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Articles: A New Blind Melon (December 2, 2007)


A New Blind Melon

'I like this better' by Erin McCracken for York Daily Record

Dec 2, 2007 — Christopher Thorn jumped onto a shabby green couch and thrust his face up to the mirror-lined wall.

"Do I have anything in my teeth?" the guitarist asked. "I can't believe no one told me."

Laughter broke the tension backstage. The new Blind Melon was about to introduce itself to the crowd at the Chameleon Club in Lancaster. The show in central Pennsylvania - Thorn's home turf - was part of the band's first tour in a dozen years.

After one last check, Thorn was ready. The band made the 20-foot walk single-file to the stage.

Digital cameras and cell phones flashed, and three levels of fans went nuts.


The Blind Melon they cheered wasn't the same quintet of the early '90s.

A new lead singer replaced Shannon Hoon, who died in 1995. The Lancaster audience of 500 was modest compared with the Veterans Stadium-sized crowds Melon rocked in the early '90s. Band members sipped Red Bull or water before the show instead of alcohol.

The set list held familiar titles as well as songs from a new album to be released in early 2008.

An hour in, the band broke into the song "Change," from its 1992 self-titled album.

"Hey, look at him and where he is these days. When life is hard, you have to change ...". The band has learned that firsthand.

On Nov. 20, a week before its Lancaster gig, Blind Melon turned the training room of ServiceMaster Clean by Daniels in West Manchester Township into its rehearsal spot.

Thorn's sister, Robin Thorn Daniels, and her husband, Justin, own the carpet cleaning business.

Daniels, on elder-sisterly instincts, popped her head in to check on the band. She failed to catch her brother's attention over the noise.

"(Thorn) doesn't listen to me anymore," Daniels said with a laugh. "It's like they're in their own little world when they're practicing."

The band, which used to play in professional studios for the likes of Pearl Jam producer Rick Parashar, joked about playing to carpet samples. Their only grievance, though, was how far they had to travel to get to a Guitar Center.

Guitarists Rogers Stevens and Thorn, bassist Brad Smith, drummer Glen Graham and lead singer Travis Warren immediately got down to business. They tried out new earpieces. They tried to perfect a handful of songs. They fixed technical glitches.

Colleen Hennessy came in and plopped down on the floor. The 24-year-old, a recent graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, is working on her first long-term project: an independent documentary about her favorite band. Her inspiration is the 1996 Blind Melon documentary, "Letters From A Porcupine."

Hennessy, a fan of the band during its heyday, was a little skeptical about a Blind Melon reunion. She soon found that she loved the new music just as much as the old.

During the first six months of the tour, Hennessy said, the band has been selling out a majority of its shows, although at smaller venues. She's been able to capture some priceless fan reactions.

"Some people get choked up," she said. "People are hungry to hear their music again."

Blind Melon officially broke up in 1999, after four years of trying to put the band back together following Hoon's death. Until this year, they hadn't made a new album since 1996's "Nico."

Stevens started a group called Extra Virgin. Thorn and Smith reunited in the band Unified Theory, then partnered in creating the Hollywood-based Studio Wishbone. Band members got married and started families.

Then, a little more than a year ago, Thorn and Smith met Texas singer Travis Warren. Stevens and Graham soon came to California to meet Warren.

"Are we crazy?" Thorn remembers wondering. But the band decided they found Warren, who has the same vocal range as Hoon, for a reason.

"We felt like this was the start of the next chapter of Blind Melon," Thorn said.

In front of the carpet samples on Nov. 20, practice went smoothly. After a few hours of jamming, they called it a wrap.

"It feels like (Warren) has been with us forever," Thorn said.

The next morning, the band awoke at Clarity Way, a sprawling brick building nestled among the rolling hills and brilliant late-fall foliage in Heidelberg Township.

The facility was the brainchild of the Daniels family and will function as a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility in January. But until the band got back on its tour bus, the rehab center was "Camp Melon."

Strollers were parked in the sunroom. "Sesame Street" played on a flat-screen TV in the living room.

It hardly seemed possible that the quadruple platinum band that earned two Grammy nominations in 1994 was somewhere on the premises until Thorn appeared in the quiet kitchen and poured himself a cup of tea.

Thorn's wife, Heather, and their 23-month-old son, Devlin, soon joined him, and the three prepared pancakes and played with toy animals.

The other members' families were spread out among Clarity Way's four wings.

There was no trace of the hard partying the band used to do when on the road with Soundgarden, Lenny Kravitz and Guns N' Roses in the early '90s.

The longish hair and tattoos are still there, but this time around three of the band members - Thorn, Stevens and Smith - have small children. Morning and afternoons are devoted to play time.

"It keeps you grounded," Thorn said. "We have to care about everyone else now, not just ourselves. I like this better."

The first chapter of Blind Melon went a little differently. The members, originally from small towns in Indiana, Pennsylvania and Mississippi, met and formed in L.A. in 1989.

Within two years, the 20-year-olds were signed with Capitol Records. In another year, they were on MTV's 120 Minutes Tour alongside York rockers Live.

Blind Melon "defied categories," Thorn said. The band rebelled against hair metal and existed outside the grunge scene. They were eventually labeled "hippies," no doubt because of their '60s influences, marijuana use and grassroots fan base.

Then, Thorn said, came "the song that was bigger than the band," "No Rain," from the 1992 album "Blind Melon."

Suddenly they were touring with their heroes, the Rolling Stones and Neil Young. The "No Rain" video went into heavy rotation on MTV. Its bee girl - "a symbol of the insecurity of growing up" - became a pop icon, Thorn said.

"All of a sudden we had this big success and all this money and were abusing that," he said.

The band toured for a year nonstop. They dabbled in harder drugs. Hoon had highly public run-ins with the police, including a drunken brawl after the 1994 American Music Awards.

After the tour, band members had problems adjusting to the downtime. Hoon's drug use increased to addiction.


"It was a tough time to be in the band," Thorn said. "We had a lot of fun, but it was taxing."

After the band completed its second album, "Soup," in 1995, Hoon went into rehab.

"We did everything we could for him," Thorn said.

But when the Blind Melon went back on tour, the lead singer's drug problem resurfaced.

Hoon died of a cocaine overdose on the band's tour bus on Oct. 21, 1995.

Could a place like Clarity Way - which was designed by Justin Daniels after his own experiences in rehab - have helped Hoon?

Thorn isn't sure.

"Ultimately, Shannon was really the only one who could have saved Shannon," he said. "His death still affects us every day."

Even though Hoon is missing from the band's lineup, he is still there in spirit.

During practices and rehearsals, band members refer to the “way Shannon used to sing that part.”

At the Chameleon Club, Warren dedicated the set to Hoon, a symbolic transition from Blind Melon's history to its future. The crowd screamed in appreciation.

Thorn's family members and neighbors cheered from their perch on the third floor.

After its 21-song set, Blind Melon exchanged high-fives before going out to sign autographs and pose for pictures.

Fans who loved the band in the '90s are still around.

Meredith Coleman of Virginia, who runs the fan site blindmelonforum.com, waited outside the band's tour bus before the show wearing a yellow T-shirt that said “Brad.” Fans from as far away as Texas and Colorado came to the concert.

Vic Koury of Hamburg, Pa., saw Blind Melon at Woodstock '94.

“They haven't skipped a beat,” he said.

To some fans, Blind Melon is still the same. But the band members know they're not.

Before the Lancaster show, the rockers, who were once at the top of the charts, joked about being played during classic rock hour on radio stations.

They hung out backstage with the local opening act, The Underwater.

They might not make the cover of Rolling Stone again, but they had a great time at the Chameleon Club.

They might not open for Ozzy Osbourne or John Mellencamp again, but they're making music and playing live.

They'll tour the East Coast, then head to Europe before finishing the tour in the Western U.S.

This time around, group members are determined to look out for each other, Thorn said.

There are also good reasons to look forward to time off.

“This time, I can't wait to get home to be with (Devlin),” Thorn said. “It feels good to be older.”



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