Old-fashioned duo delights with Vaudevillian swing style

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The Two Man Gentlemen Band, a duo from New York City, played to a large crowd of superheroes, villainous vixens and masked marauders Tuesday night at Auntie Mae’s Parlor. The bar sponsored a concert for the band, as well as a superhero-themed party for Mardi Gras.

It is hard to imagine a band that might have been more at home in the former speakeasy. More than the artist’s starched suits or the bassist’s tilted top hat, it is the band’s music, which dates back as far as the days when Mae’s served bootlegged gin. The Two Man Gentlemen Band’s style and sound is perhaps as old school as possible without venturing into musical types predating recorded music.

“We like to call it Vaudevillian swing,” said Andy Bean, the band’s guitarist. “We’ve got some jazzier elements, but also it’s sort of a spectacle.”

Bean plays four-string guitar, an antique instrument that is virtually unseen in contemporary music. Fuller Condon, the second member of the duo, plays stand-up bass, an instrument that he was quick to point out “plays the lower notes.”

Both members contribute vocals and the occasional kazoo solo, an instrument whose appearance in the band’s music is almost as surprising as Bean’s choice in guitars.

Despite playing antique instruments in a genre that has been all but extinct for close to 80 years, The Two Man Gentlemen Band’s music feels far from outdated. While the duo’s greatest influences have been dead for the better part of half a century, the songs and lyrics are fresh, new and entirely original. Songs range from odes to mini vans, to women whose measurements are prime numbers (because they are only divisible by one, and that one’s going to be one of them). The lyrics are comedic, playful and entirely enjoyable.

“I like the period of music they represent from the early 20th century, how they mix that with being very comedic,” said Matt Riffle of Abilene. “They do a very good job of transcending that and providing a new spin on things.”

Just three years ago, The Two Man Gentlemen Band was playing for tips on street corners and in subway stations. One aspect of the band’s performance that seems to have carried over from its early days is its understanding of the importance of crowd involvement. Throughout the show, the duo made a point of involving the audience, conversing with the crowd between and even in the middle of songs.

At one point, after some light-hearted scatting, Bean said “What the f*** are you laughing at, we’re making jazz here,” and cracked a wide grin to an audience member who was chuckling with a buddy. During a song titled “William Howard Taft,” the band succeeded in what one might expect to happen only in a history professor’s dream; getting an entire crowd to scream the president’s name as it sang about him getting stuck in the White House bathtub.

The band’s ability to involve and entertain a crowd seemed to pay off, as most those in attendance, none of whom likely spend their days listening to old jazz records or Vaudeville swing, said they found the performance fun and enjoyable.

Catherine Grace Stewart, sophomore in chemistry, said she enjoyed the band’s music and lyrics. Stewart particular enjoyed “Prime Numbers,” and how the band sang all the factors of 36.

For those who could not make it to the performance, the band also recently released its fifth album “The Two Man Gentlemen Band: Live in New York.” The album offers everything that makes seeing the band so enjoyable. At times, the album feels as much like a conversation or a comedy routine as recorded music — creating a listening experience reminiscent of classic Arlo Guthrie albums.

Since the band’s beginning just a few short years ago it has attracted the attention of such notable musicians as Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson, for whom it opened a show last summer.

Eric Shumaker, senior in psychology, said he thought the performance was very good, and the band was “what’s up.”

And as the band continues to tour nationwide, people everywhere are beginning to realize The Two Man Gentlemen Band is truly “what’s up.”

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