Sunday, August 24, 2014

When the Lights Go Out on the Eighties

I'm pretty sure the pop duo Hall & Oates is stalking me.  They were stalking everyone in the early eighties, with hits spilling from any speaker loosely connected to a radio station.  When the fickle fame cycle had run its course and pitched Hall & Oates into the void, I would have thought I was done with them for good.  Then a few years ago I saw a ski-film clip featuring John Oates.  He had parlayed all those gold-records into a house in Aspen with a recording studio in the basement and had become a ripping tele-skier.  (I can't find the clip anywhere on the internet, but this 2008 article talks about his skiing.)  It looked like the guy spent his days skiing and nights playing music.  Huh.  That dude made some good choices in life, I thought, and assumed I was once again done with Hall & Oates.

Then I ran across the Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers van session cover of “I can't go for that."  The van sessions stuck me as a pretty clever way to market a band in the new digital world, and the Hall & Oates tune was good.  I ran across Fitz and the Tantrums doing their song “Money Grabber” with Daryl Hall, which sort of clued me in that the whole Fitz sound was just an extension of the Hall & Oates Philly soul thing.  I read about and found Daryl Hall's “Live from Daryl's House” show, where he basically just invites artists over to jam with a great backing band.  The songs performed, which include a healthy sprinkling of old Hall & Oates tunes, are good.  The Fitz clip above came from one of the Live from Daryl's House shows, though I didn't catch that at the time.  Were the light-rock and r&b stylings of a long-forgotten band suddenly becoming relevant to me?  And if they were, did that mean that I was losing all credibility as a punk and metal fan?  And why were Hall & Oates suddenly everywhere?

And by everywhere, I really mean Anchorage, because on Thursday the paper reported that John Oates was performing a benefit show (raising money for the American Cancer Society) the following Saturday.  This had gotten out of hand, and I figured the only way to put the Hall & Oates revival to bed was to go to the show.  There were only three-hundred tickets available, but the show was not sold out when I checked.  So, last night, C and I went to Chilkoot Charlie's to see what would happen.

What happened, it turned out, is that before John Oates came on stage Koots evacuated us from the building.  A staff member appeared on stage and started talking with some animation into a dead mike.  We ignored him.  He moved to a live mike.

“Um, I need everyone to leave.  Really.  Through this exit.”  Two emergency exit doors leading to the front parking lot were now open and daylight—still fifteen hours of daylight up here—penetrated the dark corners of the bar.  “Technical difficulties and we need you to evacuate.”

People continued to ignore him.

“This needs to happen now.  Start moving.”  Nothing.  “You can take your drinks with you.”  Ah, there was the trigger.  The room emptied.

I have no idea why we were evacuated in the first place, but when they let us back in all of the power was off.  The facility started lighting candles, and so long as you had cash kept selling drinks.  The woman next to us, two empty shot glasses and a full beer in front of her on the bar, was doing her part to keep the place in business.  She wasn't too pleased with the turn of events.  “I paid $100 [remember, this was a benefit] for this?!” she slurred to anyone in ear-shot.  Everyone else seemed to be having a good time.  

Eventually Koots fired up a generator to power some small PA and the amps, and put a lantern on the stage.  John Oates and his band came out and started to play.  Old songs and new.  The guy was an entertainer straight through, telling stories between ripping guitar lines like ski lines in that film I saw many years ago.  But I guess you don't make a multi-decade career out of music if you can't perform when called to.  After the show, they auctioned off a couple of guitars to raise more money, the lights came back on as if on cue, and we came home.

Now, in the cold-light of day, I'm puttering around our place and humming "Maneater." It looks like the Hall & Oates haunting will continue after all.

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