The Two Man Gentlemen Band should change its name to the Two Van Gentlemen Band. A couple of years ago, the dapper New York-based vaudevillian string duo — guitarist Andy Bean and double bassist Fuller Condon — decided to leave the Great White Northeast for warmer climes, but they each preferred a different coast. Now Bean has a van out in Los Angeles, while Condon's is currently parked at his home in Folly Beach. No tough, divorce-like decisions had to be made. No splitting the baby.
The displacement hasn't had too much of an impact on the band. The goal all along has been to live anywhere. They can't play last-minute, one-off shows like they used to, every tour has to start with a flight, and most of their practice is done on the road, but Condon supposes these aren't the worst things in the world. The guys Skype a lot now too, or send texts. "People wonder how you do it and all that stuff, and still our distance between men, if before it was three feet, now it's like six feet," he says. "We're still together a lot, so people shouldn't worry about that."
In fact, Condon's on the road with Bean so frequently that he's still adjusting to his new home. Locally, he's fallen in with the V-Tones crowd, casually strumming with Noodle McDoodle and busking on King Street on Second Sundays, but he's still a stranger to many in Charleston (except for one fan he ran into at the James Island Walmart).
There were multiple reasons for Condon's decision to settle in Charleston. New York was expensive and cold, especially for the native Floridian. "We were touring so much that we didn't need to necessarily be in New York anymore, paying a lot of rent and traveling all the time," he says. Condon knew some people here — the V-Tones gang, for example — but, mostly, he came for the all-linen lifestyle he imagined Charleston would allow him to lead. Finally, he could wear seersucker.
Condon's the kind of guy who hasn't worn jeans since he was in high school. Yep. He doesn't own a single pair. And New York's a filthy place for a guy in a nice suit. Condon was looking forward to being fully immersed in Southern gentleman fashion. "Now this is where I can do this," he thought. "My inner linen can come out."
Then he saw the college kids.
"It's all khaki pants and baseball hats and sunglasses," he says, thoroughly disappointed. "It was just like, oh, all right. I guess it's just me. Again. Didn't look right where I was before, not going to look right here, either."
Although from the looks of it, Condon's not a complete odd duck. Instead, his fashion sense probably aligns more with the post-church-on-Broad-Street set than with his own age group. Like a proper Charleston dandy, he's scoped out all the traditional stores, like Berlin's and M. Dumas, and he found himself a tailor on Line Street. ("That's important," he promises. "You've got to find your tailor.")
Condon dresses as spiffy on a typical day as he does on stage at a Two Man Gentlemen Band show. Condon and Bean usually pack two or three suits for their treks, plus a couple of dress shirts, and then some athletic wear, so that they can stay in shape on the road. It's easy to collect clothing during their travels, since Condon and Bean can hit up the best thrift and vintage stores all over the country.
While they used to roll up to shows already decked out in their ensembles, the van time dress code has gotten more casual over the years. "Over time, we found you just ruin your clothes," Condon says. "If you wear a suit all day, you drive through seven hours, you sweat through it, you play a show in it, you're driving again, it destroys it."
And they should be allowed to be as comfortable as possible during van time, because the van is their sanctuary. "Our main job is driving. We're like truckers who play music for fun at night," he says. "But the rest of the time is just socializing. Some places there's just no places to get away. There's a time you need to escape, and really the only place that is safe, where no one else can go, is the van."
It's a good thing they've got two of them.