You’ll never catch Dan Haines from the Who Dat band using a music stand on stage.
“I have this rant about music stands,” Haines says. “I feel, as a musician, if I’m not ready to perform something at a high level, then I shouldn’t do it yet. If I don’t know the words and I don’t know the music, and I’m staring at a music stand, I’m not connecting to the audience. I’m not giving that emotional vibe you get.”
For Haines, performing in the bluesy rock band he formed 10 years ago with his cousin, guitarist Fred Augello, is as much about showmanship as it is about drumbeats and guitar licks. And although the Who Dat Band has turned into a decade-long passion for Haines, it was formed under sad circumstances.(tncms-asset)ddf69000-3419-11e7-aced-00163ec2aa77(/tncms-asset)
“My mom who had cancer wanted to see my cousin play with me again,” Haines says of Who Dat’s beginnings. “We started the band to do a Katrina benefit (in Galloway) so our mom could see us. … The sad part of the story is, we booked our first gig to play at Sweetwater Casino and my mom passed away that week. We ended up still doing the job the night of her funeral. Everybody was out there, the whole family.”
“We decided we were going to keep the band together,” Haines adds. “That first year Bubba Mac (aka Herb Birch of the Bubba Mac Blues Band, who passed away on May 16) saw our band and said that we were the only local act he would let play at the 2007 Mid-Atlantic Blues Festival. It was all famous people and blues legends besides us.”
Since then, Who Dat has kept busy, performing everywhere from Ventnor Coffee to the Atlantic City Seafood Festival, with an upcoming show at Golden Nugget’s The Deck at 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 19.
Playing covers “from A to Z … Michael Jackson to Jimi Hendrix, Santana to the Allman Brothers,” Haines says, Who Dat has had a revolving door of sorts, with more than 40 musicians passing through. But Haines is particularly proud of his most recent lineup, with Al Weber on sax and three alternating drummers — Frank Maione, Matt Curran and Dustin Showers — joining him and Augello.
“When you’re dealing with these older guys, they have more energy and more pizzazz than any of the young guys on the circuit,” Haines boasts when talking about the musicians who currently make up the band. “Today, everybody wants a trophy because they just participated. Back then, there was steep, stiff competition for you to get a job. You have to be the best of the best.”
Old-school skill with music-stand-spurning passion has spelled success for Who Dat — so named for the New Orleans’ call-and-response “Who Dat?,” a byproduct of the Katrina benefit for which the band was formed. Although Who Dat has had many different faces, Haines in emphatic that “it’s all about family,” with each passing performer leaving the band on more-than friendly terms.
“Music is magic. It’s intangible,” Haines says. “It’s this thing that you create that is only there with those five or six people. It hovers above you. If you take these people away, it’s gone. That’s what I love about it. I love the magic and mysticism of it.”(tncms-asset)85a7adda-3743-11e7-96b0-00163ec2aa77(/tncms-asset)
In fact, Haines can sum up the magic, the mystical and the familial flavors of music in one serendipitous story.
“I’m adopted, and I did a search and found my mom. She told me about who my dad was, and that my father was deceased, but she said that I should contact my stepmother anyway, just to say hello,” he says. “So I did, and she said that my father’s best friend from birth was this guy from the Bubba Mac Blues Band named Richie Baker. Here I knew this guy … I never got to meet my dad, but (because of the band) I got to meet his best friend in life.”