There’s a Different Kind of Van Halen Tribute Band … NERD HALEN!
Formed in Los Angeles, California, in 2019, Nerd Halen brings to pocket protector and T-square to the greatest rock and roll ever created! We’ve talked to the band, and we have some new concert footage of them, which you can view below. We think Van Halen fans will love this band…
Guitarist Caleb Rapoport had a dream. He wanted to form a Van Halen tribute band, but with a twist. A nerdy twist.
He would frequent The Whisky a Go-Go’s Ultimate Jam Nights, hoping to find kindred spirits who might be interested in his idea. He would often see actor/comedian Hal Sparks there.
One day, on Halloween, The Whisky did a Rocky Horror Picture Show-themed jam night, and Hal was playing the nerd.
Rapoport, Nerd Halen guitarist, tells VHND, “I was backstage and saw Hal standing there. He had his taped glasses on, and his khaki jacket. He just looked perfect. I was sold! I approached him, and said, “You know, you’re perfect.’”
Sparks looked in the mirror, and did not disagree …
Sparks is best known for his film and television resume. You might know him from when he was the host of “Talk Soup,” or from “Dude Where’s My Car,” “Lab Rats,” “Queer As Folk,” various appearances on VH1, etc. (See HalSparks.com)
Sparks was able to bring to the band his stand-up comedy tool box filled with nerd jokes and dorky bits.
Sparks tells VHND: “When Caleb approached me with the idea, I didn’t even hesitate. I said, ‘As long as we can have fun, be silly and we’re enjoying it, I’m in!’ The goal is to have fun and be silly. I think the ultimate gift Van Halen has to offer is giving people a good time. I always loved Van Halen, and David Lee Roth as an artist — as an aspirational personality. He’s charming and cool. I love people with bold egos.”
Rapoport tells VHND: “Hal is what they call in baseball a ‘5 tool player.’ He can squeeze a laugh out of stone, and he just so happens to possess one of the strongest multi-range singing voices around.”
Rapoport met Edward Van Halen at the age of 13 and it made a huge impression on him.
“My dad is in the industry,” Rapoport tells VHND, “and we had a good friend that was the assistant director of “One Day at a Time.” I went to a show taping in 1983 and was able to sit with Edward and Alex Van Halen for three-plus hours. He treated me so well. I went home and barely left my room for the rest of my teens. It was all about chasing EVH’s feel, not the note-for-note part. Although that came later.”
Modeling and acting took over the next few decades of Rapoport’s life, and music drifted. But he always had this Van Halen feel in his playing which eventually sparked his idea for a fun cover band that could possibly resonate with fans of comedy and classic rock.
“There are dozens of ‘straight tributes’ out there, all across the US and abroad. Most of them are older gentlemen in wigs and tights.
“That’s not my thing, especially at this stage.” Rapoport continued, “I have experience in musical/comedy theater and I envisioned a fun show with non-stop laughs. But when it came to the music, the Van Halen music, I wanted it to be deadly serious.”
That contrast is the driving force behind the theme of Nerd Halen. Rapoport attended Musicians Institute (GIT), and is a veteran performer with the critically acclaimed L.A. based Troubadour Theatre Company.
Besides recruiting Sparks to front the band, Rapoport also plucked Grammy-winning bassist Victor Broden from the Whisky a Go-Go’s star-studded Ultimate Jam Night roster.
Broden is a renowned studio and touring musician working with such acts as Dokken, Richard Marx, Mitch Malloy and Megan Ruger to name a few.
“Victor is the best musician I’ve ever played with. Period.” Rapoport said.
“He also was perfectly suited to hitting those upper register backing vocals that Michael Anthony made a signature of the Van Halen sound. I pitched Victor the idea in the Whisky green room. He looked at me and said, ‘So let me get this straight, you’re dressed as nerds and you play Van Halen tunes? (pause) I’ll do it,’” laughed Rapoport while describing Broden’s deadpan reaction.
“I knew I needed a Van Halen specialist when it came to finding our drummer. Jeff Page (a western New York transplant) as well as being a drum instructor at School of Rock, has played in more bands at one time than any musician I’ve met.” says Rapoport, “He’s probably played more Van Halen songs than anyone with the exception of Alex himself, hahaha! And that’s exactly what we needed for this band.”
Nerd Halen is rapidly gaining followers on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.
“Last month at the Viper Room gig I look out there and see Rivers (Cuomo) from Weezer, standing there, staring right at me. Pretty surreal ” says Rapoport.
Sparks, who’s performed onstage for years and even has his own (serious) original band, Zero 1, says, “I always loved the idea of being able go up onstage and joke and be funny, but when it comes time to do the songs, nail them.”
Rapoport finishes with, “We’ve been tightening it all up in the clubs and we’re setting our sights on everything from backyard parties, weddings and Bar Mitzvahs to corporate events, comic-cons and a reoccurring Las Vegas residency. We just wanted to have some fun jamming and maybe playing here and there, but we’re getting messages from literally all over the world, begging for us to travel far and wide. So touring and festivals around the globe isn’t a laugh anymore, it’s a real genuine possibility. We’ll go anywhere we’re asked to go.”
Watch a video montage of live Nerd Halen, below.
Visit nerdhalen.com for all related content, info, merchandise and booking.
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