August 6, 2009

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A taste of Tin Pan Alley
Two Man Gentlemen Band has fun on stage
By Katie Beth Ryan music@hippopress.com

The past didn’t always intrigue Londonderry High alum Andy Bean, a longtime session guitarist in New York who is now one-half of the Two Man Gentlemen Band.

But these days, Bean has traded in his guitar for a banjo and finds himself channeling, along with bandmate and bassist Fuller Condon, the sounds of a bygone era.

Bean and Condon began listening to hot jazz and 1920s dance records, as well as recordings of old Tin Pan Alley songs, and were soon hooked. When they sat down to write songs as The Two Man Gentlemen Band, the old-fashioned sounds worked their way into their compositions.

“The beauty of the Internet,” Bean said, “is that if you find something you like, even if it’s just by accident, it’s very easy to get very deep and into it. That’s how it happened with us. Someone played us a Louis Armstrong Hot Five record, and we just fell in love with it.”

The duo’s penchant for the music of the ’20s and ’30s has translated into a wise career move. They’ve gone from busking in New York’s subway stations to opening for Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson on several dates this summer, to releasing their fourth CD, Drip Dryin’.” The two gentlemen will take their act to a smaller but no less enthusiastic crowd at Studio 99 in Nashua on Friday, Aug. 7.

“Our approach to entertaining is different in that we do love to entertain the audience,” Bean said. “We’re not up there like what my friend calls ‘sad bastard singer-songwriters,’ playing their song and demanding that the audience listen to every single word and explore our souls or something. We’re just putting out some fun s--t and I think people appreciate that.”

Their musical upbringings and early careers were rock-oriented in nature, but Condon and Bean soon found themselves drawn to a more acoustic sound (and no longer wanted to lug around heavy amplifiers). Bean said that the songs written by himself and Condon cater to an energized bar crowd, but their sound has wide appeal.

“I think the best word is vaudevillian,” Bean said. “That gives a sense of it being old-fashioned but also entertaining, and fun, but not in a corny way. It’s just fun.”

A typical Two Man Gentlemen Band show relies heavily on audience interaction, Bean said, and people who may never have listened to hot jazz or Tin Pan Alley songs. Even in their new role as an opening act on the Dylan/Nelson tour, Bean said that the duo still connected with a significantly larger crowd.

“It came very naturally for us, to be up there doing our show in front of a couple thousand people shouting along with us,” he said. “You play on a corner and people ignore you. By the time Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson came calling, we were up to the task.”

This summer has taken the band from New Orleans to Cleveland and now to Bean’s native New Hampshire. This week, Bean will make his Granite State debut, which he says is poignant, given his upbringing in Londonderry. Growing up in New Hampshire didn’t influence him musically, but there is nowhere else he would rather have come of age.

“I don’t think I discovered much of this music until after I left,” he said. “But I have only wonderful things to say about New Hampshire and New Hampshire-ites, so I hope many of them come to the show so I can tell them in person how much I like them.”


Two Man Gentlemen Band
When: Friday, Aug. 7, at 8 p.m.
Where: Studio 99, located in the Picker building at 99 Factory St. in Nashua, www.studio99nashua.com
Tickets: $10 at the door.
Hear them: All four of the Two Man Gentlemen Band’s CDs, including Drip Dryin’, are available on iTunes. Learn more about the Two Man Gentleman Band at www.thetwogentlemen.com.