Hootie & The Blowfish @ Family Circle Tennis Center, August 18, 2006

Daniel Island. 161 Seven Farms Dr.

What was the best gig of the year? For most serious music fans, it’s a tough question to answer, as they could choose some hot rock gig at their favorite bar, or the sprawling mix of concerts at the inaugural ChazzFest, or a sold-out jam-band concert at the Coliseum.

In our very first Best Of issue, readers chose the packed-house Elton John concert held at the North Charleston Coliseum. After that, the awards zig-zagged between the now-expired annual outdoor WaveFests (hosted by 96 Wave and held at a variety of peninsular locales, including Brittlebank Park and a landfill between Morrison Drive and the Cooper River) and the sold-out Widespread Panic concerts at the Joe Riley Stadium and the Coliseum. Wavefest took the honors in 2000, 2001, and again in 2004, when the readers picked the big Wave-sponsored David Byrne show at Charleston Music Hall. Panic won big in 1998, 2002, and 2003.

This year, by an extremely slim margin, Hootie & The Blowfish (drummer Jim “Soni” Sonefeld, lead singer-guitarist Darius Rucker, lead guitarist Mark Bryan, and bassist Dean Felber) take the top spot for their “Fourth Annual Homegrown Concert” at Family Circle Magazine Stadium on Aug. 18, with the Gin Blossoms opening.

Other big vote-getters in this category included the Plex’s and 98X’s big Staind concert at Blackbaud Stadium, Bob Seger at the Coliseum, A.F.I at the Plex, the huge ChazzFest 2006 event on Daniel Island, Faith Hill & Tug McGraw at the Coliseum, The Violent Femmes at the Plex, String Cheese Incident (with rain threatening) at Blackbaud, The Vans Warped Tour at the fairgrounds, O.A.R. at the Family Circle, and My Morning Jacket at the Plex.

It’s been over a decade since South Carolina pop-rock act Hootie & The Blowfish burst out of Columbia’s cozy music scene with Cracked Rear View — their debut on Atlantic Records that went on to sell more than 16 million copies and spawned the hit singles “Hold My Hand,” “Let Her Cry,” and “Only Wanna Be with You.”

After spending 2005 touring in support of their fifth studio album, Looking for Lucky, Hootie released a live album and live DVD the week of the big gig, titled LIVE in Charleston: The Homegrown Concert Event, recorded the previous year. Over the past three years, the Homegrown Concert series has been an increasingly big success, and fans have donated enough supplies to fill three school buses. Thousands of bucks were raised and items were donated to provide much-needed school supplies to local students.

The Homegrown Concert has become a big event for the Hootie & the Blowfish Foundation. Established in 2000, the foundation is a private nonprofit organization that regularly donates money toward music programs and educational needs at S.C. schools. Could this be the beginning of a new dynasty? It’s all up to the fans and readers.

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