Skip to main content

Blues Traveler

Brendan Hill heard someone practicing drums as he walked down the hall of his middle school.

He popped his head into the music room to check it out and left with his own snare drum.

"I took it home and started banging away, to my parents' chagrin," Hill, now 38, said with a laugh. The rest is history.

Hill and his band, Blues Traveler, will headlined Sovereign Bank Stadium's first major concert in June 2008.

The stadium's general manager, Matt O'Brien, said tickets have been selling well, especially in the past week. O'Brien said he expects a crowd of about 4,000 at the show, rain or shine.

Dealing with the unexpected issues of a large concert - including seating, volume and stage logistics - was new for O'Brien and his team. But the main attraction has more than two decades of experience.

By the age of 12, Hill had formed a ragtime duo with his older brother. He found influences in his father's Rolling Stones, Muddy Waters and Pink Floyd records.

In a jazz program at his Princeton, N.J., high school, Hill met John Popper and asked him to join a basement band he'd started with classmates Bobby Sheehan and Chan Kinchla. The quartet chose the name Blues Traveler and relocated to New York City in 1987.

With the help of Popper's showmanship, the band soon formed a following and attracted the attention of promoter Bill Graham. In 1989, Blues Traveler signed with A&M Records and released its self-titled debut album a year later.

In 1992 - right in the middle of recording the band's second album - Popper was injured in a motorcycle accident. He went on tour in a wheelchair.

"We knew what we wanted to do from day one," Hill said. "We pulled through."

Playing gigs with the Allman Brothers Band, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Neil Young helped the group expand its musical vocabulary, Hill said.

"We all started writing more and started to find our voice," he said. Their efforts culminated in 1994 with the band's fourth album, "Four," which sold about 7 million copies.

Blues Traveler played at Woodstock '94 with York rockers Live and came to the area to play York College's Wolf Gymnasium in 1995. The single "Run-Around" earned the band a Grammy that year for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.

The group enjoyed success until Sheehan died of an overdose in 1999.

Hill said the band went though a hard time but emerged with a new perspective and sound after the additions of new bassist Tad Kinchla and keyboardist Ben Wilson.

After playing downtown York, the band will team back up with Live and Collective Soul for a summer tour. Hill said they are looking forward to the release of a new album in late July.

O'Brien said he hopes Blues Traveler won't be the last national act to book a show at Sovereign Bank Stadium.

"The bigger the turnout, the more interest there will be in future events," he said.