Deep Banana Blackout, Brooklyn Bowl, New York, NY 7/5-6
Photo by Allison Murphy
While most of the NYC crowd was out of town on this steamy 4th of July weekend, at BBQ’s with the family, or spending three nights at SPAC with Phish, there was another type of party going on at The Brooklyn Bowl.
Twenty years ago, a band called Tongue–n-Groove played in and around Hartford CT and Port Chester NY. A singer by the name of Andrew Gromiller was the front man, and vocalist Jen Durkin was the female lead. This band played funk and soul staples, namely James Brown, Parliament-Funkadelic, Sly and the Family Stone, Lyn Collins and Maceo Parker, just to name a few. At the time, Gromiller’s singing with Durkin’s signature sound was akin to a James Brown/Aretha throwdown. Eric Kalb, drums, schooled us on the relentless “One” beat, Benji LeFerve’s bass line was steady and strong, and Rob Somerville’s saxophone and Rob Volo’s trombone tickled the space in between the beats with their horns.
Somewhere along the way Gromiller decided to go on the open road, as some creative souls do, to follow on his journey away from T&G. He went out west, and the band was left to meet another band of brethren, Long Island musicians James “Fuzz” Sangiovanni, Cyrus Madan, and Jen’s brother Johnny Durkin.
This was the beginning of Deep Banana Blackout.
Twenty years later, most of the members of the original Tongue-n-Groove were on the stage of The Brooklyn Bowl, treating the crowd to two sweltering shows, while celebrating Andrew Gromiller’s newest CD, Organic Bananas, an obvious nod to Deep Banana Blackout.
Friday night, Deep Banana Blackout was beginning to get their groove on. Perhaps these Brooklyn Bowl shows were some of the rehearsal shows in prep for Gathering of the Vibes festival, happening in Bridgeport CT at the end of the month. Regardless, Gromiller’s and Durkin’s voices raised the roof, in classic Deep Banana style. There is a certain energy level that Deep Banana Blackout has sustained through their twenty-year sprint – it’s always hot and heavy, right out of the gate. Durkin’s exuberant excitement is contagious, and it ripples through the crowd.
Friday night brought special guests to the stage, including an intense percussion and conga jam with Johnny Durkin, Memo, Jacqueline Acevedo on congas, while Fuzz and Eric Kalb were hitting the drumset. Anastasia Rene joined the stage to sing with Durkin, Gromiller, Somerville & Fuzz on “Got to Get Ya.”
Special guests on Saturday included keyboardist Colin Brown, vocalist Anastasia Rene and thirteen year old guitarist Bobby Paltauf. By the middle of the first set, “Tug” set the pace of the show, with three singers on the stage. LeFerve went off on his bass solo before the building the crescendo with Somerville on sax and Volo on trombone. Full meltdown was in effect for “Red Hot Mama” where Jen Durkin and Gromiller brought it higher and louder. Fuzz shredded his guitar, Volo changed from trombone to guitar and Somerville dropped his sax for a cowbell for a “God Made You Funky” tease. Rene then joined the stage for a rousing “Super Bad.” Guitar whiz kid Bobby Paltauf joined for “Turnaround,” where it became obvious he could hold his own with Fuzz and the band, and the crowd loved him.
The set ended with a crushing “Comin’ Round The Mountain,” where The Brooklyn Bowl exploded into funkiness. Durkin spun in circles, Gromiller shook and bounced, Fuzz tentatively began to run in circles before he full on fell to the ground.
This was a nice glimpse into what we could be treated to at The Vibes on July 25th. Don’t miss these guys, because when they get together, you are guaranteed a show where everyone is genuinely happy to be there – whether on the stage making funky music, or in the crowd dancing. Deep Banana Blackout always busts out into a full on dance party.