Gin Blossoms Free Niagara Falls Show New Installment In Long Running Drama

“The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.”
Hunter S. Thompson

Mike Hudson

Older yes, but any wiser? The Gin Blossoms will be performing a free show Saturday evening on Old Falls Street in Niagara Falls.

Older yes, but any wiser? The Gin Blossoms will be performing a free show Saturday evening on Old Falls Street in Niagara Falls.

Even by rock and roll standards, the story of the Gin Blossoms is a fairly strange one. They’ll be playing a free show in Niagara Falls on Old Falls Street this Saturday, July 16, with the festivities starting at 5 p.m.

The band’s very name connotes the telangiectasia and rosacea often noted on the faces of degenerate alcoholics, and that’s no surprise. Doug Hopkins, the band’s former lead guitar player and main songwriter, was a heavy drinker who suffered from depression. After they were signed to A&M Records in the early 1990s, label executives told the other members of the group they would be dropped if they didn’t fire Hopkins.

So they did, even though they kept using Hopkins’ songs and arrangements. The band withheld $15,000 owed to Hopkins until he agreed to sign over half of his publishing royalties, and he all of his mechanical royalties. The resulting LP, New Miserable Experience, went double platinum on the strength of two Hopkins penned singles, “Hey Jealousy” and “Found Out About You,” which both shot to the top of the charts in Billboard magazine.

The experience so unnerved Hopkins that, on Dec. 5, 1993, he committed suicide, shooting himself in the head with a .38 revolver.

The band’s followup LP in 1996, Congratulations, I’m Sorry, came out to mixed reviews with only one tune, “Follow You Down,” barely cracking Billboard’s Top 10.  The band broke up the following year.

They started playing out again in 2002, but the drinking problems of drummer Phil Rhodes led to his firing as well. They’ve had about five drummers since then.

In 2006, the Gin Blossoms released a new album, Major Lodge Victory, that briefly cracked the Billboard Top 200 chart at 159. In 2009, they released a live LP, the highlights of which were the songs their dead bandleader wrote nearly 15 years earlier and, in 2010, they came out with a new studio album that went absolutely nowhere.

The band tours a lot, the have a recognizable name, though it is based largely on the work of a youthful friend they fired and who killed himself. A quick glance at their summer itinerary shows that most of their upcoming concerts are similar to the one in Niagara Falls, free outdoor gigs in small towns, with the tab for their appearance being picked up by whoever is running the beer and snack concessions.

It’s the way a lot of musicians are paying the rent today, though most don’t have the checkered past of the Gin Blossoms.

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