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Pirate Notebook No. 345
Monday, May 26, 2008

By Denny O'Brien

A little Hootie for the soul helps

By Denny O'Brien
All Rights Reserved.

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 the stage.

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 changed.

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 to ECU.

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.

Send an e-mail message to Denny O'Brien.

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05/25/2008 09:42:02 PM

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