Larry Banilow
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Larry Banilow

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Larry Banilow are.... Well, geez, I don't know. I think it would not be incorrect to call them a joke band, although they're actually serious musicians. It's just that it's also a joke. The songs that they do are a mixture of soft-rock chestnuts and their own appalling originals. Captain Sensitive, their frontperson, is actually a surprisingly good singer (we'll get to why it's surprising in a bit), when he's not breaking down in tears mid-song. So, so sensitive. The problem with their set, for me, is that it includes not one, but TWO Barry Manilow covers. Now, it's not like I couldn't have foreseen the possibility—it's only their fucking NAME, after all—but somehow I was unprepared, and I've got a special place for Barry Manilow songs, deep in the pit of my stomach. Those were hard to take. And it's not like I was being humorless about the whole thing; I sang along lustily on the chorus of "Daydream Believer." The set is built around a bit of theater involving special guest Courtney Naliboff as "Margaret," and she's fantastic, whether she's belting out Joe Cocker's part on "Up Where We Belong" (oh, yes), or pussy-whipping Captain Sensitive right off the stage. It's definitely one of the weirder sets I've seen, and therefore something of a success, I think. Oh, and the surprise: most of Larry Banilow is also Voodoo Screw Machine, and Captain Sensitive is another alter-ego of the same man who brought the world Thermos X. Pimpington. As Tom says, what's amazing is not that he can be Thermos or that he can be Captain Sensitive, but that he can have both of those characters in him is bizarre and impressive. (April 2005) - Steve (http://www.apocalypse.org/~steve/shows/2005/042005.html)


Then, it's time for Larry Banilow, with The Very Special Episodes and assorted other special guests. They've put together an entire evening of TV theme song covers. We start strong with the Star Trek theme, with Kitten Pearl--er, sorry, Pilot Episode--doing a seriously gorgeous job of the wordless wailing vocal. This is one of the high points of the evening. There are a lot of high points to the evening, and a lot of stretches that really drag, too. Fortunately, most of these "songs" are about 30 seconds long, so it's hard to get too tired of anything. (Although that also means we're left wanting more payoff on some of the really great parts, e.g. Kitten Violet--er, sorry, Second Season--ripping up the lead on the Good Times theme.) The only section that does drag really badly is the Game Show between sets, a minimally organized attempt at a TV trivia quiz show hosted by Robbie Roadsteamer. I have now seen the 'Steamer hijack two different shows with his schtick, and I've gotta say, he's really hilarious for about two minutes. Then I get sick of him, and then he goes on for what feels like another half hour before someone manages to get him off the stage. So, all in all, a very uneven evening. Still, some more of the aforementioned high points: Sarah Rabdau was breezy and beautiful on the Sesame Street theme. The band were fantastic; the rhythm section could handle any style with flair and what looked like ease. (The drums on the Hawaii 5-0 intro and the fretless bass on the Sanford & Son theme were killer!) Doctor Bong is such a guitar god that he found a way to shred on the Three's Company theme (!), which we heard maybe one or two times too many tonight. Randy Bedfellow was delicious and campy and perfect, and Captain Sensitive was odd enough to be noticeably odd, even in this company. Oh, and speaking of odd high points: Aaron Tap's Edith Bunker was possibly the highest high point (in more than one sense) of the entire night. (April 2004) - Steve (http://apocalypse.org/~steve/shows/2004/041704.html)


Discography

"Pillow Time"
"HUG!"
"Love Waves Hello"
"Kiss the Girl"

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Bio

Larry Banilow is a Boston-based comedy rock act. If you like 1970s-influenced soft rock that's written well and played splendidly, but with tongue planted firmly in cheek, you'll want to check out Larry Banilow.

Conceptually Larry Banilow began (if you couldn't guess based on the band name) as a Barry Manilow spoof. The first performances in 2004 mixed some Manilow cover tunes with other turgid, unlucky in love soft rock songs from the 1970s. Childlike front man Captain Sensitive (the alter-ego of actor/singer Neil Graham) is like a cross between a Care Bear and SNL's Stuart Smalley, alternating between buoyant self-congratulatory glee and chest-heaving crying fits. It seems that Randy Bedfellow (a lady-killing character played by pianist/vocalist Joe Kowalski) is one of the few friends the Captain has, and therefore knows a few ways to console the overly sensitive fellow. Cupcakes are one way. The Sesame Street tune "Menomena" is another. The rest of the band is exasperated, except for Dr. Bong (guitarist Stony Curtis), whose giant afro and perpetual cloud of smoke hides a too-cool-for-school herbally-enhanced nonchalance. Larry Banilow's hyper-emotional soft rock is rounded out by drummer Special Agent Johnny Dapper, whose actual Special Agent responsibilities eventually required him to be replaced with ex-adult film extra Cubby "Cubby O'Toole" O'Toole, and bassist Invisible Funk, whom no one in the band claims to be able to see. In live shows, usually it's the audience members who point out that the bass is not coming from Randy Bedfellow's pants.

These days a Larry Banilow live show plays like a mini-rock opera. The storyline always involves a girl that the Captain has fallen in love with, inevitably to be seduced by the salacious Randy Bedfellow. Audience members get in on the act, invited to the stage for snacks during "Cups and Cakes" and serenaded during "Love Waves Hello."

Part of Larry Banilow's success in the Boston clubs where they put on their appalling shows is that these guys really sell the act. Also, each band member is an accomplished musician, playing flawlessly while cracking everyone up. Perhaps they sell it so well because the Larry Banilow band "bio" tells an intricate backstory belied by the ages of the guys in the band. Fans are willing to suspend disbelief to go along with the suggested history. The story goes that Larry Banilow formed in 1975 when recently-fired Grown Man Naked guitarist/ keyboardist Randy Bedfellow (remember, you have to forget that the guy playing Randy was four years old in 1975) met the performance dynamo and emotional rollercoaster that is Captain Sensitive at a facial tissue convention in Bristol, UK. The two were fast friends and inseparable songwriting collaborators from the first moment, penning "I Think I Love Her (Because She Looked At Me)" before even learning each others' names. They became a hit-making machine, Banilow riding high on the success of "Love Waves Hello," 1981's "Kiss The Girl," 1984's "HUG!" (which the band insists was recorded long before Van Halen's "Jump") and many more before the band was sidelined in the mid-80s by the interests of managers, girlfriends and Captain Sensitive's insanity.

In addition to smart, very wrong originals and many soft rock cover songs, Larry Banilow is capable of playing an entire night of TV-theme show music, including commercials. They proved that at their April 2003 Boob Toob Review, a sold-out event in honor of Turn Off The TV Week (it was more like "here's what can happen if you watch too much TV").

http://www.myspace.com/larrybanilow