ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

Undistilled Amazing —

Fine, I’m prone to writing some pretty negative things. Let’s spend a quick respite with me marvelling over a site done right.

To qualify with me for being a site that’s above and beyond, you have to fulfill some pretty deranged criteria. First of all, you have to do something few others can do. Next, you have to do this unique thing very well. Third, you have to be consistent, and show you’re in it for the long haul. And finally, you can’t slowly turn the experience into one of misery after I have glanced at all your amazing.

Lots of sites fail at some or all of these criteria. They’re not fair criteria and while I myself try to live up to them with my sites, I don’t always succeed. I like to think none of my sites are getting progressively worse, but I will readily admit a lot of time will go before they get better.

But once in a while, something comes along and just blows me away. In this case, it’s the site Live From Daryl’s House, a site where Daryl Hall of Hall and Oates

No wait, fucking come back here.

Hear me out.  Hall and Oates were a pretty good band, smooshed as they were in the era of a lot of junky pop and a lot of strange mixtures of MTV and Top 40 Radio. Maybe their music appealed to you, or maybe you were hit over the head with it too much and didn’t give it a chance, or maybe you weren’t born yet when they were all over the place. 

There’s a lot of bands from the 1970s-1980s era who still occasionally perform or do what they used to do, to slightly smaller audiences, or who do it to pretty big audiences but they don’t have the cachet of cool that were spot-welded onto them by whatever cocaine driven marketing department made you think of them all the time when they were top moneymakers. Some of these bands were not very musical, and some were very musical but we only heard a certain amount of that musicality when they were a part of a machine that was screaming “HIT HIT HIT” every 12 seconds. In my opinion, Hall and Oates had a big dollop of the second group.

The last time I’d even thought about Hall and Oates had to have been over fifteen years ago, when I impulsively bought a stack of their records (records, motherfuckers) at a used record store (used record store, bitches) in Kenmore Square (Kenmore Square, kids, before it got turned into a food court). I didn’t actually listen to the records, but stored them, somewhere, where I bet they probably still are. In other words, I knew them enough to know they were interesting but not enough to go through the effort of really digging into their back catalog. What I’m saying is, I’m not a SuperFan over here. I’m just someone who knew of them.

But somehow, about a year ago, I stumbled onto Live from Daryl’s House and was blown away.

Here’s the setup: Once a month, Daryl Hall and his team of musicians (some of them date back to his original band) get together with a guest artist and play some tunes. In between the tunes, they show footage of them working out songs, or talking about history, or discussing wine, or what have you. It is fucking fantastic.

What makes it fantastic, first of all, is that you find out that this is a talented group of musicians, doing this music. Left to stretch things out, the songs that have been around for 20+ years gain new life. With the addition of the guest artists, many of which I’d not heard of, the songs take on new dimensionality. With the insight into the beautiful space that Daryl lives in, you get a feeling like you’re visiting.

As far as I’m concerned, this is what the whole podcasting thing was supposed to bring around – relatively dirt-cheap productions where we got some good times and information while gaining new perspectives on things we already knew. I’ve listened to a lot of podcasts, and I’ve listened to a lot of uninteresting, boring podcasts, and let us not dwell too much on the ratio of those, and while you might think it’s “cheating” to rely on Hall as an example of things working for a podcast when you percieve him as a burnt out rock star husk, well, what can I say?

I can say shut up and go to the site.

Yeah, it requires flash and hoo hah and shut up and listen. These songs are fantastic. And as of this writing, there’s 12 months of shows, each one with 5-6 songs, meaning over 60+ songs you can listen to, ranging from ballads to rockers to introspective, almost redemptive pieces. This is great stuff, and with each new guest artist we hear great takes on his songs. Essentially, I again repeat, for free.

This wins my Undistilled Amazing Classification because this entire thing represents that sort of seemingly-unattainable pipe dream of just a few years ago, when I was buying that album stack at the record store. Could I in fact listen to Daryl Hall at any time from anywhere in the world and watch him take his old songs on with various newer artists and learn about those new artists at the same time, and enjoy the whole trip while doing it painlessly? WHAT ARE YOU, DEMON SPELLMASTER, I’d say, and then eat my whatever-it-was-that-made-me-fat-in-my-late-20s. I’d spill crumbs everywhere making fun of you and your insanity; this time would never come to pass.

But it has. I wish this site was mundane and Yet Another Of These Sites, but they’re generally not like this at all. The amount of respect afforded to the audience is huge. You get to go where you want to, enjoy what you want, come back as many times as you want… you’re just absolutely left to soak in as much music and history as you want. From this site, I’ve learned about new bands worth checking out because they stood with Daryl and came off great. It’s a great test; you see how they perform in this, a real setting, and you can tell yourself “these people aren’t just showing up to the studio and belting out a few lines into Protools and then going back to their hotel room”. This is the ultimate audition tape to see if a new band is worth my time.

So there you go, buddy. A site I’m blown away by. Go hang out with Daryl a while. He came out the 1970s and he’s rocked my 2000s.

He’s makin’ my dreams come true.

Ooo, ooo.

HEY, COME BACK.


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5 Comments

  1. Peter says:

    You’re right, it’s a great site and a brilliant idea. Thanks for discovering it for us.

    I wonder if there is a “business model” behind it, or is it just a hobby? It appears to be the latter, although that would be one expensive hobby: you need at least a dozen people, the connections, the place, servers, bandwidth, …

    I’d love to create something like this, but I always seem bound by too many constraints, like time, money, people and talent, that might not apply to some “burnt out rockstar” who still receives royalties (presumably)

    Or maybe I should just shut up and stop wasting time, reading blogs and following links :)

  2. Rabscuttle says:

    Very nice, thanks for the heads-up! I dug Hall and Oates back in the day, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. :)

    I would advise them to limit the repeatability of that background track, but other than that, I look forward to spending some time checking it out.

    HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

  3. Hall and Oates were, are, and shall remain, my favorite band in the world.

  4. Elliot says:

    Awesome – so glad I added an RSS feed reader to my iphone and added textfiles! Hope all’s well – happy hols…

  5. Liz Dunn says:

    I too stumbled upon this site last summer–I’d been watching a SNL clip where Willem Dafoe and Will Ferrell decide to get “Private Eyes” permanently looped into their brains. What I love about Daryl’s house is what I love about Suzanne Vega’s blogs for the NYTimes–understanding what goes into creating music, and how talented people approach doing what they do, is really interesting to me, as a non-musically talented person. And I love that it’s not for money or to sell records. I love the idea that even if Daryl Hall hadn’t been a big pop star, he’d still have been playing music all these years, because that’s what he’s compelled to do. It’s like, this is what the world SHOULD be like. People screwing around with stuff they like, just because they like it!