Dave and his buddies John Caselli, Jason Comfort, Ward Harrison formed Van Heusen during the 96-97 school year at James Madison University. Dave says they only play every few years at this point, which makes Saturday night a special treat. He does assure me that they “still spit fire and eat our audience whole.” Also, the band is David Lee Roth era only.
They will take the stage this Saturday (9/13) at Saint Vitus, which is at 1120 Manhattan Avenue, along with Los Ramones – a Spanglish Ramones tribute (fronted by VH’s Ward Harrison). The doors open at 8:00, it costs $10, and you can get tickets here.
The party will actually get started sooner, when a special beer brewed for this occasion by Greenpoint Beer and Ale Co. is unveiled at the Diamond Bar (43 Franklin St). That happens at 5:00 PM, and from then until 8:00, the bar will be doing a Happy Hour.
Saturday night looks to be a really fun time. An eruption of greatness, you could say. I was pretty interested to learn more about Van Heusen and Dave’s love of Van Halen, so I asked him a few questions, which he graciously answered.
Greenpointers: Why a tribute to Van Halen? That’s not an insult, I’m curious what made you pick them.
Dave Pollack: All four members grew up on this music. For me, its still my favorite band and one I listen to very regularly. The band came about as we were hanging out at one of our houses in college and just started playing Van Halen songs spontaneously at a little party. We realized we all knew a lot or that they came naturally to us from all that time listening over the years.
GP: How does the tribute embody itself? Are you trying to be as accurate as possible or to capture the spirit of the music without being 100% faithful to it?
DP: I think compared to some of the very serious L.A. tribute bands I have seen with perfect costumes and really trying to nail the thing perfectly accurately, our version is more rough around the edges with shittier costumes etc. Its a bit more of a farce….a “Thrift Store Van Halen Tribute band,” I think was Ward used to describe it. As far as the music, I think we nail it pretty damn good, maybe not 100% accurate but pretty close. The guitar player, Edward Van Heusen (John Caselli) is a FANTASTIC musician and can play the songs and solos note for note. If you ever see old live footage of Van Halen at their drunken standard, we are probably a little better than them on most nights.
GP: Can you tell me more about everyone in the band?
DP: So I just mentioned “Eddie”. He and I go back to 2nd grade and were writing songs together probably since 5th grade. We pretty much lived together until high school when he moved away. Then we ended up going to college together at James Madison University in VA where we literally lived together. Currently resides in Woodstock.
Alex Van Heusen (Jason Comfort-drummer) lived in our suite freshman year and we bonded hugely over Steely Dan, Frank Zappa and Chick Corea. John, Jason, and I lived together for several really fun years. Currently living in Charlottesville.
Ward Michael Anthony (Ward Harrison) was a guy we met on campus who played out in a lot of great bands. More recently, he played with the Hackensaw Boys from Charlottesville for many years and is currently fronting our opener for this Saturday…another goofy cover band, Los Ramones. He became a great friend as well and his awesome sister Emily lives here in Brooklyn which helps keep him tied to NY living down in Richmond.
Everyone in this band, with the exception of myself, David Lee Pollack, are amazing and very serious musicians. But I can scream pretty well and ham it up like Dave. Yes, you might see a flying leap or two if my back doesn’t give out. We started this at age 21 but I’ll be 40 in a couple months.
GP: What are some of your favorite Van Halen songs? Are there any you like and appreciate more now after playing them live? I have to share that “Jump” was one of the first songs I can ever remember liking, I was pretty young when I heard it and just thought it was so cool.
DP: Nice one! Yeah, Jump was the biggest pop breakthrough in the David Lee Roth VH years for sure and a great song. Some of my favorites, especially to play include: “Feel Your Love” chugging rhythm, the epitome of good time feelin’ VH; “On Fire” an incendiary, volatile assault; “DOA” down and dirty, crunchy Van Halen; “Everybody Wants Some” everyone knows this one from the movie Better Off Dead. PRIMAL; “Unchained” another classic hit, also a crunchy and earth shaking anthem; “Little Guitars” very tasteful guitar playing, more polished, really great song writing. Ask the other guys and I am sure you would get different answers but those are some of my favorites.
GP: Also, it seems that your love of Van Halen is so strong that I wonder if it has shaped your life in any other way.
DP: Well, the creation of the bar. Aside from the name, its been an undercurrent in other ways as well including events we do there, design. It pervades everything for me. Many of my relationships. It was pretty important in most of my good friendships.
GP: Finally, are you a fan of the TV show Freaks and Geeks by any chance? I ask because I’ve been revisiting it and there is a lot of Van Halen music, particularly from the debut album. For example, the first soundtrack cut in the whole show is “Runnin’ with the Devil” and one episode makes prominent use of “Ice Cream Man.”
DP: Very big fan of the show. Not just the VH soundtracking but all the soundtracking on that show is fantastic. The dialogue and writing in that show is just about the best I’ve ever seen on TV as far as nailing the way people really talk to each other in high school.
Be sure to hit up the Diamond at 5:00 for the special beer and happy hour and then Saint Vitus at 8:00 for the show. In the mean time, you can check out this great clip from Superbad that is perfectly soundtracked by “Panama.”