitarist has gone back in time.

For a brief moment, it’s again Feb. 28, 1996.

Tupac Shakur is onstage at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, presenting the Grammy for best pop performance by a duo or group with vocals.

“We need to shock the people,” he bellows. “Let’s shock the people!”

With that, out come hard rockers Kiss, back in makeup for the first time in years, a pairing as ill-matched as vomit and velour.

“These my homeboys,” Shakur says unconvincingly. “I seen just about everything now.”

The competition in the category is fierce, with TLC’s “Waterfalls,” the Rembrandts’ “Friends” theme “I’ll Be There for You” and the Eagles’ “Love Will Keep Us Alive” among the nominees.

“And the Grammy goes to … my other homeboys, Hootie & the Blowfish,” Shakur announces, the group winning for its hit ballad “Let Her Cry.”

It would be the band’s second time onstage that night, having earlier earned a trophy for best new artist.

The coronation was complete.

Hootie & the Blowfish were stars.

‘Surreal’ success

“I don’t remember it as if it really happened,” the 52-year-old Bryan recalls of the night in question. “I almost remember it as if I was watching it on TV or something. The whole thing seemed surreal.”

How could it not have?

By that point, Hootie had wrapped up the promotional and touring cycle for the band’s blockbuster 1994 debut, “Cracked Rear View,” which would become one of the top selling albums of all time, currently certified 21-times platinum.

Context is key to understanding Hootie’s success. When “Cracked Rear View” was released in the summer of 1994, the grunge boom was still in full swing. It was an era when irony, it seemed, had learned how to play guitar. Soundgarden’s moody masterpiece “Superunknown” had come out that spring, as had Nine Inch Nails’ desultory classic “The Downward Spiral.” Green Day’s “Dookie” was just starting to catalyze a punk rock boom, along with The Offspring’s “Smash,” both albums heavy on sardonic self-depreciation and outsider alienation.

Alt-rock had never been bigger, but it had also never been bleaker.

Kurt Cobain was dead.

Eddie Vedder had forgotten how to smile.

Courtney Love was just trying to “Live Through This.”

Billy Corgan was complaining about something — probably Courtney Love.

Enter Hootie & the Blowfish.

The band’s homespun, earthy sound and unabashed earnestness were the tonal and topical inverse of grunge’s scab picking and of mid-’90s punk’s high-velocity sarcasm.

They could not have stood in starker contrast to the Trent Reznors of the world.

As such, they were greeted by plenty of folks as a beam of sunshine poking through so much musical cloud coverage: Less than a year after “Cracked” dropped, Hootie & the Blowfish were fast becoming one of the biggest bands there was.

“Somewhere around the spring of ’95, it had bubbled up to the point of where it was beyond our comprehension,” Bryan says. “I literally remember being told things that were happening, and I felt like I was looking in on another band, like, ‘This can’t be us.’ Like, I’m reading about another band in Rolling Stone when it’s us.”

Over the course of four more records, Hootie would never duplicate the success of the group’s debut. Its most recent album, 2005’s “Looking for Lucky,” sold fewer than 200,000 copies.

In 2008, the band went on hiatus, with frontman Darius Rucker pursuing a solo career in country music.

‘Cracked’ comeback

But with the 25th anniversary of their debut upon them, Hootie & the Blowfish decided to mark the occasion with their first tour in more than a decade and a new album later this year.

“When we get together and play, it’s like hoppin’ on a bike,” Bryan says. “We immediately can lock in and sound like Hootie & the Blowfish. It’s really fun, because we can kind of play any song, and after we get our parts locked in, it just sounds like us, whether it’s covers or originals.

“But when it came to songwriting, we hadn’t really done that together for over decade,” he continues. “So we had to reestablish that chemistry a little bit, sit in the room with the acoustics and the piano and just kind of play each other our ideas and see where everybody’s head is at. That happened over the last year. By the time we got to January, we had over 50 songs.”

The band recorded 17 of them for its forthcoming sixth album, whose release date has yet to be set.

In the meantime, Hootie is back on the road.

Though it’s been 2½ decades since the band’s debut, Hootie remains an outlier: a guitar-based band in an era when guitar-based bands are increasingly rare on the mainstream airwaves the group once dominated.

So now it’s all about looking back and moving forward at once.

“It’s a nice combination of having this tour where we celebrate ‘Cracked Rear View’ but also have a new album on the horizon,” Bryan says. “We’re in a really good place. Hopefully that comes through in the songwriting in a way that people can relate to — just like they did 25 years ago.”

Contact Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476. Follow @JasonBracelin on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Entertainment Videos
Carl’s Donuts in Las Vegas celebrates National Cream-Filled Doughnut Day
Carl’s Donuts, a Las Vegas-based company that’s been serving the city since 1966, celebrates National Cream-Filled Doughnut Day with specialties themed to fall. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rick Harrison of "Pawn Stars" has a new store - VIDEO
Rick Harrison, the Pawn Stars co-star and owner of Gold & Silver Pawn, talks to the Review-Journal’s John Katsilometes about his soon-to-open Rick’s Collection retail outlet of mostly mid-century masterworks at the Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pok Pok Wing at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas serves Pad Thai Thamadaa - VIDEO
Because of popular request, the 1-year-old Pok Pok Wing at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas serves Pad Thai Thamadaa, with shrimp, ground pork, neither or both. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trial by Fire cocktail at the Golden Tiki in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Adam Rains, head bartender (also Grand Poobah and a few other things) at The Golden Tiki in Las Vegas, makes one of the bar’s tiki drinks, (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gordon Ramsay renovating Las Vegas steakhouse - VIDEO
Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay is preparing to re-launch his Paris Las Vegas restaurant, Gordon Ramsay Steak. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Cats owners compete for top show awards
The annual Jazzy Cats event is taking place at the Rio Convention Center this weekend attracting cats owners from around the country and the world to compete for the top show awards. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Brooklyn Bowl in Las Vegas serves blackened Cajun catfish - VIDEO
Troy Remer, sous chef at Brooklyn Bowl at The Linq Promenade in Las Vegas, blackens Cajun catfish on the grill before serving it with mashed potatoes and collard greens. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Gold Encrusted Filet Mignon at Mr. Chow - VIDEO
This just may be the gold standard for the filet mignon. Mr. Chow at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas has introduced The Gold Encrusted Filet Mignon, which is coated with real 24-karat gold. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Working as a mermaid in Las Vegas - VIDEO
McKenzie Kawano works as a mermaid at the aquarium at the Silverton in Las Vegas. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pinkbox Doughnuts opens third store in Las Vegas area
Las Vegas-based Pinkbox Doughnuts, which opened its third store at 9435 W. Tropicana Ave., specializes in doughnuts such as the new Station Wagon, with Butterfinger; pink-velvet Pretty in Pink; and hybrid Glazed DoughCro Bites. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal, with image courtesy of Pinkbox Doughnuts
Starbucks brings back Pumpkin Spice early
Starbucks declares Aug. 27 the first day of fall as they make their pumpkin spice items available a full month early. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bachelor Party Fra Diavolo at Carmine’s in Las Vegas
Roberto Leon, a line cook at Carmine’s at The Forum Shops at Caesars in Las Vegas, makes Bachelor Party Fra Diavolo with eight pounds of lobster, a pound each of mussels, clams and shrimp, two pounds of pasta and two gallons of sauce. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
'American Idol' auditions in Las Vegas
“American Idol” was in Las Vegas Monday looking for singers to compete in its upcoming 2020 season. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegan part of the Harlem Globetrotters
Scooter Christensen, who grew up in Las Vegas, will play with the Harlem Globetrotters at The Orleans in Las Vegas Sunday, Aug. 25. (Mat Luschek / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MSG Sphere at The Venetian to cost $1.2B plus
Scheduled to open in 2021, it is expected to be busier than Madison Square Garden in New York. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Terra Rossa Returns To Red Rock. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Terra Rossa at Red Rock Resort is set to open on Aug. 26.
Hubert Keller’s Backyard Kitchen
Chef Hubert Keller of Fleur and Burger Bar shows off his backyard kitchen in Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Watermelon Mojitos and Chicken ‘N’ Watermelon ‘N’ Waffles at Yardbird Southern Table & Bar
Bartender Cassy Leedom and Chef Norberto Ortega make a Watermelon Mojito and Chicken ‘N’ Watermelon ‘N’ Waffles at Yardbird Southern Table & Bar at The Venetian in Las Vegas. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Juan’s Flaming Fajitas in Las Vegas celebrates National Fajita Day
Cook Ruben Fuentes and general manager Taylor Pulliam of Juan’s Flaming Fajitas in Las Vegas prepare steak and shrimp fajitas with the restaurant’s signature fiery treatment. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pasta Shop Ristorante serves a watermelon-shrimp salad
Pasta Shop Ristorante & Art Gallery in Henderson serves a summer salad that combines watermelon with greens, feta and shrimp. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Factory Kitchen in Las Vegas makes classic affogato
Jorge Luque, pastry chef at The Factory Kitchen at The Venetian in Las Vegas, makes affogato with two simple ingredients - house-made gelato and fresh espresso. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review Journal with image from The Factory Kitchen)
The Cereal Killerz Kitchen serves over 100 cereals
Christopher Burns, owner of The Cereal Killerz Kitchen at Galleria at Sunset mall in Henderson, makes a Milk & Cookies Shake from his more than 100 varieties of cereal. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer in Las Vegas makes a State Fair CrazyShake
Bianca Zepeva, a shaker at Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer at The Venetian in Las Vegas, makes a State Fair CrazyShake with a kettle corn rim, caramel, corn-based ice cream, popcorn brittle, crushed kettle corn, sprinkles and a cherry. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
Balboa Pizza Company makes Thai peanut chicken wings
Irma Perez, kitchen manager at Balboa Pizza Company at The District at Green Valley Ranch in Henderson, near Las Vegas, brines chicken wings for 24 hours before roasting and frying them and finishing them in various styles such as Thai peanut. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
New Venetian pool deck
Final touches are currently being added to the hotel’s main tower pool deck, which consists of five pools. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Who is Vegas Vic? (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada State Museum Director Dennis McBride explains the origins of the Vegas icon.
Slater’s 50/50 in Las Vegas serves a 4-pound Big Island Feast Burger
Cindy Sun, general manager of Slater’s 50/50 in Las Vegas, makes the Big Island Feast Burger with 2 1/2 pounds of the house bacon/beef blend, Napa-cilantro slaw, six slices of American cheese, a can of grilled Spam, six slices of chargrilled pineapple, four fried eggs and a drizzle of teriyaki and serves it with macaroni salad. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Get a first look of MSG Sphere construction in Las Vegas
Representatives of The Madison Square Garden Company give the first glimpse of progress Tuesday of the under-construction MSG Sphere — a first-of-its-kind performance venue with high-tech audio and visual capabilities.
Shark Week cupcakes at Freed’s Bakery in Las Vegas
Brittnee Klinger, a cake decorator at Freed’s Bakery in Las Vegas, makes Shark Week cupcakes with ocean-blue buttercream, fondant fins and a blood-red strawberry filling. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Fans and friends recall Elvis opening in Las Vegas
Fifty years ago on July 31st 1969, Elvis Presley opened at the International hotel in Las Vegas. He went on to do 837 consecutive sold-out shows at the property.
THE LATEST