Cousin Fungus’ roots trace back to the Summer of ’93 in Port Washington, NY. Stanziale brothers Thomas (bass), Christian (drums), and Henry (guitar) were joined by their hometown friends Gary Menkes (keyboards) and Billy Zwerlein (vocals/rhythm guitar) and formed the Phish cover band, Stash. Their first show was June 2nd, 1993 at the Port Washington lacrosse alumni game at Bar Beach and “Stash Wednesday” gigs at Bobby’s on the Boulevard occurred throughout that summer.
Gary decided to move to Key West and his final show was Thanksgiving Eve, ’93 (“Stashgiving”). Gary played one set and local friend and musical talent Dennis Belline played the other with Dennis taking the “hand off” and assuming full time duties going forward.
1994 and 1995 saw the band’s popularity spread, frequently playing venues such as The Wetlands Preserve in New York City to continually growing crowds.
Stash ventured into new territory when they played their first original song, “Rejhi” at Prime Cuts in Rockville Center on October 15th, 1996 and they continued writing and integrating originals into their setlists.
On April 12th, 1997 Stash was playing to a packed house at Chuck’s in Syracuse, NY. Much to their surprise, Phish’s own Jon Fishman (who is from the area) was in-house and sat in with the band for part of the second set, playing drums on Wilson, Funky Bitch, Rocky Top, NICU, Slave to the Traffic Light, and Love So Sad (link to setlist).
Throughout the Summer of ’97 Stash played weekly at New York Avenue in Huntington, NY with setlists consisting of mostly original music (with some Phish sprinkled in for good measure). Helping with this task was Dave “Gummy” Gershfeld who contributed poetry to a handful of songs. It was also at one of these gigs that Shaun Mangan first saw the band and began to pen lyrics to original band compositions. Shaun made many contributions over the years and has been known to put on one hell of a light show…
In the Fall of ’97 Stash changed their name to “St. Ash” as they were playing little to no Phish and in the Spring of ’98 Billy departed and the band Christened itself Cousin Fungus (which is a lyric in their original song, “Low Tide High”).
Dennis took over lead vocals and the band recorded their debut CD, “Thoughts of a Moth” in May of ‘98. “Moth” was released that September as the band played to a growing fanbase throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic and capped off the 90’s with a trip to play a few raging sets during Phish’s 1999 millennium concert in Big Cypress, Florida.
Plans were under way for the band to go back into the studio in 2001 when Dennis decided move West to pursue other interests. The future of the band was uncertain, but not for long…
After several shows as a trio, Mike Sanchez (vocals/guitar) joined Cousin Fungus on June 9th, 2001, giving the band a lead voice once again, and they went on to record “Share the Air” in June of ’02 with a December release.
On August 29th, 2003 Cousin Fungus welcomed the addition of keyboardist Mike Sydor while Sanchez played his last show on October 16th leaving the band as a quartet once again. This incarnation of Cousin Fungus with Sydor played its last show on December 23rd, 2004.
Much to the delight of die hard fans, Dennis returned and reunited with the band in the Summer of ’05 without skipping a beat. Two decades on, Cousin Fungus continues to wow the crowds with material from their deep (100+ tracks) original library as well as their arrangements of covers from influential artists which are woven into their performances.
C u at the next show!!!