‘Two-Man Quartet’ Makes Fun of Themselves, Everyone Else

Jul 25, 2016
Photo by: Marjorie Amon

The Bill and Andy Show might be an interesting test subject of the maxim “practice makes perfect.” For 10 years now, the duo has been practicing imperfection every Sunday afternoon at the Surf City Hotel. They aren’t there to put on a flawless show, but to laugh, often at themselves, and to dance, often with the crowd, and to share in an enjoyable Sunday afternoon at the bar.

Bill Hadam and Andy Hladek wear cargo shorts, socks and sneakers with colorful aloha shirts when they play. They sip on mixed drinks in between songs and dance around on the balls of their feet like your drunken uncle. They have four rules of engagement at their shows: 1) singing is encouraged, 2) dancing is encouraged, 3) they take requests, and 4) the more you drink, the better they sound. The fourth rule seems to be most important: It is written in red typeface on the shirts handed out to those people who participate in the weekly conga line.

These Sunday afternoon shows are totally immersive. Bill and Andy do not stand on the stage at the Beach Club Bar; they actually stand within the circular bar in the middle of the room. Occasionally, when they swing around to face the people sitting behind them, the bartender has to duck under the neck of the guitar like an actor in a choreographed fight scene.

Bill and Andy play songs from the 1950s all the way up to current pop hits. They have to be able to play a large cross-section of songs because of the way they interact with the crowd, and the standard they set for themselves by advertising rule #3. In fact, one of the enduring features of The Bill and Andy Show that was carried over from their predecessors in the 5 p.m. Sunday time slot, Jackie Vee and Paul Presto, is that the duo takes requests via bar napkin. The bartenders stick those napkins, and the bills folded into the napkins, into a plastic carousel that hangs over Bill and Andy’s heads in the middle of the room. “Sometimes,” says Hladek, laughing, “if someone throws a five onto a request I’ll just have to lean over and say, ‘Bill we know that one, right?’”

But the duo won’t play just anything that gets requested. “We try to stay upbeat,” says Hadam. “Last week we had someone request ‘Cats in the Cradle’ (by Henry Chapin) and ‘Scarborough Fair’ (by Simon and Garfunkel). Now, you’re allowed to request anything you want, but remember we’re the ones with the microphone, so if you make a bad request we’ll make fun of you for it.”

But Bill and Andy open themselves up to so much ridicule while they are on stage, only someone with extremely thin skin could be truly offended by one of their barbs. Throughout the show, Hladek wears different costume hats and plays the kazoo. Last Sunday when he put on a Party City brand Rasta Hat with Dreadlocks and started speaking in a fake Jamaican accent, a young man at the bar snickered while he took out his phone to film Hladek for what looked like a Snapchat story. Hladek looked right into the camera and said heartily, “Jah, light another spliff, mon!”

This self-effacing spirit makes Bill and Andy incredibly relatable and easy to sing along and interact with. When the band played “Kodachrome” by Paul Simon, everyone in the bar chimed in to sing, Kodachrome/ They give us those nice bright colors/ They give us the greens of summers/ Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day.

After the song was over, Hladek walked over to a man who looked to be in his 20s and pulled out a small black Kodak film canister from his pocket. “Do you know what this is?” he asked.

“Never seen one in my life.” The young man responded not like he was talking to a man with a microphone, but like he was talking to any stranger at any bar. Some of his friends laughed at him.

Hladek said, “It’s the film from Bill’s wedding. What was that, 30 years ago, Bill?”

“Long time ago,” responded Hadam.

Photography is another tool that the duo uses to bring the crowd into the show. At one point, Hladek introduced the crowd to Jim Kearns, a man with glasses who walked around the inner perimeter of the bar taking photographs and talking happily with people. Kearns has been taking photos for the band since they started playing at Surf City Hotel 10 years ago. His presence as a friend of the band who is not actually mic’d up, but is cheerfully interacting with Bill and Andy, really loosens people up and allows them to see how interactive the show is. But he is not the only “extra” member of the duo. Bill and Andy also introduced the crowd to Bob, the drum machine who, according to Hladek, “never steals the girls and is always on time.”

Once the drum machine kicked in, the crowd started to really dance, and Bill and Andy started playing more upbeat mashups. Bea and Peter, an older couple who have been coming to see the Bill and Andy Show since they started visiting Surf City five years ago, were swing dancing in the corner next to the large bay windows in the Beach Club Bar. They were dancing to a mashup that Hladek made of “Wagon Wheel,” “Florida Georgia Line” and “Let It Go.” After the song, Hladek looked at a guy at the bar and said, “I told you I could do it. You’ll never watch ‘Frozen’ the same way again, right?”

The man laughed and nodded and pointed back at Hladek.

“I myself watch ‘Frozen’ once a week,” Hladek said. “Whenever I’m in the car and my parents are driving. My mom’s 94. My dad’s a terrible driver; he died in 1992.” This line got a big laugh from Hadam.

The Bill and Andy Show is made up of two friends. By the end of their set, which runs every Sunday at the Surf City Hotel from 5 to 9 p.m. these two friends have usually made friends with everyone in the bar. While they don’t play perfect renditions of songs or have perfect stage presence, they are perfectly charming in the way they allow themselves, and everyone around them, to be imperfect.

— Tim Hone



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