Music

The Dan Band Work Wedding Singer Magic on Old Covers and New Material

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On an otherwise normal Friday night at the start of spring, Joe’s Pub is a raunchy cabaret. A bro-y, middle-finger-flipping, expletive-shouting cabaret. Onstage that night is the Dan Band, the real-world iteration of the gross, sexually charged wedding band from 2003’s Old School and 2009’s The Hangover (and 2004’s Starsky and Hutch bat mitzvah, too): Recall the scenes featuring the Dan Band, with singer (and ultimate driving force) Dan Finnerty striking dirty little dance moves and sprinkling in obscenities whenever possible.

Yeah, fuckin’ every now and then I fall apart,” he belts in Old School, Frank (Will Ferrell) and Marissa (Perrey Reeves) trying hard to have their first real dance as husband and wife. “I fuckin’ need you more than ever…

The band, of course, is real even outside of film, with cross-country live gigs, original music, and merchandise. Their act is colorful and bursting with energy, but with so many things going on (and getting shouted), it’s hard to know exactly what to look at.

“It blows you away, the degree of talent that truly exists,” says Hollywood director and producer McG, longtime fan and friend of the Dan Band and director of its Bravo special, Dan Finnerty & The Dan Band: I Am Woman. “That’s what’s so captivating about the whole thing. It’s hysterical to see a guy in a mechanic’s outfit with a backwards hat, singing songs of female empowerment, with two Wes Anderson characters, kind of, backing him up.”

The Dan Band was born by happy accident. Finnerty, a trained actor and performer, had just finished a year-long stint in percussion dance spectacular STOMP, and the cast went out to celebrate. That night they went with karaoke, and he, naturally, chose to cover Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman.” And the crowd went wild. Or, at least, friends assured him the drunken performance was hilarious and dynamic.

Not long after that, he was invited to be the opening act for friend and musician Susie Mosher, and this time he would cover “Flashdance…What a Feeling” and “Don’t Leave Me This Way.” The booker for L.A. nightclub the Viper Room was there and gave Finnerty gigs nearly immediately, which eventually led to more time at the club and additional gigs at L.A. comedy hotspot Largo, where acts like Tenacious D and the Pussycat Dolls performed. It was there that McG would see the Dan Band, get inspired, and ultimately bring them to the attention of director Todd Phillips, who, at the time, needed a wedding singer for one particular scene in his current film-in-progress. Artists at the echelon of Steven Spielberg would discover and be delighted by the Dan Band’s gas-station attendant and his lady karaoke covers, with Spielberg himself producing the Bravo special.

Asked about building a dynamic act off of the accolades the now-iconic scenes in films have brought, Finnerty explains that film was never really the point.

“All we ever cared about was the live show,” he says, “and making sure it was as ridiculous and entertaining as possible.” At the beginning of their run, the Dan Band’s setup included Finnerty, a keyboard, drums, guitar, and bass (depending on what the stage allowed) and picking songs made famous, first, by ladies.

“It was songs I secretly liked but I knew would sound ridiculous coming out of a guy’s mouth,” he says. These included “I Am Woman,” Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know,” Abba’s “Fernando,” and Salt ‘N Pepa’s “Shoop.” At some point during the band’s run at Largo, Finnerty decided what he really needed were some backup singers.

“I thought it would be funny to have really kickass old ladies who sing the shit out of stuff and dance around,” he says, ultimately going for a couple of middle-aged men donning brown blazers and thick-rimmed glasses instead.

“Maybe, like, I’m the janitor and you’re the substitute teachers that I forced to do my secret show and you don’t know why you’re there,” he says of the direction that he gave the two at the beginning of their tenure. And the backup singers, indeed, look convincingly confused. Choreography would follow suit. Hollywood director and former choreographer Anne Fletcher helping the three by adding “moments of boyband greatness” to their stage routine.

Today, the Dan Band (which is two bands, technically, with one on each coast as Finnerty splits his time) features not just single songs but full-on medleys, raunchy jerkoff moves (along with their allotted choreography), and Finnerty flipping off the audience to match. At Joe’s Pub, their set included “Genie in a Bottle,” “No Scrubs,” “I’m a Slave 4 U,” “Whenever, Wherever,” “My Humps,” and “Milkshake,” with Hula-Hoops and twirlers rounding out select numbers. The show concluded with the band’s hit cover, “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” with members of the crowd giving a standing ovation, cheering, many recording the special moment on their phones.

“He’s a superstar,” said showgoer Lee Wright, who gave Finnerty a “5 out of 5.”

The Dan Band’s newest project, out this summer, is an album of original songs called The Wedding Album. Written through the eyes of the very wedding singer who made them so beloved, the tunes were penned with the help of artists like Rob Thomas and Bridget Everett. One song, written with the men of band Train, promises to be a hit among those getting married in summer 2015, and somehow sums up the Dan Band experience perfectly.

The title? “I Can’t Believe I Love You.”

The Dan Band will return to Joe’s Pub on May 1. For more information on The Wedding Album and additional tour dates, click here.

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