In addition to all the awards to be given out at this year's Best of Texoma Gala, attendees will be able to get the party started with Blue Hat, a variety dance band from the Metroplex.
Blue Hat will provide music throughout this year's gala, which will be held at the Texoma Event Center at the Hilton Garden Inn in Denison.
“We put on a high energy show with everyone's favorite dance music,” Blue Hat lead vocalist Stephanie Johnson said via text message. “We are very excited about playing the gala in June! It will be our first time to play in Texoma.”
Blue Hat is an experienced five-piece cover band with a female lead vocalist in Johnson. With more than 20 years of experience, Johnson can handle everything from pop to blues and was named “Female Vocalist of the Year” at the Oklahoma Opry in Oklahoma City for two years.
“The band was originally made up completely of British guys who came to Fort Worth to work at BAE,” a British aircraft and defense electronics contractor, Johnson said.
Blue Hat's rhythm section, which is made up of drummer John Hotchkiss, who started playing at 11, and bassist Frank Holligan, who also has more than 20 years of experience as a working musician, are the British members still around from the band's original incarnation. Mike Arnett handles both rhythm and lead guitar for Blue Hat. He got into music in Austin and has a background in rock and blues. Blue Hat's sound is rounded out by Steve Apollo on keyboards. Apollo joined his first band at 10 and has played rock, pop, funk, R&B, jazz, country and blues.
Blue Hat has a repertoire of well over 100 songs from 1960s classics like Van Morrison's “Brown Eyed Girl” to 1980s favorites like “Edge of Seventeen” by Stevie Nicks and modern hits like “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley.
“We don't have a particular song or style we love the most,” Johnson said. “We play popular songs from the '60s to today, including country, funk, rock, pop and Motown. We really just love it when people are having a great time, and the dance floor is packed. Or I love to see people singing along. So anytime that's happening, it's our favorite songs.”
Johnson said the band has played many memorable shows, including one they played for Nebraska Furniture Mart and one during the Switchyard Festival in Carrollton where Blue Hat opened for 3 Doors Down.
“We've had so many fun shows that it's difficult to narrow it down,” Johnson said.
Johnson said Blue Hat doesn't have any one song they always go to in order to get people on the dance floor, but explained songs like Bruno Mars' recent No. 1 hit with Mark Ronson “Uptown Funk,” Michael Jackson's “Billie Jean” and Shania Twain's “Man! I Feel Like A Woman” are usually really popular with audiences.
“Every crowd is different, so there's no 'go to.'” Johnson said, adding she and the band try to interact with its crowds quite a bit during their performances. “We read the crowd and play accordingly.”
Johnson explained the band was originally known as Texian when it was all British transplants, but then Arnett joined the band in 2010 and became neighbors with Hotchkiss. They changed their name to Blue Hat after realizing Texian was already taken by another local band. Johnson joined in 2012.