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Gentlemen can be hard to spot these days, so it's convenient that New York City-based two-man vaudeville act the Two Man Gentlemen Band has two of them. If your nose is buried in a pint when Andy Bean strolls past in a well-cut suit and tips his hat, you'll be sure to notice his musical partner, the equally composed Fuller Condon, who calls himself the Councilman, when he carries an upright bass into the Poor House on Friday.
Side by side, Bean and Condon, with their erect posture and wheat-colored skin, create a picture of what an American gentleman might have looked like in the early decades of the 20th Century. What they're actually wearing, Bean admits, are "the cheapest, best-looking suits that we can find from a thrift store at the last town we were in" and explains, "When we play the sort of music we play, it seems like the fashion is from the '20s or '30s."
With Boca Raton native Condon on bass and Bean on the four-string guitar and banjo (both also play kazoo), the duo creates a fusion of vaudeville, early jazz, and old-time country that comes through like a Tin Pan Alley version of the Violent Femmes. The duo performed on the streets of New York (and Fort Lauderdale Beach) for two years before they started touring in 2007. Last year, they played 200 shows and even scored opening slots for three dates of the Bob Dylan Show 2009 Ballpark Tour. In February, the Gentlemen released their fifth album, Live From New York.
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Some newer songs, such as "William Howard Taft," treat passé subjects of American history with juvenile hilarity. The song highlights the corpulence of our 27th president and onetime chief justice of the Supreme Court. Because Taft kind of rhymes with fat, and fat kind of rhymes with bath and President Taft, as the story goes, got stuck in a White House bathtub (and because that's funny), that's the sort of history lesson the Gentlemen give. Other songs, such as "Prime Numbers" and "I Can Get Drunk & I Can Sing Songs," respectively, cover evergreen topics such as female measurements and lowbrow consolations that a gentleman might stoop to when living in dire economic times.
Bean and the Councilman met while fulfilling their physical education requirement at Columbia University with a badminton class. It was there that they discovered the mutual passion that bonds them in a '30s time warp: a love for old, hot-jazz records.
The live show, in which Bean and Fuller portray, as Bean puts it, "a mildly exaggerated version of their own personalities," is interactive. The Gentlemen encourage audiences to perform simple tasks, such as screaming along as they bring to life that terrible moment in 1937 when the Hindenburg caught fire and crashed to the ground. "It's not too demanding," Bean says. "We don't want to scare anyone off. We might ask them to whistle along with us or to shout. It's not like a Gallagher show, where people are going to get fruit on them."