CHICAGO — The fun started on Friday at Chicago’s Harry Caray’s Tavern, as the star of TV’s “House,” Hugh Laurie, introduced Band From TV in his distinctively gravelly British accent.
“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, friends, acquaintances, lovers, fighters, tax attorneys, pickpockets and hockey fans … for your entertainment, edification and sheer shuddering pleasure: Band From TV!” Laurie bellowed.
The concert kicked off a blitz of weekend gigs in Chicago by the band of musicians who also happen to appear regularly on your TV screen. The group, which plays for charity, is made up of Laurie and TV stars Greg Grunberg (“Heroes”), James Denton (“Desperate Housewives”), Jesse Spencer (“House”), Adrian Pasdar (“Heroes”), Bob Guiney (“The Bachelor,” “GSN: Live”) and Scott Grimes (“ER”).
Performing rock-and-roll covers, the band played the Windy City steakhouse on Navy Pier on Friday, continuing the next day with a show on the main stage in Grant Park, as part of the Taste of Chicago event. The same night, they played another gig at the Vic Theatre (this show benefitting the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chicago). They wrapped up on Sunday with a short set before a Cubs/ White Sox game at U.S. Cellular Field.
“Yeah, Band From TV is basically taking over Chicago. It’s pretty crazy,” said drummer Greg Grunberg, who stars in the upcoming NBC comedy “Love Bites.”
A founding member, Grunberg first met Laurie in 2006 when he was cast in guest-starring role on an episode of the Fox medical drama “House.”
“He’s such a wonderful guy,” Grunberg told MTV News of his bandmate when we caught up by phone a few weeks before their series of shows. “And I knew he had played music because I followed his career, all the British comedy stuff that he did, and [in] a lot of the sketch comedy he did back there, he would do musical numbers.”
Grunberg was already playing around Los Angeles in a garage band, so the two actors got together to jam. James Denton soon joined the group, followed by lead vocalist Bob Guiney, who met Grunberg at a charity event.
“Greg was like, ‘Hey, I’m going to jam with some friends, why don’t you come?” Guiney recalled. “So I go to the rehearsal space … and in walks James Denton, and then in walks Hugh Laurie. And this is the first time I’m meeting these guys. And we immediately hit it off.”
Two weeks later the band played its first gig, opening in L.A. for Mick Fleetwood and Macy Gray — and Band From TV was born.
Guiney added, “We got such great feedback from it that we were like, ‘Let’s keep this going, this is fun.’ Eventually more actors were added to the mix, Grunberg explained.
“Hugh brought in Jesse Spencer from ‘House,’ I brought in Adrian from ‘Heroes,’ … before I knew, it we had this band.” Scott Grimes was a recent addition, and the band often brings in special guests — mostly other TV actors — to perform at various shows.
While audiences might go in expecting something less than top-notch from these TV stars-turned-rockers, Band From TV are the real deal. They bring some professional musicians and backup singers onstage for extra support and the result is a polished sound.
“We see the jaws drop when we come out because people expect us to fall flat on our face, or sound like every other ‘actor band,’ ” Grunberg said. “But we’re really pretty tight.”
Laurie seems to be the virtuoso of the group. At the Chicago gigs, he played piano while singing Ray Charles’ “Mary Ann” and later grabbed a mandolin for Pasdar’s rendition of Charlie Robison’s “John O’Reilly.”
“The guy is the best musician I’ve ever met in my life. And it’s amazing because he’s so completely humble about it,” Guiney, who had a career in music before he ever appeared on TV, said of Laurie.
Because they’re on television, the bandmembers must work rehearsals and performances into already hectic working schedules. And it’s more than the love of music that drives them: The money made from shows — as well as their 2008 CD/DVD, Hoggin’ All the Covers — is divided among the actors’ favorite charities. “It just takes a lot of effort,” Grunberg said. “But we enjoy it so much and the end result is, in the last four years we’ve given away over $2 million in charity, so it’s worth it.”
Their only Chicago gig with an admission price was Saturday night’s show at the Vic. Grunberg is the official spokesperson for the National Epilepsy Foundation and the cause is personal to him.
“My oldest son has epilepsy and he actually had brain surgery at Rush [University] Medical Center in Chicago. The doctors at Rush Medical Center basically saved my son’s life, and I really wanted to do something special for Chicago.”
Judging by the near-ecstatic reaction of their fans, Chicago did indeed get something special.
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