Understanding The Dan Band

The concept of The Dan Band is simple: Sing “girl” songs and lace them with cuss words. The result is hysterical and addictive. The Dan Band’s L.A. gigs are filled with celebs who totally get the joke and can’t get enough of it. Steven Spielberg, Gloria Steinem, Jennifer Aniston, Brad Pitt and Florence Henderson have all been known drop by the shows, currently taking place at Club Nokia. In fact, Spielberg produced The Dan Band’s television special on the Bravo network.

Dan Finnerty, a former off-Broadway performer who is a graduate of The Groundlings, has honed a stage presence that mixes humor with choreography and accomplished singing. Finnerty got a lot of attention from appearances as a cussing wedding singer in “Old School” and “The Hangover.”

Finnerty says The Dan Band – which includes backup singers Gene Reed and John Kozeluh who play straight men to Finnerty’s antics – came about after a drunken night at a karaoke bar, where Finnerty sang “I Am Woman.”

To get the story behind The Dan Band, Pollstar spoke with Finnerty about drunken nights at karaoke bars, music and comedy.

The Dan Band was inspired by a drunken night at karaoke, but there must be more to the story than that.

Well, it really is true because I was doing “Stomp,” the garbage can show, and it was my last night and the cast took me out to some bar, and there was karaoke. That part is all true. I got up and sang “I Am Woman” just because I thought it would be funny. And the next day I moved to Los Angeles. My friend had a band and she needed someone to open for her. She asked me to come sing a couple of songs. “It doesn’t matter what you sing. Just get up and sing something so it looks like I’m headlining.”

So I sang “I Am Woman” because I had just sang it the other night, and “Flashdance” because I wanted to do a rockin’ version of it. Then “You Light Up My Life.” I basically didn’t plan on it being all girl songs. Some guy who booked the Viper Room came up to me and asked, “Hey, do you have a flier? When’s your next show?”

I’m like, “Fuckin’ never.” But he says, “Well, I book shows at the Viper Room and if you could make this a 30-minute show I think it would do really well.”

So I just kept adding girl songs. I did about five shows at the Viper Room before the Pussycat Dolls would go on and that was right when they were starting. And that’s how I met McG [director/producer Joseph McGinty Nichol] who ended up directing our Bravo special. His girlfriend was Robin Antin, who created the Pussycat Dolls. So I would see him in the dressing room. And if you’ve been to the Viper Room, the dressing room is as big as a bathroom stall, so all these beautiful girls would pile in there and basically get naked to get ready for the show.

And then I started playing at Largo, a comedy/music venue, where Tenacious D started, and Sarah Silverman, Janeane Garofalo and Zach Galifianakis were always milling around. So I did it for a year, just by myself, with a guy on bongos and acoustic guitar and keyboards. And then I just kept wishing I had backup singers. And I did some sitcom and I met this guy who said he would do backup.

I was going to get women. I thought it would be funny to have old ladies but then I thought it would be better to keep it all guys. So I added two backup singers. And that’s it. The band got more legit and it’s just grown. Every show I think is probably my last, either because I’m getting older and fatter or because I can’t believe what could start off as a joke is still going.

That was a fuckin’ monologue. Jesus Christ!

No, it was awesome

Thanks, man.

When did the band become official?

I would say 2000. This is technically our 10-year anniversary. We’ve been fucking doing this for 10 years. But we’ve really only got out of L.A. recently. We did it for five months in New York when my wife was doing a play there so I just moved to New York and got a whole new Dan Band because my guys couldn’t move from Los Angeles. I did it there at this club called Fez Under Time Café. For a long time it was just New York and Los Angeles, until “Old School.” When “Old School” came out was when we really had confidence we could leave L.A.

Are you still building markets?

Yeah. That’s the thing. It really has been building, especially since “Old School” and “The Hangover.” Yes, we’ve been doing House of Blues-style venues but we were just in Texas for a Jack-FM thing in an arena. But it was packed, and it was a great show. And I felt like we were in the Staples Center. But the next night we were in Tulsa, you know what I mean?

A lot of venues bring us back with confidence it will be three times as big. It’s really a word-of-mouth show and it’s obviously hard to describe. And you kind of have to see it to know what it is. It’s like “Stomp,” truthfully. I saw “Stomp” before I got in it and I would tell people it was the best show in New York. But people would say, “Oh, I know. I get it.” They hear the log line “Music Out Of Garbage” and feel like they don’t need to see an hour and a half of it. And that’s what people probably think about us: “Oh, it’s a cover band and they sing girl songs.” But I think it’s a pretty entertaining show and it sustains an hour-and-a-half to two-hour set. Each song is different and more ridiculous than the last. I dunno. I like it. I like me.

It seems it would take a long time to build up that audience.

It kind of does, but there’s some pre-love involved because of “The Hangover” and “Old School.” When I first started out, you had to be in on the joke. Early on, before those movies, it seemed like guys were being dragged to the shows by their girlfriends and ending up loving it and now the girlfriends are being dragged by these guys who are violently fist-pumping to “Waterloo” or “Gloria.” They know every word to “Single Ladies,” which is really odd. Whenever I have new musicians, they always trip out on that. Looking out at these guys who look like different versions of me, at different ages and weights. I can see what I look like 10 pounds ago and I can see what I’m going to look like in 10 years.

People love “Old School” and “The Hangover” so much that they want to come and be a part of that. And they end up getting tricked into rocking their asses off to “Genie In A Bottle.”

That sounds like Teresa Strasser (http://www.teresastrasser.com/) when you played at the Adam Carolla benefit show for Bryan Bishop. She said on the Adam Carolla podcast the next day she didn’t know what to expect and was surprised by how much fun it was.

Oh, I wish I had heard that! At that benefit show, I was literally looking for Teresa Strasser because I think she’s so great and I never saw her that night. That’s so funny. I’d listen to the podcast and wonder what she thought of The Dan Band. I’m like a stalker of that podcast. I love Adam Carolla so much.

It’s a weird visual, and touring these clubs, sometimes you have to win over the crew, who are kind of hardened musicians themselves and we come in and we’re soundchecking to a Shakira medley with gymnastic ribbons. We don’t really “put it out” on soundcheck, so you can see them going, “Oh My Fucking God.” But at the end of the show they’re high-fiving us and saying it was the best shit ever.

How long does it take for you to create a new part of the show? “Glitter In The Air,” for instance, debuted right after the Grammys.

I was high-fiving myself for that one. I was watching the Grammys with my wife. It was Tivo’d and I watched Pink’s performance, paused it, and rewound it.

My wife said, “Oh no. Don’t tell me.”

I said, “I’m fucking doing it this Friday. There’s no way I’m not doing it.”

And this was on a Sunday. Monday she asks where I’m going. I say, “I Googled some circus trainer and she’s going to teach me how to do it.” By Wednesday I had the backup guys in there. The trainer told me where to go downtown, to this Russian man, to buy the silks. Then she said I needed to find someone to rig it, and she knew Pink’s guy.

So I called the Russian guy and he says, “Do you want Pink’s apparatus? Because I have it. I made it for her.”

I told him we didn’t need that, but got something else. The best part is watching people freak out, going, “How the hell did they pull that off in these last five days?”

Of course, a part of me said, “Fuck it. Now I’m off for three months. Don’t expect any new songs.”

Yeah, it’s tough enough learning songs. Choreography and banter is probably more than most acts would want to deal with.

I used to have all this integrity, especially at Largo, when I did a show once a month. I said I would not go back unless I had a new song. So I would add a new song every show. But then the show got too long. And once you’ve whipped out hula-hoops and ribbons, and are flying through the air – unless I literally explode Gene, the old, broken-back backup singer, I don’t know what will top the previous number.

Yeah, we almost just died doing “Glitter In The Air” today, by the way. We just went to soundcheck. We’re playing at the University of Oklahoma and I looked up to see who was actually rigging the hooks we were hanging from, and they’re college students who looked like they just gotten stoned. I was, like, “Oh My God!” And at one point we got into the drapes and they dropped down a whole foot. And our backup singer just broke two of his ribs.


He just broke two ribs in France. We did a show in Monaco last week and he tripped coming out of this balcony and broke two ribs. So this is the first show since then. We don’t know what’s going to happen to him tonight. He’s just walking around, all taped up.

And now the encores is to just strip it down and I sing “Candy Shop” completely by myself from the track from the movie.   The band leaves the stage. So that was my one-up, to just sing that song. Which is strangely entertaining considering we just did “Single Ladies.”

We project the song behind us to prove we’re doing the same shit, even though it’s nowhere near as good. It’s just to prove, hey, we fuckin’ learned this. I thought it would take a few rehearsals. It took seven three-hour rehearsals. Twenty-one hours of us just trying. And stupid Gene, who broke his ribs? He tore his hamstring the night of our final rehearsal. He did some crazy kick, and we heard it snap. I’m telling you, he’s literally falling apart. If you write an article, you can say we’re auditioning for understudies for when Gene dies.