Hans the Double
Forgotten Fall, Chicken Alaska, Chris of Beat Valley
Pitman, New Jersey • January 26, 2007
I found myself in Pitman, New Jersey, praying that my friend and I would make it to the venue in time for the beginning of the show. After a long day at work and some traffic, I was going to see Philly act Hans the Double at a local venue in the middle of Pitman.
Sure enough, we found the Bus Stop Music Cafe. After we parked the car, my friend Mike and I walked into the venue. As I walked in, I was thrown off. I was surrounded by posters of every type of music and in front of me, there were stacks of records. It was a record store… so where exactly was the show?
As I passed the younger kids sitting on a couch, I went back and said hello to Hans the Double, a band that I had been itching to see. After forking over $7, I took a seat on a tiny couch in what was one of the most mellow and yet, bizarre “venues” I’d ever been to. Ever. It screamed college student and I was all about it.
The show started around 8 p.m. The first act was Chris of Beat Valley, a Philadelphia band. Chris was going solo that night. As he started his set, I tried to give my undivided attention; the gang of prepubescent teenage girls huddling on the couch next to me decided they were going to do just the opposite. As the music went on, my attention soon became focused on the girls who decided it was more fun to laugh and scream obscenities (or the ringleader did) as Chris was up on the stage (which was a polished piece of wood that was about 5×12). The songs that I did hear weren’t remarkable. He kept starting over, seeming somewhat intimidated playing on his own to a crowd of about 20 people. In between songs, he cracked jokes, making the audience laugh. After about 20 minutes, he was done with his set and walked off.
Next up was a band called Chicken, Alaska. Again, I tried my hardest to get into the music. After all, I’m a big supporter of local “indie” music. Yet, I found myself checking the time every few minutes,cringing and wanting desperately to crawl beneath the couch. The trio onstage went on for about a half-hour. I gave them credit for coming out and doing their thing, but they need to work on the music a bit more– tweak the cords, revamp the songs, something.
Following them was a band called Forgotten Fall. Warming up, the sounds of Blink 182 could be heard and Hans the Double’s bassist, Mike DiEva, whispered to me, “They’re into Blink.” Into Blink? That doesn’t begin to describe it. After several minutes of their own songs, they went into their version of Blink’s “Stay Together for the Kids,” which may have been the best song of the set. After that I expected to hear another of their own songs– I’m glad I didn’t put money on it. Instead, it was another Blink 182 song, “All the Small Things.” It was at some point, that the band (a trio instead of the usual quartet) decided to call up their lead guitarist/vocalist on the phone and talk on the mic. I burrowed into the couch.
Just as I was rethinking my love of indie music, Hans the Double set up and I moved to a park bench in front of the stage, in an attempt to get some photos. I had been listening to their self-released CD, Dossier, for the last two weeks and was a bit anxious to see how they matched up live. I was supposed to see them a week ago but couldn’t make it into the venue due to age limitations.
I will be the first to say that this band surprised me. They exceeded my expectations and then some. Their female guitarist, Gina Fontana, was amazing– probably one of the best guitarists I’ve witnessed. Bassist Mike DiEva found himself playing offstage and wandered around, at times playing and looking out at the street or even wandering over to a couch, sitting down and rocking out. Lead vocalist, Justin Lerner, belted out the lyrics into the mic, his shy persona disappearing during songs, only to re-emerge during the breaks. Then there was the drummer, Nick Biscardi. At one point, a drumstick came flying my way, landing at my feet, along with a piece of the cymbal. His movements were smooth as he pounded the drums, making the whole thing look as if he’d been playing drums his whole life. They played about nine songs, making up the set list as they went along. Songs included “Cult Classic,” “Another Rushmore Reference”and “Behind Keiko’s Smile,” to name a few. The best of the night had to have been “When the Moors Conquered Sicily,” an instrumental track that was particularly epic in sound. Everything– the bass, the guitars, the drums– everything just fell into place. What about the songs I knew? Their sound was damn well close enough to the CD– although the music may have been a bit loud for the tiny venue. It almost seemed as if the venue was holding them back; their music cannot be fully appreciated in a sit-down venue with a small crowd. They need to be experienced.
Afterwards I was able to get some more photos of the band and even went to a diner afterwards to chat with them. The show was salvaged by their performance; otherwise, I would seriously have had one word in mind: refund. Despite the mediocre performances from the other bands, I still give them a gold star for the attempt. After all, no band starts off sounding perfect; they all start off small. As for Hans… I’ve developed a great admiration for them and their talent.