HAMLET — Fans of rock band Sister Hazel and other attendees began showing up 45 minutes early Saturday to watch the band perform at Cole Auditorium.
The group — comprised of lead singer and guitarist Ken Block, bass player and harmony vocalist Jett Beres, singer and guitarist Andrew Copeland, lead guitarist and harmony vocalist Ryan Newell, drummer Mark Trojanowski and keyboard and saxophone player Dave LeGrande — is an American alternative rock band from Gainesville, Florida, which has been performing for 27 years.
Their blended sounds of southern, folk, and classic rock as well as jangle pop kept the die-hard fans — known as the Hazel Nuts — standing in participation the entire night as the rest of the crowd moved to the sounds in their seats. Attendees from neighboring states also came to the Cole to enjoy the concert.
The songs performed included “Champagne High” and the band’s biggest hit, “All for You.”
The band formed in 1993 and chose the name Sister Hazel after Hazel Williams, a local missionary who ran a homeless shelter.
Block said he began volunteering at the shelter as a little kid at the age of 6. Sister Hazel Williams was an African-American minister who made an impact on the band and was like family to them.
“She loved to help everyone, and had unconditional regard for everyone” said Block.
When asked if she would mind them naming the band after her, Block said she told them as long as there was no hate involved, she wouldn’t mind; therefore, the band’s name was set. She had two dogs when she passed away, and the band took it upon themselves to find new owners for the dogs. These owners were in attendance at the Cole concert.
The band played at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee, the previous night.
“It took us an extra four and a half hours longer to get here due to the snow,” Block said about the drive.
Through the band’s independent record label, Croakin’ Poets, they released their first self-titled debut album in 1994; the second album was released in 1997 prompting Universal Records to sign the band in which a third album was released in 2000. The band split from Universal in 2003 and continued to release numerous records with the latest release in 2019.
The band’s music is featured in numerous movies and soundtracks, including “The Wedding Planner,” “Bedazzled,” “Clay Pigeons,” “Back to the Minors,” and “10 Things I Hate About You.” They also appeared on the album “Legacy: A Tribute to Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours with a cover version “Gold Dust Woman.”
In an effort to help fight pediatric cancer, the band founded the nonprofit organization Lyrics for Life in 2003. Block was inspired through his younger brother, Jeffrey, who lost his battle with cancer as a teenager. Block and his brother were very close and although he still struggles with the loss after all these years. He said honoring his brother through the charity in order to help others makes it all worthwhile.
The band collects handwritten lyrics from musicians worldwide on all sorts of interesting objects. The objects are made into artwork then a unique storytelling concert is held where musicians and celebrities are united together; there the artwork is auctioned off to raise money for the cause. A few of the artists that have contributed throughout the years include Elton John, Paul McCartney, Zac Brown Band, Luke Combs, and John Mayer. For more information on Lyrics for Life, visit the website https://www.lyricsforlife.org.
“The neat thing about us is we are the same guys since we first started 27 years ago,” Block said. “We were also the first band that started the music cruises. Our cruise is called The Rock Boat, and we just celebrated 20 years of sold-out cruises. It is the world’s largest floating festival with over 30 bands, seven stages, and non-stop action; not to mention the incredible fans which are the finest music fans ever!”
Sister Hazel’s performance wrapped up the second season of the Fidelity Bank Classic Rock ‘N Country series.
Auditorium Director Joey Bennett said Monday that he hopes to have the next season finalized in early April.