Musicians with instruments

Gin Blossoms performance virtually salutes Sun Devils who serve

By

Marshall Terrill

International recording artists the Gin Blossoms paid tribute to Arizona State University’s military members, veteran population and all others who serve their communities in a virtual concert that reunited the band for the first time in almost nine months.

The multiplatinum rockers livestreamed a 45-minute set Sunday night from their studios for a virtual audience across the U.S. and overseas. ASU’s military students planned to log on from Europe (Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and other countries), the Pacific (mainly Korea and Japan), South America and the Middle East.

Before the start of the concert, the Pat Tillman Veterans Center premiered several videos of messages of support, including some from ASU President Michael Crow and Tillman Center director Jeffrey A. Guimarin and ASU faculty and staff who served in the military. The videos also featured stories about ASU student veterans that demonstrated how they put service over self. 

Whatever rust the band might have had in the interim months of COVID-19 lockdown didn't show. The Gin Blossoms' distinctive sound matched their performance's colorful backdrop. The setting resembled an old-school basement gig and was filled with tchotchkes, lit candles and a large framed picture of Jimi Hendrix, looking over their shoulder.

The concert was available on YouTube and the Salute to Service website. There wasn't much dialogue between band members, but the 12-song set featured plenty of the hits that made the quintet internationally famous in the early to mid-1990s. They included “Hey Jealousy”, “Allison Road”, “Follow You Down” and “Found Out About You." Fans also got a taste of their 2018 album, “Mixed Reality," with the tune "Angels Fly." 

The gig was just as beneficial to the Gin Blossoms as it was to the intended audience, said singer-songwriter Robin Wilson, who serves as the band’s lead vocalist.

“I have always been proud to be from Tempe, where ASU has an enormous positive influence,” said Wilson, who co-founded the group in the late 1980s. “Happy to participate in the Salute to Service event. It was great to perform with my bandmates again for the first time since February.”

According to the band’s official website, the Gin Blossoms toured about 150 dates a year before the pandemic struck. One of the most in-demand bands from the 1990s, they plan on touring again in April throughout the United States and Canada.

The exclusive concert capped off the first week of ASU’s Salute to Service Week. The two-week celebration commenced on Nov. 5 and will continue until Nov. 19, with a variety of recognition activities highlighting selfless service by students, faculty and staff. This year’s theme was “service through leadership, mentorship, education, innovation and medical care.” Visit the Salute to Service homepage for the latest information and a complete schedule of events.

This year’s Salute to Service celebration had to go virtual because of COVID-19, and that meant having to get a little more creative than usual, said Victor Hamburger, senior director of strategic initiatives for ASU Cultural Affairs.

“The concert was produced virtually and broadcast from their home studios … so kind of a ‘from their homes to yours’ kind of feel,’” Hamburger said. “It was a really fun broadcast that fused all the great pieces of Salute to Service messaging and showcased the culture of service here at ASU. Mix that with hometown legends playing a really awesome show.”

For Gin Blossoms' guitarist Jesse Valenzuela, the concert was more than just a show; it was an honor.  

“Proud to play for the service women and men,” Valenzuela said. “Be safe!”

Gin Blossoms Salute to Service concert set list:

"Allison Road"

"Angels Fly"

"Competition Smile"

"Face the Dark"

"Follow You Down"

"Found Out About You"

"Still Some Room in Heaven"

"Hey Jealousy"

"Mrs. Rita"

"Til I Hear it From You"

"Until I Fall Away"

"Lost Horizons"

Top photo: Multiplatinum-selling alternative rockers the Gin Blossoms played a 45-minute virtual set for the Sun Devil community to commemorate Salute to Service 2020. Photo courtesy of the Gin Blossoms