As a kid growing up in rural Pennsylvania, just outside Harrisburg, I was always fascinated with characters. The quirky elementary school teacher, the overly rebellious teenage lifeguard – they all kept me interested.
In high school, I found myself immersed in a world of extremes. There were jocks, nerds, clowns, bullies, badasses, and babes. “Cool” became relative because, well, everyone was cool in their own way. And, working at a beer distributor on the weekend, I met plenty of other characters.
But the only characters that have really stuck with me are the ones I carry around on campus in my iPod. When I listened to “Meet the Beatles,” I’ll be damned if I didn’t meet those boys from Liverpool (my future dog’s name will be Ringo). Every time I hear a Springsteen or Gaslight Anthem song, I’m eager to know how things are going to turn out for Virginia, or Terry, or Johnny, or Hazy Davy.
And they’re not just in the songs either. My favorite band for much of my life was Guns N’ Roses. I loved how each member was so distinctly drawn as some cartoon skeleton on the cover of “Appetite for Destruction.” For a while in college, though, it felt like I wasn’t getting my usual character dose from music. I attribute that to not looking in the right places. Then I discovered Daytrotter.
The site, which boasts 17 bands and over 60 session songs a week, has been around since 2006. Bands and artists range from indie acts (Father John Misty, Deer Tick), to chart-toppers (Mumford & Sons, The Lumineers), to legends (Jimmy Cliff, Glenn Campbell). They stop by The Horseshack studio in Rock Island, Illinois and lay down live versions of hits and covers. And variety isn’t an issue (as of Tuesday, the site had sessions from 2,298 artists).
What makes Daytrotter great for college students (and everyone) is the sampler aspect. For $2 a month, members can download sessions from bands they love and artists that intrigue them. But, for me, Daytrotter brought back musical characters. Johnnie Cluney’s illustrations of the artists and Sean Moeller’s long, descriptive stories combine to make a personalized album sleeve in digital form.
I wouldn’t say that Daytrotter has made me a music hipster, but it’s certainly helped me find more characters to download.
If this post even remotely interested you, Daytrotter offers a free, two-week trial. Comment below about your favorite source for music.