Sept. 20--Eric Bazilian, singer and guitarist for Philadelphia-area favorite The Hooters, says he was hesitant to play the grand opening weekend at the new Ardmore Music Hall.
The Ardmore was once the legendary 23 East Cabaret, where The Hooters and countless others got their starts in the 1980s.
But Bazilian says the more he thought about it, the more excited he became.
"At first it was, like, 'Oh God, do we really want to go all the way back to the beginning like that?'" Bazilian says. "And then it was, like, 'Wow! Here's a chance for us really to go back to the beginning like that!'"
So on Saturday, An Evening with The Hooters -- a show expected to last more than three hours -- will be the second event in the renovated hall. It reopens Sept. 20 with a concert by blues band The Holmes Brothers.
The Hooters show will be in every way a homecoming for the rock/ska band, which went from its early haunts to open Philadelphia's historic Live Aid concert in 1985 and sell 2 million copies of its major-label debut disc "Nervous Night" that year with hits such as "All You Zombies," "And We Danced" and "Day By Day."
"I remember hanging out at the bar there until sunrise, many nights, after we played," Bazilian says, on the phone while walking the streets of Philadelphia. ("Hey! There's a song in that," he says with a laugh.)
"There were a lot of venues we played a lot back then that really were pivotal in allowing our audience to develop. ... The location was great. It was right in the heart of the Main Line, and for city folk who didn't have cars, there was a train station right there. It was a great venue. A lot of people played there."
All that is true for the new Ardmore Music Hall. Renovations have improved the stage and customer seating for better sight lines, upgraded the sound and added a whole new ambience, talent buyer Jesse Lundy of Point Entertainment says.
Bazilian says the show will be offered in two full sets because "that's how we did it back then. When we were a bar band, we played two sets every night and we just thought that would be a cool way to do it this time. And we are gonna pull out some old chestnuts ... from the vaults."
It's a perfect way for The Hooters to celebrate 33 1/3 (as in the RPM playing speed of vinyl albums) years together as a band, Bazilian says.
"If you'd have asked me 33 years ago if I'd still be a Hooter right now I probably would have said, 'Yeah, hopefully,'" he says. "This band has always felt great. It's always felt like home, it's always felt like family. ... This is way more than half my life that I've been a Hooter. That's pretty significant, especially when you consider The Beatles' entire career was about 10 years."
The Hooters are so ingrained in the Philadelphia area that the state Senate in April passed a resolution declaring April 30 as Hooters Music Appreciation Day in Pennsylvania.
Asked the secret of the group's longevity, Bazilian says, "When you put a group of people together like this, I think a lot of it just turns out to be luck. I think we were just lucky. And I think we just had a real ethic of getting along and making things work and trying to take the right steps at the right times.
"I don't know that we've always made the optimal moves at the right points career-wise, but people-wise, I think we've always the done the right thing."
One less-than-optimal decision might have been taking a six-year hiatus, 1995-2001, after the hits stopped coming. The band didn't release an album for 14 years, until 2007's "Time Stand Still," which Bazilian says is his favorite Hooters album.
"I think that's the album the United States wanted us to come out with instead of 'One Way Home' back in '87," Bazilian says, referring to the album that followed "Nervous Night." "One Way Home" sold gold, but barely cracked the Top 30 and was the last Hooters disc to do so.
The group's popularity has continued in Europe, where the band tours annually. Asked why the band hasn't done a proper U.S. tour, Bazilian responds, "We do what the market will bear."
"I always say this: 2 million people bought our first album in the United States. I want to know where they are. We could go to Boston or D.C. and play for 200 or 300 people, but, frankly, we wouldn't be able to give them the kind of show that we want to give them. We go to Germany, we're playing festivals."
That also has affected The Hooters' output of new music, as well. Since "Time Stand Still" the group has released only a live disc, "Both Sides Live" in 2008, and an EP, "Five By Five," that compiled favorite cuts in 2010.
"You know, it's like a well, and there are dry periods and there are fertile periods," Bazilian says. "To do a record, first you've got to write the songs, and then you've got to record them, and then you've got to do artwork and you've got to go through all the auxiliary stuff that nobody wants to do but has to be done. Um, and then .. what? Sell it at the record stores?
"And then, the truth is, we're playing these shows -- I guarantee you, 90 percent of the people, they're not hoping they'll hear a new song. They're hoping they'll hear 'Point Your Little Pinky' or 'Scared By Science,' or something we did for a few months back in '83."
Despite that, Bazilian and Hooters' keyboardist/singer Rob Hyman a year ago penned "If I Should Fall Behind," the closing theme to the movie "Backwards," starring Philadelphia actress Sarah Megan Thomas and James Van Der Beek from "Dawson's Creek."
Thomas, who also wrote the film, "actually went to Rob because she wanted to use 'Time After Time' [the hit Hyman wrote for Cyndi Lauper] And then Rob put her in touch with the proper authorities and along the way, he said, 'Hey, do you have a title song? A theme song?' And she said, 'No, actually, we're looking for one.'
"So we were in Germany at the time, and we wrote it and recorded it. We actually recorded most of it in hotel rooms."
And Bazilian says he never rules out new music.
"We're always open to that, and we get together all the time and we sit there and say, 'Hey, got an idea?' Eh, maybe, we'll see."
For now, The Hooters are happy playing live shows, and are especially looking forward to the Ardmore show.
"It's kind of nostalgia, but on the other hand it's a new venue, it's a new name and new management, and I think it's gonna be really great. I'm really excited about it," he says. "Our show is as energetic, at least as energetic, as it ever was. We're not slowing down. If anything, we're turning the knob up. We've gone to 11."
Remembering the show's theme of 33 years, Bazilian laughs. "There's a quote for you. Thirty-three is three times 11. There you go."
AN EVENING WITH THE HOOTERS
What: Part of opening weekend of Ardmore Music Hall at the former legendary 23 East Cabaret.
When: 9:30 p.m. Sept. 21
Where: Ardmore Music Hall, 23 E. Lancaster Ave., Ardmore
How much: $45 general admission, $100 VIP with early admission, buffet dinner, open beer and wine bar and meet-and-greet with the band. Ages 21 and older.
-- Set list: Two sets with a break, featuring songs from throughout its career, including hits such as "Day By Day," "And We Danced," "All You Zombies" and "Where Do the Children Go?" as well as rarely heard deep cuts.
Opening night: The Holmes Brothers, with The Billy Price Band, 9 p.m. Sept. 20. Tickets: $18-$24.
-- Info: http://www.ardmoremusic.com, 610-649-8389
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