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All for Sister Hazel at Futenma Flightline Festival

Date Posted: 1999-10-23

Screaming and hopping fans gave Sister Hazel, the “happy” acoustic jangle pop-rock band from Gainesville, Florida, groovy acknowledgements at a live concert last Saturday October 16th. Their stage performance at MCAS Futenma marked the peak of that marine airbase’s festival for that day, with over 3000 voices singing in chorus and moving their bodies in unison.

The complicity between the audience and the young musicians of this unusually “clean and smooth” rock band was evident all through the show. The throng knew the band’s old songs (“All for You”, “Happy”, “Superman”, and so on) and could sing the lyrics in the right tempo. And when Sister Hazel introduced some new songs that will be included in their next album, coming out by March 2000, the communion was instant.

Sister Hazel, as the name definitely does not indicate, is far from being a religious group; but the kind of rock they play is not necessarily unholy. The sounds of screeching guitars are almost always drowned by a powerful alignment of melodious notes flowing from an acoustic guitar, a soft rhythm guitar, a civilized bass foundation, quasi-country drums and sane lyrics.

Good news for the real sisters: the group’s members are all nice-looking males, the first of them being Ken Block – guitarist and lead singer. He initiated the project, then posted flyers to recruit “creative, positive, insightful and energetic” partners. The first to respond was bassist Jeff Beres. Together with Andrew Copeland, another guitarist who was Block’s pal, they launched the first Sister hazel self-titled single, before recruiting Mark Trojanowski as their full-time drummer. The last to join the group was their present lead guitarist, and youngest member, the “kinda-cute” guy Ryan Newell.

At 27, Ryan can be considered as one of the Sister Hazel’s most attractive brothers. He prides to tell the tales of his hometown - Fairfax, VA – and how he had his first guitar lesson at Rolling Valley Mall in the small Northern Virginian town of Burke. “I went to college in Gainesville’s University of Florida, where I met this group that I love so much,” he told Japan Update. “But my heart is still in the little streets and clean, safe neighborhoods of Virginia.”

Ryan Newell also said that most of their songs are written by leader Ken Block, and the group –which is always on the road performing over 300 concerts a year - does all of their own arrangements. They are presently recording their next album at Rumbo Recorders in Los Angeles, CA (“where all the good studios are at”, according to Ryan) with producers Mike Clint and Richie Zito.

Sister Hazel’s presence on Okinawa was part of a musical entertainment format adopted by MCCS Director of Entertainment Dureil Farnell for this year. “Camp Kinser had the hip-hop and R&B concert; Hansen hosted the country music event, and Futenma has the rock show. That’s a formula to assure the satisfaction of everyone on Okinawa, servicemen and Japanese nationals together,” Farnell told Japan Update.

He also revealed that he had Sister Hazel top on his least of bands that would potentially be part of the rock concert. “They are very popular on AFN. Their last CD was in 1997, but they’re always hot, and I have been hoping to have them for a long time,” he said.

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