Hootie and the Blowfish are coming home for homecoming.
"We're gonna put a party in the middle of a party," said drummer Jim Sonefeld, talking about a concert the band will play on the Saturday afternoon of USC's homecoming weekend. "It'll be huge."
The popular rock 'n' rollers who got their start in Five Points bars and USC frat houses announced Monday that they will perform at the State Fairgrounds Oct. 20.
Gates to the Grandstand stadium will open at 2 p.m., and the show will begin at 3. Kickoff for USC's homecoming football game with Vanderbilt will happen later that day at 7 p.m. This will be the band's first performance in its hometown since an appearance at the annual St. Patrick's Day celebration in Five Points in March 2000.
"Now that our golf tournament is in Charleston, we're always looking for ways to play in Columbia and keep close ties with USC," Sonefeld said.
The homecoming show is not Hootie's only gig in Columbia that weekend, however. The band will perform an unplugged set with the Celebration Gospel Ensemble Oct. 19 for the Columbia Animal Mission's annual silent auction and benefit. This event will take place at the Clarion Townhouse Hotel on Gervais Street, and a $35 ticket includes food and beverages catered by several of Columbia's finest restaurants. Sonefeld is president of the Animal Mission.
The USC concert will be a full-blown Hootie rock show. Mike Duncan, director of student activities at USC, said planning for the show has been in the works for almost a year. The idea arose when USC's Homecoming Commission suggested having Hootie perform during the school's bicentennial.
"At first, we thought a 30-minute acoustic set during Cockfest (pep rally) would be a good idea, but we had a hard time coming to an agreement with the band about that," Duncan said. "They wanted to do more, so it evolved into a full-fledged Hootie concert."
There were timing and logistical problems, and for a long time, Hootie kept turning down USC's invitation. But then the school's sorority sisters went on the offensive. "They started a letter-writing campaign, and since I'm the sole Blowfish who lives in Columbia, I took the brunt of it," Sonefeld said.
Hundreds of letters from USC students pleading for the Blowfish to play at homecoming began pouring into Sonefeld's home mailbox. "It certainly got my attention," he said. "Eventually we came up with a plan for a gig that would be good for both sides."
During the mid-1990s, Hootie and the Blowfish became one of the biggest pop acts in America, releasing three CDs and racking up album sales of nearly 20 million. The band's 1994 album, "Cracked Rear View," was the biggest-selling debut ever, selling close to 16 million before being dethroned by Alanis Morrisette's "Jagged Little Pill."
Hootie has recently dropped below pop's mainstream radar, but the band continues to perform concerts around the country, including two sold-out shows at the Wetlands Club in New York City two weeks ago. The quartet (--)Sonefeld, guitarist Mark Bryan, bassist Dean Felber and lead singer Darius Rucker (--) are writing songs for an upcoming album.
"The first gig I ever played with the band was in the parking lot at the Tally Ho before a game in 1989," Sonefeld said. "So now, 12 years later, we're playing our second football game."
Oct. 19: Hootie and the Blowfish will perform as part of the Silent Auction and Benefit for the Animal Mission of the Midlands at the Clarion Townhouse Hotel, 1615 Gervais St. The band will play an acoustic set with the Celebration Gospel Ensemble. Tickets are $35 and available at the city animal shelter on Shop Road. Call (803) 776-PETS and ask for Marli.
Oct. 20: Hootie will take the stage at the Grandstand on the State Fairgrounds at 3 p.m. Gates open at 2 p.m., and the Grandstand's capacity is 8,000. Tickets ($7) go on sale to USC students Sept. 24. Tickets ($10) go on sale to the general public Oct. 1. Tickets will be available at the Russell House on the USC campus. On Oct. 1, tickets will become available online at etix.com. After Oct. 12, all tickets will be $10.