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Sick Puppies at B Ryder's

Not that they're suffering from a disappointing musical career, but Aussie rock trio Sick Puppies can always use a hug.

After the release of the band's 2007 single "All the Same," which was used as the soundtrack for a touching tribute for a friend, the video became a viral sensation, helping to launch the Puppies' careers into high gear.

The sensation continues for the members of Sick Puppies: Emma Anzai, bass; Shimon "Shim" Moore, guitar; and Mark Goodwin, drums. Bakersfield will get a glimpse of the magic Sunday at B Ryder's.

"Firstly, it was a complete accident," said Anzai, 32, during an interview. "Shim made 'Free Hugs' as a 'feel better' video for his friend, who had recently lost his grandmother. After it got put on YouTube, it got a life of its own, skyrocketing beyond our control. It's been a few years now and we still see people all over the world holding 'Free Hugs' signs."

Anzai said the band's latest release, "Connect," was built with help from their fans.

"The one thing we like to do before we start the process of a new album is ask our close fans what they want more of and less of. We have a group of people called the Sick Puppies world crew who have been fans from the beginning, and the world crew continues to grow as we do. We look to them when we write and record, as sometimes being in this band bubble can be disorienting, and they bring us back to equilibrium."

Critics are split on the group's latest direction, pointing out the band may be trying to take themselves too seriously after coming off the joyful hype of "Free Hugs."

"In a nutshell, I'd say that it's a complete mixture of our albums 'Dressed Up As Life,' 'Tri-Polar' and 'Polar Opposite,'" Anzai said. "It's a snapshot in time, as albums always are, and this one is a snapshot of our time when we wrote it. It's more musical and we explored and experimented with our sound just enough to make it a little different, but not too much as to make it 'not us.'"

Musical "hugs" from the stage will be plentiful in Bakersfield, said Anzai, adding that hand sanitizer is optional.

"We hope that people get to forget all their problems for an h our and to feel something, to purge something and hopefully leave with a good feeling when they go home."

Sunday's showtime is 8 p.m. $22. All ages. B Ryder's is at 7401 White Lane. 397-7304 or