Written by: Meredith Berke
Photos by: Alex Pines
Deep Banana Blackout is an eight member band with Jen “Pipes” Durkin on vocals, Rob “Brass Tongue” Somerville on sax, James “Fuzz” San Giovanni on guitar/vocals, Eric Kalb on drums, Benj LeFevre on bass, Rob Volo on trombone, Cyrus Madan on keys and Johnny Durkin on percussion. They hail from Connecticut where they released four albums in the late 90s/early 2000s. The band now reunites at the Bridgeport, CT summer festival Gathering of the Vibes, and the yearly Funksgiving show at Toad’s Place in New Haven.
In a strange turn of events, Deep Banana Blackout was supposed to have played at The Capitol Theater in August of 1997. Last night’s show could be called their “make up show.” For all involved, from the artists to the audience, it was one of their best make up shows ever.
Deep Banana Blackout took the stage with “Getchall In The Mood,” complete with Durkin twirling on stage. From the first note, we all knew it was going to get dirty, funky Banana style, and the packed house was ready to groove.
Jen Durkin sounded amazing, strong and loud, singing the same powerful wailing style similar to Joplin. The energy in the audience was high, balloons bouncing as were the fans. The reunion on stage was mirrored in the crowd, this was a huge family reunion at The Cap.
After the theater sang Happy Birthday, we witnessed the highly anticipated merge between DBB and Kung Fu. Kung Fu’s (DBB saxophonist Somerville’s newest band) Tim Palmieri, guitar, Todd Stoops, keyboards, and Adrian Tramontano, drums/percussion joined DBB for an incredibly rousing “God Made You Funky.” Palmieri and Fuzz played rock guitar tit for tat, which moved into a 12 piece jam session between the fast jazz funk of Kung Fu, and the fast blow-your-mind-funk of DBB.
The three piece percussion drum solo included Kalb, Durkin and Tramontano, when the members of each band moved to the sides of the stage, giving these three musicians space to do their thing. Highlights were Zeppelins “Custard Pie,” an absolute killer “Comin’ Round the Mountain,” where Fuzz went crazy on his guitar and Kalb decided to kill the drums. Magic in the air drew an on-stage marriage proposal from Brooks Nelson and to his girlfriend, Alison, long time DBB fans who flew out from Cali for the show, as well as and a shout out to old Tongue-n-Groove fans.
DBB favorites, “Tug,” “Bump –n- Sway,” and “Too Funky,” kept the dance party bouncing well before midnight. DBB closed out the show with The Band’s “The Weight,” dedicating it to Rick Danko, recalling that fateful 1997 show they never played at The Cap, because The Band cancelled.
P-Funk’s “Standing on the Verge of Getting it On” into an out of this world, explosive “The Boot,” with Somerville and Durkin on vocals, Fuzz and Palmieri shredding their guitars, the DBBFU drummers and LeFevre kept the bass beat low and strong.
Opening for Deep Banana Blackout was Kung Fu, a relatively new band, playing fast and furious jazz-funk explosion style. The band consists of three members from the funky prog-rock jamband The Breakfast, (guitarist Tim Palmieri, bassist Chris DeAngelis and drummer Adrian Tramontano), RAQ keyboardist Todd Stoops and Deep Banana Blackout sax player, Rob Somerville.
Kung Fu has been getting a lot of play on Sirius XM, and at The Capitol Theatre they played for a huge crowd, who was ready and waiting to hear this band who has so much buzz around them.
If you haven’t seen them before, they are full on-in your face-100% power house jazz/funk fusion band – loud and fast filled with great improvisation and hard jams. Stoops is a magician on the keys, while Tramontano keeps the beat hard and fast. Palmieri is a genius on the guitar, showing his seasoned skill, as is bassist DeAngelis and saxophonist Somerville sometimes leads with that sax, and sometimes only accents. There are no vocalists – they don’t need one.
Next time to catch them will be in New Hampshire, and they are also opening for Bowlive at The Brooklyn Bowl in March! Keep a lookout for them this year – they will touring the summer festival circuit.