Sister Hazel returns home for sold-out performance
Gainesville rock band Sister Hazel, led by frontman Ken Block (second from right) performs at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts for a sold-out show Friday night. (Emily Fuggetta / Alligator Staff)

Sister Hazel received a warm welcome home Friday night at their sold-out performance at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.

More than 1,700 fans attended, singing along and dancing in the aisles as the five-man Southern rock group took the stage.

Gainesville was one stop on the band's national tour to promote its newest album "Release."

Before the show, dressed in high top Converse Chuck Taylors, a faded green T-shirt and jeans, the band's lead guitarist, Ryan Newell, said that it was great to be back home.

The band was formed 15 years ago in Gainesville.

"The energy and the vibe that we have when we play in Gainesville is different than when we play anywhere else," Newell said.

Self-proclaimed "Hazelnuts" and UF alumni David and Leslie Ramshaw have seen the band perform about 10 times outside of Gainesville.

"But we're not groupies," joked David Ramshaw, who's been a fan for the last 10 to 15 years.

"We have some shirts, all their CDs and Christmas ornaments," Leslie Ramshaw said. "Our kids also have shirts."

Before the band took the stage, Gainesville-based singer/songwriter Aslyn performed her opening act.

She received cheers from the crowd as she belted out and played songs on a grand piano.

Following her performance, cardboard replicas of each band member were lowered to the front of the stage. When the real band members came out from behind the cutouts, they were met with screams and clapping.

The cheering escalated into excited shrieks and whoops as the band began to play "Happy."

Stan Lynch, the drummer of fellow Gainesville band Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, made a guest appearance and played a few songs with Sister Hazel. Audience members stood and shouted "Go Gators" cheers.

After what appeared to be the last song, the audience gave the band a standing ovation, who left the stage before returning to play their first hit single, "All For You."