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There I was in the moshpit
of technology. Of all the locations to rekindle some of the fondest
memories of my college experience, this was the last place I suspected.
Not at IBM Pulse, Big
Blue’s annual conference for its service management software brand –
Tivoli – where you’re more likely to meet a Manchester United fanatic
than a die-hard Pirate.
Not at a gathering where
the topical highlights included the push for Green data centers,
ease-of-deployment and product integration, hot buttons for anyone who’s
an IT specialist at a Fortune 500 company.
And certainly not at the
Walt Disney World Dolphin resort, where an order of fries will consume
your entire per diem.
Nothing about the setting
remotely compared to my college environment, neither the disciplines
discussed nor the inflated prices of mediocre fare. I was light years
removed from Wordsworth and Ramen Pride.
That was until our annual
conference-culminating bash ensued – and Hootie and the Blowfish took
Now, having prior
knowledge that Hootie would deliver the musical sendoff sparked some
anticipation for the event. Surely it would provide a just reward for a
week of hard work and glad-handing with colleagues, partners, and
customers from abroad.
I just had no idea that
the 90-plus minute tour through Hootie’s portfolio of No. 1’s would send
me down a trail of sweet memories of my beloved alma mater. It did that
and much more.
Right now you might be
questioning my personal taste in music. After all, the draw of
acoustical, southern college rock bands has lost the luster of its
heydays in the mid-1990's.
Or to put it more bluntly,
the cool factor is no longer there.
But if you attended East
Carolina University during that musical era like me, Hootie was a part
of the very fabric that wove your college experience. Whether you liked
them or not, they shaped the musical culture and pioneered a wave of
club-cramming bands that was continued with lesser success by Edwin
McCain, Cravin’ Melon, Far Too Jones and Pat McGee.
And while Hootie’s
lifeline of chart-topping success hasn’t spanned decades like U2, REM,
or any of the other rock standards that line your music library, their
ability to connect with an audience both personally and musically hasn’t
Sure, lead singer Darius
Rucker is trimmer and now dons cowboy boots and a straw hat. Likewise,
drummer Soni Sonefeld has exchanged those familiar golden locks for a
trendy skinned look that matches his goatee.
Their ability to
entertain, however, hasn’t altered.
Hootie spends their time
performing, not talking or tuning instruments. Instead of ten-minute
instrumentals that send listeners to the porcelain pits, they import
catchy interludes from other memorable melodies, and then return to
their original tune before heading to the next entry on the playlist.
They also understand the
value of including a few covers in the rotation. On this night, it was
Zeppelin, REM, the Georgia Satellites and Oasis.
That was in addition to
their lengthy list of memorable sing-alongs.
Time. Let Her Cry. I Go
Blind. Hold My Hand. Only Wanna Be With You. The Old Man and Me. Hannah
Jane. They even made that trademark shout-out to their own alma mater –
the University of South Carolina.
And though I was
juxtaposed to colleagues, this musical time machine transported me back
I was back in the Attic
where Hootie often stopped before hitting it big and again landed for a
surprise show to showcase upcoming tunes from Fairweather Johnson.
I was on the tailgate
fields where Hootie often serenaded us before our beloved trek to Dowdy-Ficklen
Stadium, and at the postgame after-party where their music was part of
the celebratory setting.
I was with lifelong
friends – the ones whom I don’t see nearly as much but whom I suddenly
found myself deeply missing.
Because this was part of
our common bond at East Carolina. As much as ECU athletics helped shaped
our time together and still provides a backdrop for our camaraderie, so
did the musical interests that we shared.
For you it might have been
the Steve Miller Band. Or maybe it was Dillon Fence or The Connells.
Heck, for most of us General Johnson and The Chairmen make the list.
Regardless, we can all
point to a particular band or artist who helped define the culture
during our stay at East Carolina. Be it a certain style or the social
messages their music delivered, they made an impact on our lives.
Each time we hear them
now, they are certain to rekindle some of the many great memories that
were created at ECU. Hootie did that for me.