Reliving Van Halen

By Andrew Gilhooley / 411

Let’s face it: Van Halen is one of the greatest rock bands ever to have stepped onto a stage. If you're a fan, you probably already have your tickets for the band‘s August show in San Jose. If you can’t wait until then to hear your favorite Van Halen hits, you might want to go to Don Quixote’s in Felton on Sunday evening. There, you can see the Bay Area's premier Van Halen tribute band, Hot for Teacher.

To describe oneself as the premier tribute band may seem impetuous, but Hot for Teacher has the credentials to back it up. The band recently played at the Hard Rock Café in San Francisco to celebrate the dedication of Michael Anthony’s bass guitar. The Van Halen bassist joined the band for several songs, telling the crowd, “Give it up for Hot for Teacher - these guys rock!"

Hot for Teacher formed in 1999, growing as a natural progression from a series of other bands. Vocalist Randy Monroe and guitarist Terry Lauderdale were in a rock band called Acid Tongue. The band was pretty popular around the Bay Area and had a couple of songs played regularly on local stations. The band started to add some cover tunes to its repertoire and noticed that two songs were particularly well received by audiences: one was Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter" the other was Van Halen’s “Ain’t Talkin’ ’Bout Love.”

Acid Tongue eventually dissolved; the drummer went on to play with Third Eye Blind. Monroe formed an acoustic trio, M.L.O., and recorded a CD. Then one evening he saw Lauderdale in a pub in Walnut Creek. The two were invited on stage to play with a friend’s band, the Smoking Jays.

“We played three or four Van Halen songs and the crowd went completely ape,” Monroe said. “That’s when we all looked at each other and we knew what was going to happen, the birth of Hot for Teacher!”

The band chose its name for two reasons: one, it’s a hit Van Halen song, and two, by day vocalist Monroe is a middle school science teacher; specializing in teaching   gifted pupils. He does not see his two careers as mutually exclusive.  “Being up in front of a class is like being onstage.” he said. "There’s the science stuff, but you can make it entertaining.”

Hot for Teacher plays the music of David Lee Roth-era Van Halen, regarded by many fans as the band’s classic period.

“It’s like the Sammy [Hagar] stuff is ‘la-di-dah,"’ Monroe said “Sammy’s a lot more melodic. The David Lee stuff`is like ’Whoa!’ He’s in your face.”

Monroe does a mean Roth impersonation, and the band has Van Halen’s music down perfectly .

The audience’s reaction to the music?

“When Hot for Teacher is onstage, people are drinking and partying,” Monroe said.

Van Halen “is the greatest party band of all time, so how could it not be a great time?”

First published in "411", The Salinas Californian, June 16, 2005

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