Here in Charleston there are any number of great cover and tribute bands one can go out and see. Some of my personal favorites are T.N.T. (performing Bon Scott-era AC/DC), G N’ R Lies (playing music from the original Guns ‘N’ Roses lineup), and Iron Cherry (which plays a selection of some of the finer hair metal music from the 80s). I love going to see these acts, partly because I never got a chance to see the real life bands they’re imitating, but mostly because seeing these acts is always a lot of fun. The tribute bands dress up in costumes and wigs, either to look like the band, or, in the case of Iron Cherry, to put the proverbial cherry on top of the musical sundae by sporting wigs and spandex.
Last Friday night I was at the Pour House on James Island to see the latest entry in the local tribute band game. This time the objects of the tribute were newly inducted Rock and Roll Hall of Fame members Daryl Hall and John Oates. I should probably stop here and just throw out there the fact that I’m a huge fan of the music produced by Hall & Oates over the years. The duo had a string of hits in the 70s and 80s that would make any musician jealous. “Private Eyes,” “She’s Gone,” “You Make My Dreams Come True,” “Out of Touch,” and others were on the radio and MTV every day when I was in high school, and they still get airplay decades later. Some may call them cheesy, but I’m an unabashed fan. I even got to meet Hall a few years back at Bonnaroo (he was there performing with fellow Philly musicians Chromeo), and he couldn’t have been a nicer guy. Hall is currently a Charleston resident, and recently taped an episode of his popular syndicated show “Live from Daryl’s House” with local superstar Darius Rucker. Hall is second only to Bill Murray on folks‘ wish list of famous local people they hope to bump into around town.
So now a group of local musicians, all of whom I assume share my love of Hall & Oates music, had formed a cover band in tribute of the two songwriters, and last Friday night was the premiere performance. Prior to the show I had a chance to speak to drummer Daniel Crider of Dead 27s, who filled me in on the origin of the project. In addition to Crider, the band features Andy Greenberg and David Grimm on guitar and vocals, Phillip Noland on keys, Alan Brisendine on keys and saxophone, Jesse Anderson on bass and vocals, and Trey Francis on lead vocals. “Andy Greenberg approached me with the idea months ago,” said Crider, “but we came to find out that there were a total of three different bands wanting to do a Hall & Oates tribute show. I guess the Live at Daryl's House has made them hip again.” As far as why he thinks Hall & Oates’ music has such widespread appeal, Crider said, “Hall & Oates songs are so catchy and fun. They’re also challenging, especially for the background vocals. Daryl Hall is amazing at harmonies. After diving into the stuff deeper it's amazing how good those guys are. They didn't have auto tune back then. It's real. The project also appealed to me because it was something a little different from what I'm known to do in town. I do the Hendrix thing with Dead 27s to celebrate his birthday every November. I've participated in an Allman Brothers tribute and will be doing a Zeppelin tribute show in August. Hall & Oates songs are strictly groove. Play for the song. No spotlight. Just drive it and play pocket for the most part.”
Then there’s the name that the musicians came up with, a name that will forever rest near the top of the heap of creative tribute band names: Mr. Holland’s Oates. “We all pitched names, but Andy’s was the best,” said Crider. “It’s a play on the film title Mr. Holland’s Opus.”
The resulting show was far better than I could ever have expected, which is saying something, since these were all talented musicians that were contributing to the project. As the lights at the Pour House went down the band members took their places, Francis was sporting a long blonde wig in tribute to Hall, while the rest of the band all sported Oates’ famous bushy mustache. A few members even sported bushy black wigs in an attempt to emulate Oates in all of his 80s glory.
Mr. Holland’s Oates opened with “She’s Gone,” one of the band’s early hits. The R&B-flavored tune did a slow build before exploding into its catchy chorus. The crowd, which filled the main floor of the Pour House, was on board from the first few notes. Everywhere you looked you could see folks singing along as the band played H&O hits such as “Method of Modern Love,” “Sarah Smile,” “Kiss Is On My List,” and “Rich Girl.” That last song, which preceded a short break by the band, received a huge reaction from the crowd, which threatened to drown out the singers onstage with their enthusiastic singing.
After the break, during which many audience members asked to pose for pictures with the band members, Mr. Holland’s Oates returned to the stage for a longer second set, cranking out well-known H&O hits (“Maneater,” “Private Eyes,” “You Make My Dreams Come True,” “Out of Touch”), as well as some deeper cuts by H&O (particularly good was “Every Time You Go Away,” which was written by Hall but was a radio hit for British singer Paul Young). After ending the second set with a spirited version of “Adult Education,” the band returned for an encore to play “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do),” which sent the crowd home to dream of the next time Mr. Holland’s Oates plays live. For a rabid H&O fan like myself, the show was both silly fun and a reverent tribute to the band’s music. The real Hall & Oates was playing in London that same night, so any chance of Daryl Hall showing up to sing a song or two was a pipe dream. Given the great turnout at Friday’s debut, it’s a sure bet that another performance will happen soon. I’d recommend buying tickets in advance when it does. Who knows; maybe during the next show we’ll hear reports of a blonde mystery man in dark glasses hanging out in the back of the club, smiling in amusement as his music is lovingly played by a crack group of local artists. Hey, it could happen.