BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — An upcoming performance by indie-folk band Oliver Hazard – named for War of 1812 hero Oliver Hazard Perry – will raise funds to honor area veterans and first responders.
Third Street Cigar in Waterville is hosting a special charity event on Thursday, August 9 to raise funds for Veterans Memorial Park in Whitehouse. Oliver Hazard will perform on the shop’s outdoor patio that evening from 5:30 to 9:00 p.m.
The tickets are $60.00 and include a silent auction, a cash bar and hors ’d oeuvres from chef Bruce Saba, said Third Street Cigars’ Dave Webb. A representative from Battleground Cigars will bring an excellent boutique cigar with a military motif, he added.
The concert is one of the few remaining stops before Oliver Hazard heads out on a multi-state tour. The band, which consists of Perrysburg grad Mike Belazis and Anthony Wayne alumni Devin East and Griffin McCulloch, quickly gained national recognition with its release 34 N. River.
“They really have arrived,” said John Henry of Third Street Cigar, noting that their performance at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival signaled how quickly the Waterville-based band has grown. In less than a year, the trio has gone from hanging out to opening for national acts like KC and the Sunshine Band, Mt. Joy, Michigan Rattlers and Red Wanting Blue. Oliver Hazard has also had 2 million plays on Spotify and been featured in national magazines.
It all started over Christmas break in 2017. Mike was back from California, where he’s an Outward Bound instructor, leading teens on challenging backpacking trips.
While hanging out at 34 N. River Rd. – which Devin and Griffin rent from the city of Waterville – the three friends began writing songs together. In two weeks, they wrote 10 songs. At the same time, they won a Facebook competition to record one song. But when they went to the studio, they suggested recording all 10 songs, live, for $75.00. From there, the recording was sent to a few connections in California, and was released in June with R&R Digitals.
Waterville is at the core of 34 N. River, said Mike, especially as the circa 1877 home known as the Tobacco House was the inspiration behind many of the songs.
According to the Waterville Historical Society, the house is where David Hall, and later his sons Reuben and Orlando Fish Hall, sold tobacco. The brothers were members of Waterville’s Brady Guards that formed and served in the Civil War.
“This is where we have the man cave,” Devin said. “We get off work, light some candles and have a drink. It’s a really good house. It makes you creative. All that orange – with the hardwood floors – it’s very homey. It’s our comfort zone. And when we’re comfortable we write good music.”
One song, “Henry and Pearl,” is an ode to the owners of the Kam Wah Restaurant, which was torn down to make way for the new Waterville bridge. An eclectic mix of “stuff” from the house is featured in the background of the album cover, such as an alligator head, an old globe, a six-pack of beer and several instruments.
“That is all our stuff. Plus Griffin is a mild hoarder,” Mike said.
The three became friends after high school, playing in a variety of bands including Conestoga Trace and Fewer Crooks.
“I play guitar, banjo and percussion. All three of us sing,” Devin said. “We’re a package deal. It seems we always played together and were writing things.”
Despite having two Anthony Wayne graduates in the three-man band, the band is named after Oliver Hazard Perry, Perrysburg’s namesake and the hero of the Battle of Lake Erie.
“We wanted a simple, local name and settled on Oliver Hazard, not so much because of his fame as for the simplicity and name recognition,” Devin said.
Oliver Hazard has upcoming performances on Friday, August 10 at Promenade Park; on Friday, August 17 at Wapakoneta’s Rhythm and Brews Court 33 festival; and opening for Mt. Joy in Cleveland on August 23 and in Akron on August 26. The band is also tentatively scheduled for a Friday, August 31 show on Third Street in Waterville. From there, it’s on the road to a multi-state tour.
“If we spend more time, we’ll build up more momentum to succeed,” Devin said. “We’re young enough to take the chance. “
For more information, visit www.olihazard.com. For tickets to the August 9 fundraiser, call Third Street Cigar at (419) 441-0020 or Whitehouse Village Hall at (419) 877-5383.