Don’ s Neighbors, A Good Bay Area Band

Bucking the trend of naming a band using badly misspelled and tortured words or implied double entendres, Don’s Neighbors decided to make the name of their band a tribute.

When the band formed, band members rehearsed in a member’s garage who — you guessed it — had a neighbor named Don. “He found our music enjoyable,” explains Kevin Held, the band’s keyboardist, lead vocalist, and spokesman. “He loved our music, even though stuff was shaking off his walls.”

In spite of the trembling, Don enjoyed the music, particularly when things were not going well. “We can all relate to that,” Held says. “In fact, most of the band can. I think just about everybody in the band has had some kind of surgery. We have all gone through various times in our life that were tough. The music is especially for everyone who needs something to cheer them up.”

The shaking-off-the-walls, make-you-feel-good music started when Held was about eight years old, and started playing music. Life got even busier when Held started a family while still a young adult. Yet a slow period about five years ago found him wondering what he really wanted to do. “I started writing music, and I’ve written 50-plus songs so far,” he says.

The band, whose members include Held, as well as Mike Benavidez on bass and vocals, Nick Maris on lead guitar, rhythm guitar and vocals, Rock Olson on lead guitar, rhythm guitar and vocals, and Larry Boen on drums, plays what Held describes as “basic rock and roll.” Citing artists from Richie Valens to Jimmy Eat World, he says, “the band does a variety of songs. They’re mostly upbeat, danceable, rock and roll kind of stuff. No metal. But we intersperse covers with our own original songs, so the audience gets to hear both.”

Their fun sound and professionalism have gained them regular appearances at The Englander in San Leandro, as well as gigs at the Alameda County Fair, the Cherry Festival, wine tastings, and numerous private parties and clubs. That following is likely to expand later this year when they release their first CD.

While the band is still gaining local recognition, Held is very aware of the necessity to hold himself and band members to very high professional standards. “We aren’t making a lot of money,” he explains, “but you have to operate as if you already are.”

Held’s drive and discipline have driven the band’s success, but those qualities are not relegated to his musical career only. In addition, Held is owner and manager of The Sandwitchery in San Leandro, as well as a student at Chabot College.

“Believe it or not, there are a lot of similarities between running the band and running a sandwich shop,” he says. “In both cases, I’m knocking on doors, trying to get people to consider us. And that can be hard when you’re new.”

Held stays with the music, and his band, because it balances much of the discipline and drive required with a lot of fun, good times, and making people happy. “Maybe music helps, maybe it’s an outlet for the soul.” He pauses, half-laughs, and then adds, “But who knows? Maybe it’s just rock-n-roll. And just being good, fun, rock-n-roll is just fine.”

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