The audience connection

Hoots and Hellmouth's live show brings listeners into the performance

November 29, 2007|By Sam Sessa | Sam Sessa,Sun reporter

Two years ago, musicians Sean Hoots and Andrew "Hellmouth" Gray reached back to vintage Americana for inspiration. The acoustic sound they came up with -- part gospel, part barnyard stomp -- inspired them to form the core of the Pennsylvania-based band Hoots and Hellmouth.

Live, Hoots and Hellmouth incorporate the audience into the show. Sometimes they have concert-goers sing or clap along. Other times, they jump off the stage and charge into the center of the crowd. Tomorrow, they'll bring their raucous act to the 8x10, opening for Will Hoge.

A lot of the music you draw from came out of pain and suffering -- it was an outlet for people. Has channeling this music for some time now changed the way you look at things in the rest of your lives?

Sean Hoots --Personally, I've always sung from the pit of who I am. Even in those loud rock bands I was in before, I was still singing the same way I'm singing now. The only difference now is we have acoustic instruments. That's the beauty of music -- getting so lost in that flow it sort of pours out of you. It's that feeling.

Growing up in churches in the Southeast and having experienced a few of those situations, then growing up listening to a lot of soul ... it just made a whole lot of sense once I started singing to dig that deep and really push it out. I've sort of become addicted to that. It's hard for me to sing any other way and really feel it on any real level.

Andrew Gray --The reason why I love to play music is to feel that connection. If that connection's not there, it's not worth doing. If you're not being true about it, it's not worth doing.

That's why we sleep in our van. It's out of the need to do it. We left our jobs, we left our homes. It's changed our lives because we can recognize that connection.

You make the audience a real part of the show, more than other bands.

SH --It's the whole element of community. We're on the road, and we end up playing for groups of people we've never met before. Music is so powerful in that it immediately breaks down those barriers and allows this discourse to take place.

I think you can really harness that by incorporating them in it. Give them something to sing along or chant along with you, or give them a beat to ride. Or just hop down in the middle of the crowd and be surrounded by everybody. It becomes this massive group celebration. Whatever it means to each individual person, they're all getting something out of it. It's that connection.

AG --People go out to see music not to be bored. People go out to see music to be fulfilled. Ultimately, they want to be part of something. As musicians, we want to feel part of them -- part of the group. ... When you separate the artists from the audience, you really do the audience a disservice, I think. That's why we like to come in and do our thing.

You played electric guitar for a long time. What did you find when you switched to acoustic instruments. Nothing to hide behind?

SH --Yeah, it strips you bare.

AG --I realized how much I don't know how to play guitar. When you have that feedback going, your guitar is cranked, you're goin' WOOOOOOO. It hides a lot. When you're playing your own songs with some wood and some steel, you quickly realize that you're pretty naked.

sam.sessa@baltsun.com

Hoots and Hellmouth open for Will Hoge at the 8x10 tomorrow. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12. The venue is at 8-10 E. Cross St. Call 410-625-2000 or go to the8x10.com.

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