a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Casey and the two Jakes are rocking Pittsburgh

The new garage-rock band, Donora, is putting on a bashful front as it heats up Pittsburgh’s music scene.

“We don’t like to talk about ourselves much, really,” drummer Jake Hanner said Sunday while the trio from Gibsonia, Pa., took the mini-stage at the Three Rivers Arts Festival.

And they don’t. It takes some digging into Google to find a reference that Hanner and his sister, Casey – the lead vocalist – are the children of Dave Hanner of the Corbin-Hanner Band, a local country group that became popular in the 1980s.

The new band likes the name Donora, which is a gritty, blighted former steel town south of Pittsburgh that is famous for having had an air pollution disaster, Jake Hanner said in a e-mail to this blog.

Another Jake – Jake Churton – plays the bass behind the music that tends to replay in your head long after the plugs are pulled from the band's Fender Musicmaster.

Casey Hanner is particularly spellbinding when she drops her voice to a sexy, quiet range for one of the group’s signature songs, “Shh,” before she notches it up to a rocking finish.

Locals agree that this group turns out a great sound, as readers of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette voted it the second best band in the city in a newspaper/Web promotion this spring.

A video of the band featured on the blog, PostSecret, held the number one spot on YouTube for two consecutive days in February. And MTV likes Donora’s sound, too, enough to include two of its songs in the show, “I Remember Chloe.” This group also does a fantastic cover of Foreigner’s “Hot Blooded.”

Casey and the two Jakes have arrived with gusto, but they should come out of their shells and do more to promote themselves with slick bios, photos and videos.

They are worth noticing in a bigger way. Remember, some 20 people died from air pollution over a smoggy 1948 Halloween weekend in Donora, an episode that practically wiped the borough off the map. The band using that name deserves a better legacy.

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