It’s true. In the last 20 years or so I’ve seen Sister Hazel play more than 100 times. If you know me well, you’ve seen me post about these guys on FB:

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What’s that? You want me to come on tour and sing with you? Sure!

A few weekends ago I was in South Carolina for “The Hazelnut Hang.” 250 or so fans of Sister Hazel descend on a beach bar and spend three days attending concerts, playing games and socializing with each other and the band. This has become an annual event for me.

I get some good-natured ribbing from my friends. Some of them think I have attended more SH shows than anyone else. Nope. Not even close.

Some of my friends think I must be their biggest fan. Again, not even close. I know people who have named pets after them, people who own every piece of merch they can get their hands on, and people who have tattoos of the band’s song lyrics, music and even album art.

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Not the faces of groupies!

Some of my friends call me a groupie: Maybe in the strict definition of the word, but that’s not a label I’d put on myself. Groupie to me conjures images of people sneaking into hotel rooms and other tawdry interactions.

Some of my friends call me a stalker: No restraining order here, baby!

 

 

 

The truth is, I fell in love with my band the first moment I saw them step out on stage about twenty years ago when I lived in Los Angeles. I saw Sister Hazel for the first time in 1997 and then it took a looooong time before I saw them live again. It took ten years. Life happened: jobs and a move across the country and those first bleary-eyed years with small children But that’s a story for another time. During that time, I bought every album they put out, watched videos, and followed them online as much as I could.

I saw them live again during a Disney vacation with my family, a family friend, and his young daughter. It hadn’t been a great day. Not in any horrific way, just in the typical, theme park with overheated, over-stimulated, young children and exhausted, overtaxed, different philosophies of adulating parents sort of way. I came back to our condo frustrated, exhausted and ready to lock myself in my room with some mindless tv for the night. A quick check-in on FB and I discovered Sister Hazel was playing an early show at a local martini bar in about an hour. An impromptu date offer, the kids tucked in with our friend staying behind and we were off.

Something magical happened that evening. Something magical, but not rare. The music lifted my tired soul, my frustration melted away and I felt lighter by the time their set was over.

That’s what really started it for me. It was the realization that life was hard, but when I saw these guys play together, I felt better, more clear-headed, and it was easier to be grateful for my life in general. Anyone who has lived through a sleep-deprived toddler stage knows this isn’t an easy feat.

For me, seeing this band breaks down into three pieces:

Their music restores me. It’s been well documented that music affects the brain in many positive ways, not in the least is that the brain releases oxytocin when exposed to music. http://www.consciouslifestylemag.com/music-and-the-brain-affects-mood/

 

Oxytocin is a pleasure chemical produced by

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Photo by the incomparable Will Byington – (www.willbyington.com)

your brain. I hope you’ve had the experience of leaving a concert totally blissed out, feeling like you’ve just gotten a huge dose of exactly what you needed. Much like any other time off from the real world- whether it’s a vacation or just a weekend of doing nothing after a hard week, I need to see my band after a while to recharge and to be able to face all the complexities of this world and my life.

 

Friendships energize me. Over the years, I’ve met lots and lots of people at SH concerts. People, because of geography or life circumstances, I never would have met without us all showing up at the same concerts, time and time again. Some I see only once a year, others at almost every show I attend. Working full-time and raising families are not activities known for widening our social circles. In fact for most of us, our friendships pair down in these times and we experience loneliness, isolation and fewer people with whom we can give and receive emotional support from. My concert friends network is constantly widening and several of these people have become my closest friends.

 

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These crazy kids get me!

A funny thing happens when you consistently spend time at events like concerts. You meet people. In the best-case scenarios, you meet good people; kind people; people who want to share things with you that you wouldn’t otherwise know if they weren’t there. You build connections with people who really “get you.” It’s the opportunity to build a community for yourself with exactly the sort of people you would choose to be family if you got to choose.

My band inspires me. This is what makes Sister Hazel stand out for me from so many others. This is why I’ve seen this particular group of musicians so many times and not just attended 100s of random concerts. From its earliest roots, Hazel has been about helping others.

These guys give of themselves over and over and over again in big and small ways. Sometimes their kindness is huge, rippling out for everyone around them to see. Every year they raise thousands of dollars for the charity they founded for children with cancer. They’ve helped a village in Central America build a well and a feeding station so that the children have enough to eat and an education. My band has made a career of helping others. They show up time and time again.

What impresses me most though, is the way the band makes a difference in all the small ways. I’ve seen the guys sit with someone who is having a rough time and really listen. I’ve watched them make sure kids with special needs get a photo and a hug after the show even when the band is in a hurry to catch a plane to get back to their own families. Time and time again, I’ve seen them offer shout-outs and film videos and chat on the phone with people who need a little lift. They’ve been there when people are fighting the biggest battles of their lives.

Sometimes their acts of kindness and love are so small as to be barely perceptible unless you are paying attention and happen to catch them at exactly the right moments. Those may be the most impactful moments of all to me. Actions done out of selflessness and often automatic – no desire to make it public, they are just responding from the heart.

And here’s what I know about the world: Actions are infectious. Kindness or callousness can build exponentially just by what people experience.

My friends like to rib me about how much I traipse off to see my band. And from the outside looking in, I get it. But I think some of them miss the real point. It’s not about reliving my youth or ignoring the real world and my place in it.

 

I have seen my favorite band more than 100 times because it makes me a better person.

It’s that simple.

 

So whatever it is that makes you a better person- when it fills you energy and community and joy, embrace it. Ignore the detractors who call you a fan girl or a nerd or obsessed. Take that thing that makes you a better person and immerse yourself in it as often you can.

12 Comments

  1. Great article! Great band! You said “life happened”… maybe you should reword to “life got in the way” 😉

  2. Thank you for writing this! I found your blog from a friend liking the page on FB. Sister Hazel is not my band (though a great one!) – Hanson is. Everything was so relevant, from my first year seeing them in concert to ramping up concert-going 10 or so years after, to the wonderful philanthropists they are, to similar fun events like rock boats and beach hangs. I’m so glad there are other communities like this out there where we can choose our family and grow into better people. Cheers!

  3. How have I not met you yet!? I’ve been a Hazelnut since 1997 in Gainesville. Although I’ve not been able to attend TRB or the hang, I’ve been to 46 shows (I think) and was lucky enough to attend the recording at Nickel & Dime. I fully and wholeheartedly concur with your stances in your article…the uplifting music, the generosity of spirit, and the nature of the “family” that is celebrated with this band and during the events is unparalleled by any other life experience. I hope everyone gets the chance in life be a part of something that makes them so fundamentally aware of the hugeness and beauty of our existence…and if they have, they know what I mean, and that it’s not just hyperbole. We are so small, but we can be so connected–I love that SH fosters that spirit in such a positive way.

  4. It’s Trans-Siberian Orchestra at 103 for me (love the Matt Nathanson shirt you’ve got – I have the same!) – love what you’ve written here and completely agree with you!

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