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Wooden HEZ prepares for southern tour

Armed with ponderous tunes, a Queen Village musician is plotting success for his alternative rock band.


By Joseph Myers

Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Feb. 28, 2013

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Photo by Greg Bezanis

In a world laden with instability, Dave Pitone has resolutely crafted careers as a lawyer, screenwriter and tennis coach. Always courting fulfillment yet cognizant of its fleeting nature, the Queen Village resident has spent the last three years involving himself in a field synonymous with thrilling high and bewildering lows — music. 


His venture has thus far proven more fruitful than frustrating, as Wooden Hez, his alternative rock band, has generated local support and soon will embark on a tour to back its debut album.


“I suppose, like any musician or artist, I’m just looking to create something beautiful, knowing the reward could be instant, way down the road or nonexistent,” the 49-year-old of the 100 block of Pemberton Street said. “We’re hoping to get some national attention and get signed. Essentially, the sky’s the limit.”


His trio will seek that expanded renown April 12, with a 10-day trek through Tennessee, Georgia and Florida. It will perform pieces from “Children’s Parade,” the eight-track collection it released in early December at Connie’s Ric Rac, 1132 S. Ninth St., with Pitone, the lead singer and principal lyricist, conveying the struggle to fend off anguish and despair.


“We’re more about the music, so if the words reflect something about ourselves, that’s incidental,” the guitarist said of his two-year-old group. “I have grunge sensitivities so we find ourselves looking to come up with edgy, dynamic, even emotional songs.”


He and his mates, including bassist and Passyunk Square resident Alan Lee, have garnered gigs across the city, including stops at Connie’s and The Legendary Dobbs, 304 South St., where they will play March 8. Musical contacts bred an opportunity to see the South, with the impending journey leading Pitone to ponder the future for Wooden Hez now that it has made its recording splash.


“It all seems more viable because we have traction and are empowered by knowing more courtesy of the first sessions,” he said. “We’re already at work on another album, and I feel a tremendous pressure to make everything better and fresher.”


Pitone credits The Beatles as pioneers of perfecting pieces that relied on innovation and evolution. Though he counts the Liverpool lads as influences, he aims for a sound more reminiscent of Nirvana and Pearl Jam, who both played at Dobbs in their formative years, and has heard his threesome likened to them and alternative rock mainstays Dinosaur Jr. and The Flaming Lips.


“I can see how those comparisons apply, and I appreciate them,” he said. “However, we’re looking for distinction as Wooden Hez, not as people who sound like someone else.”


A New Jersey native, Pitone completed his legal preparation at Rutgers School of Law and has handled projects for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court as a writer. The parents of two girls, ages 14 and 12, he and wife Jane Fitzgerald, a teacher at South Philadelphia High School, 2101 S. Broad St., settled in Queen Village nearly two decades ago, with the former figure finding the area conducive to creative endeavors.


“I do consider myself primarily a writer,” Pitone, with a penchant for poetry, said of his preferred passion. “I gravitated toward writing through my law background and have used it to navigate my way through numerous situations.”


As a sought-after editor, he has brightened prospects for those with cinematic ambitions yet has taken a break from that task to work on his own figurative tale, which essentially began three years ago at South Street’s Lickety Split.


“I attended an open mic there and thought I could become a competent guitarist and songwriter,” Pitone, who prior to that epiphany had dabbled with his current instrument and the piano, said.


He began playing acoustic originals at the venue shortly after and found a few local music makers to jam with in 2011. Tinkering with his works’ identity, they replaced his gentle treatments with edgy arrangements, with Pitone, who abandoned the idea of setting his poems to music, proud of the alterations’ ability to help him and his peers to pursue greater cohesion.


“I would say the songs were strong from the beginning and that we perhaps struggled with a bit of individualism before we emerged as a whole,” the founder, who has had to part with a few collaborators, said of the band, which began as “South” and now bears a name whose second half is Spanish for “dregs,” “scum” and “sediment” to reflect its affinity for grunge.


Pitone esteems Lee’s ample stage and recording experience as a solidifying element of their ambition and the motivation for last fall’s self-produced work.


“I’d wanted to record for some time, and by the time we did, it felt like it was a dam that was ready to burst because I was so enthused,” he said.


Now that he has ruptured the figurative barrier, Pitone, whose spring also will involve an appearance at Mount Holly, N.J.’s Hebe Music, is maintaining an upbeat mentality while not neglecting the uncertain life that playing strings could help to compose.


“We’ve had great feedback so far,” the frontman said, mentioning positive reviews of “Children’s Parade” and a prominent ranking on the Philly alternative charts at ReverbNation.com, a website that focuses on spotlighting independent acts. “We are enthused about the tour and will probably play in Philly once a month or every other month as we improve even more. With music, nothing is guaranteed but we’re looking to make our names known.”

Visit woodenhez.com.

Contact Staff Writer Joseph Myers at jmyers@southphillyreview.com or ext. 124.

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