Marking the 15th anniversary of the release of Hootie & The Blowfish's breakthrough album Cracked Rear View (and smash single "Hold My Hand"), an hour-long documentary titled The Next Big Hootie premiers statewide on Thurs. July 9 at 9 p.m. It's part of S.C. Educational Television's Carolina Stories series. ETV publicist Dana McCullough was nice enough to send City Paper a rough-cut to preview.
While a few particularly funny clips mix in with the individual interview segments and casual live-show footage (the members of Kiss in full make-up awarding a Grammy to Hootie in 1994 is one of the more memorable scenes), most of The Next Big Hootie is straightforwardand serious.
Curiously, it dodges the question its own title brings up. Rather than looking in different directions for the next major commercial success out of Charleston, Columbia, or the Upstate, the documentary mostly flashes back to Hootie's beginnings and the bands and artists in the South Carolina music scene at that time. It's a fascinating story with a harmlessly misleading title.
Filmmaker Ricky Taylor and producer Amy Shumaker present things in three loosely connected chapters — Hootie's climb to major success, their Carolina colleagues alongside them, the current activities of some of the main songwriters from that busy '90s scene, and a quick glance at the 2009 scene.
The first features all four Hootie bandmates — drummer Jim "Soni" Sonefeld, lead singer-guitarist Darius Rucker, lead guitarist Mark Bryan, and bassist Dean Felber — individually telling stories of their first jam sessions in the dorm at U.S.C. They laugh about the early gigs at Columbia wing and beer joint Pappy's and popular Columbia music venue Rockafella's, and they reminisce about their initial dealings with lousy record labels (years before Cracked Rear View), and their unexpectedly quick invitation to play on The Late Show with David Letterman.
Chapter two welcomes input and vintage video footage of some of Hootie's cohorts: Cravin' Melon, Edwin McCain, Danielle Howle, The Root Doctors, Treadmill Trackstar, and Jump, Little Children. These bands obviously shared mutual admiration and support. "Of all of the bands that we toured with or brought on tour with us as support — there wasn't one band that I didn't believe in," says Sonefeld at one point.
During the songwriter's portion of the film, Rucker, Howle, Doug Jones (of Cravin' Melon), and Jay Clifford (of Jump Little Children) pontificate about their personal artistic careers and the state of the music biz today.
"The way music gets put out there has changed," says Clifford in a scene shot at the American Theater in Charleston. "It's becoming democratized. It's a healthy process because the focus is going from hype to substance ... from that old-school record label way of pushing something down your throat to a variety of material where a good song can just rise to the top."
The Next Big Hootie premiers on Thurs. July 9 at 9 p.m. Encore presentations include Sun. July 19 at 4 p.m., Thurs. July 23 at 9 p.m., Sun. July 26 at 5 p.m., and Thurs. July 30 at 10 p.m. Visit scetv.org and hootie.com for more.