June 19, 2008

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Busking with kazoos
Two Man Gentleman Band at Hollis Library
By Brian Early bearly@hippopress.com

A library isn’t the typical venue for the Two Man Gentleman Band. Usually they play in a small theater or a bar. But they’re not against libraries.

“We’re both gentlemen,” said Andy Bean, one of the two members of the band. “We like to read as much as possible, so a library will suit us nicely.”

The other member is Fuller Condon. Together they recreate a traveling Vaudeville act; they dress in nice old suits, play old instruments and entertain their fellow humans. And they have kazoos. A whole bunch of them — with their name on them. Chances are, if you show up at the Hollis Social Library next Friday, June 27, you’ll get a free kazoo, and you’ll play along and sing with the band. Bean plays the banjo and lead kazoo and Fuller plays bass and tenor kazoo, though they’re probably all the same kazoo.

“People get happy when they hear it,” Bean said about the kazoo. “You get a kazoo into people’s mouths, and you’ve given them a gift.”

They receive about a 1,000 kazoos free, as they’re sponsored by kazoo.com, and then they buy another couple thousand at cost to hand out, he said. They were surprised to learn that about 10 percent of people at the shows can’t play kazoos — they initially thought kazoo-playing ability was universal.

The Hollis show will be the duo’s first show in New Hampshire after starting out as a busking act in Central Park and the subway stations of New York City. Four years later, they’re making a full-time go with the band, finding their niche along the way. They found that a banjo is more novel than a guitar busking in New York City and everybody loves kazoos.

As they played in Central Park, a few celebrities would happen upon them. Ethan Hawke threw money in the case, Bean said. And the two were asked by a stranger to play at the stranger’s house. Ten minutes later, they were playing at Carson Daly’s house, he said. Some celebrities were less impressed. Art Garfunkel passed by twice and never tossed in change, Bean said.

The music, in true Vaudeville form, is full of double entendres. One song from their latest album, Heavy Petting, is “When your Lips are Playing my Kazoo.” They don’t plan to tone down the material at the show.

“We don’t hide our intentions in our material,” Bean said. “If they booked us, they should know what they’re getting. We’re providing an educational service.”

Bean graduated from Londonderry High School in 1997 and quickly left the state to attend Columbia University in New York City, where he met Condon. Bean received a degree in mathematics.

“We have a few mathematic theme songs,” he said. “[Condon] went for music, and all our songs have music.”

Condon plays a 1930s bass, and Bean strums a 1925 banjo. They play those instruments while they play their kazoos with a kazoo holder made from a coat hanger.

They hope to play a bigger show next time, not at a library at 3 p.m.

“We will do it as long as America will tolerate us,” Bean said.


The Two Man Gentleman Band
When: Friday, June 27, at 3 p.m.
Where: Hollis Social Library, 2 Monument Square, Hollis
Info: myspace.com/twomangentlemanband.