By Karl Malgiero
While the City of Milford may be new territory for the Ladybug Festival, it’s certainly familiar to a few of its acts. Winners of Out & About Magazine’s 2016 Musikarmageddon X, Hoochi Coochi have been having a good time in their current funky R&B four-piece state for just a little over a year now, and have since made their mark on the downstate local music scene.
Often referred to as a Dover band, Sug actually calls the town of Smyrna, located a few miles north of the state capital, home. It was in that town’s churches where she first began singing, an all too familiar launching pad for bluesy soul vocalists. But just a short perusal of their YouTube history reveals a penchant for the old and the new, where original tunes will run side by side with tributes to classics as well as their own interpretations of indie rock and under the radar pop covers.
Live, they channel the crowd’s energy, who in turn feed off of the band, not least of which is Johnson, climbing speakers, entering the crowd, dancing with wild abandon. That diversity and energy, along with their female-fronted focus, earned for them, for a second year in a row, a main stage spot on the Ladybug Festival lineup in downtown Wilmington. And while this year’s event was a rainy affair, Sug and the crew took hold of their opportunity that came with the move indoors.
“They let us go downstairs and play downstairs at the Queen and that’s always been on my list of places to play,” Johnson beams. “It was intense and insane and everything I ever wanted it to be.”
That move parallels another too, as it was at that performance that Sug mentioned she was relocating her life to the big(ger) city itself. She says some of her local crew from home–and her job–expressed a bit of disappointment, but familiarity breeds contempt, and in order to grow, Hoochi Coochi had to break free from that comfort zone.
“You can’t grow in a level that’s super comfortable,” Sug admits. “I moved to Wilmington to escape that.”
And while it’s one of the many facets of our state’s charm, playing to a crowd who recognizes you from Starbucks or Target as much as from sweating it out in the audience of one of your performances at Blue Earl or Mispillion River Brewing lends a markedly different level of comfort and confidence, that sometimes chafes against a band’s nature.
“None of us want to play the same venues every time,” the bands founder and lead vocalist Danielle “Sug” Johnson says. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, but as a band, we love to travel. Sometimes we’ll go out of state because it looks like it will be a good time.”
Despite their desire to hit the road, the Milford appearance will nevertheless mark a welcome return to the below-the-canal town for the group, and one that Sug and crew absolutely look forward to, thanks to Milford’s present cultural growth.
“Milford is honestly one of my favorite places to play down south,” Sug says, adding that in addition to Mispillion River Brewing adding an accommodating outdoor stage, they’ve noticed bigger and bigger crowds every time they’ve played there.
“They started to get a lot of younger people moving to the area to work at the new hospital. It was the people who would listen to Hoochi Coochi.”
And sure, that growth may be in the beginning stages, but the iron is definitely heating up, so you may as well start striking it now. Johnson adds that “Milford is definitely the crowd that would like to see what Ladybug brings.”
Catch Hoochi Coochi on the main stage at 4:30pm on Saturday, September 22.
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