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Bee’s Knees: Catch Their Buzz
By Sean Smith
Fort Wayne Reader
Whenever I see Bee’s Knees, I think of the Barenaked Ladies’ song “If I Had $1000000,” because I would love to make a standing offer to the greater Fort Wayne public: Double your money for cover charge and/or first round of drinks if you can manage to keep from movin’ along to the music at any of their shows.
The Bee’s Knees first got together sometime in 2003. Curtis Shaw (vocals) was jamming with Duane Alexander (drums/vocals) and Tony Timms (bass) under the name Jacuzzi. That lasted for a couple sessions and then they brought in Ben Porter, Matt Cashdollar and Brian Osborne to jam. Things fizzled out but Timms was still interested in trying things out with Shaw and Alexander. Once a month they would get together, jam and bounce ideas off of each other along with some friends. Eventually the group was rounded out and now includes Dan Clifford (sax/keyboards/background vocals/auxiliary percussion), Mick Colcurri (guitar/background vocals) and Todd Roth (trumpet). More than half the guys have played in other bands and some continue to play in other groups.
Duane and Tony were both key members of Strut Train and Dan played with Strut Train when the band was first forming. Duane kept the beat for Tito Discovery and Mick played jazz before relocating to the Fort Wayne area after spending some time in Nashville. Both Curtis and Todd are also members of Unlikely Alibi.
“Once everyone was in place we spent another year rehearsing before playing a show,” says Shaw. “We wanted to get a really tight sound before playing. Taking our time kinda comes natural to all of us, we’re all really laid back guys.”
That first show was in October of 2005 and took place at Mid City. By all accounts it was a success; the bar set a new record in alcohol sales that evening. Not too shabby for a band fresh out the gate.
The songs probably had something to do with it. The fellas like to call their music ‘Old Funk and Soul with a Latin twist’.
“We play a good mix. If you don’t like the song we are playing, wait a couple of songs and you’ll hear something you like,” says Alexander.
Seriously, who could argue with a set list that includes a classic funk song like “Hot Grits” by Rufus Thomas. Nothing is sacred, nor is it too well known, obscure or, frankly, childish — they’ve been known to play “Mah Na Mah Na (The Muppets Theme Song)” a time or two. You can also expect to hear an inventive take on Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf”, a respectful version of Eddy Grant’s “Electric Avenue”, or you may hear what is quite possibly the greatest mash-up of all time —a cool rendition of School House Rock’s “Three is a Magic Number” meshed with Sublime’s “What I Got”. The theme songs for ‘A-Team’ and ‘Barney Miller’ have both gotten the Bee’s Knees overhaul and are made that much more infectious in their capable hands.
What is even better news is that they have also crafted some of the most funky and fun originals to come down the pike in quite some time. “There’s really no shortage of songs because Duane has a lot of lyrics for songs that he has been writing over the years. At this point we have nine or ten fully worked up and we play about six a show,” says Shaw, “That usually works out to two per set. They have gone over really well and they really blend with the covers we do.”
Favorite originals include “Esto Es Mi Isla (This Is My Island)” and “Back to Civilization”. ’Esto Es Mi Isla’ is a song that Duane wrote awhile ago and every band that he has played in has attempted it in some form. “It’s had many incarnations,” explains Shaw. “With Strut Train it was really Hip-Hop, but when he brought it to us we decided to give it a Latin spin and it’s really fun to play. Dan and Duane sing some backup vocals in the chorus which basically translate into ‘get the hell off my island’. ‘Back to Civilization’ is fun because there’s a part in the song where I kinda go into preacher mode and I feel the spirit and it becomes something resembling a revival. I get out amongst the crowd and release the demons.”
Speaking of getting out amongst the crowd, the guys are currently putting together a four track demo that they intend to send to clubs and bars in college towns, particularly in Michigan. “Duane and Tony played a lot of different places when they were in Strut Train and that is really a nice foot in the door with a lot of clubs,” admits Shaw.
Bee’s Knees will be playing at the Downtown Improvement District's Block Party at Columbia Street West on August 30. Your dancing shoes are definitely required. Just remember that whenever you have the opportunity to check these guys out … the buzz is worth it.