There was a Fungus among us at Friday’s Long Island Music Festival finals. And it won.
Cousin Fungus, a feel-good foursome from Port Washington, came to the South Beach Water Club in Island Park for the sixth annual festival’s finale not expecting to place against the eight other semifinalists. But by 2:15a.m. the 13 judges – including record store and studio managers and a representative from Elektra Records – picked their winner, much to Fungus singer-keyboardist Dennis Belline’s amazement.
“By no means was I convinced that we were going to take the top spot,” said Belline the next day.
He had reason to have his doubts. There were many good bands on South Beach’s stage that night, as well as a style in almost every color of the rock spectrum – from the acoustic guitar and conga drum pop of Joe Tizzio and his band to the punky smarty-pants in Supergenius, whose singer-riff slinger Gina Cutillo wore a cellophane top (and a strategically placed swath of black electrician’s tape).
But it was Cousin Fungus’ night. Honing their chops for four years (they were previously named Stash) and playing covers of the immensely popular band Phish, Belline and the boys – brothers Tom (bass and vocals), Chris (drums) and Henry (guitar) Stanziale – made the move to writing and performing original music about a year and a half ago. They’ve been known as Cousin Fungus (a name taken from a line in their song “Low Tide High”) since April when their singer left the band and Belline and Tom Stanziale emerged as vocalists.
That makes the win all the more delectable, because the group is so new at playing as a quartet. “Tom does so much singing now,” Belline, 28, said. “We went into the studio only four weeks after becoming a four-piece.”
The output from the studio session can be heard on “Thoughts of a Moth), due out Friday (e-mail email@example.com for more information). The disc should be a hit considering Fungus’ half-hour set was drawn from the self-released album.
In front of about 800 people, Belline ran onto South Beach’s stage in a glittery American flag vest and led the band through a Homeric “The Beggar at the Manor.” This first number was accented with a mellow jam from Henry Stanziale, who was smiling throughout from beneath his baseball cap. Later, “Neon Dream” drifted up to three-part harmony heaven thanks to Belline, Tom, and Henry. On a wily “Roadrunner Blues,” Belline’s delivery sounded a little like Black Crowe Chris Robinson.
“It was hard to heat up that fast,” Belline said.” “But I felt good about the set. It had a lot of energy.”
Fungus plans to put some of its $1,000 prize towards new tires for its van. It will also receive $1,000 to use at Gateway Sound Recording in West Babylon.
The other winners in the Good Times magazine-sponsored festival were: hardcore aficionados Outcast, snagging second place; rock heads 2 Blu Daffodils, third place; and grungers Bargo Pass, fourth place.
Cousin Fungus plays Thursdays 10 p.m. at New York Avenue, 396 New York Ave., Huntington, 516-427-2582 $5. There’s a CD release party Friday for “Thoughts of a Moth” at 7:30 p.m. At the Village Club of Sands Point, 10 Astors Lane, Sands Point. Tickets are $35. Call 516-767-9046 for more information. — Kevin Amorim