Rocky Point residents Jim Brown, left, and Gino D’Ambrosio, right, performing as Two Man Acoustical Jam. Photo by Lisa Monaco-Turner of Monaco-Turner Photography
October 10, 2012 | 07:37 PMTheir big break has arrived.
After spending more than a year bouncing around the local music scene, Rocky Point residents Jim Brown and Gino D'Ambrosio, who perform together as Two Man Acoustical Jam, won a Battle of the Bands competition last Friday at Heckscher Park's Long Island Fall Festival. The win at the Huntington park secured the pair a spot as the opening performers for a major act that will play at The Paramount theater, also in Huntington.
"I still can't believe it," D'Ambrosio, who plays percussion and provides background vocals, said in an interview on Sunday.
Brown sings and plays guitar for Two Man Acoustical Jam.
D'Ambrosio noted that the bands they were up against have more experience touring and playing at festivals. "As far as us winning, it doesn't happen. We are not a typical rock band."
Krystin Ubertini, assistant talent booker for The Paramount, said the venue received 30 submissions from bands for the contest, but only four were invited to take the stage at Heckscher Park. She said those four were picked based on various factors, including their social media prominence and overall talent.
Ubertini said Two Man Acoustical Jam's win was what the audience wanted. "The voting process was based strictly on the live audience decision," she said in an interview Monday.
The act the Rocky Point duo will open for has yet to be determined.
"We wanted the winner to fit musically with the artist they were paired with," Ubertini said.
The victory for Brown and D'Ambrosio is the latest milestone on a musical journey both men have been on for years.
Brown began playing music as a teenager and performed in a band in high school. He composed his own wedding song, "Born to Love You," for his wife, Melissa. He plays bass guitar and sings for another local band called Long Island Sound, and also performs solo with his acoustic guitar.
D'Ambrosio said music is in his genes, and that his grandfather played classical guitar.
Both the Rocky Point men are self-taught: "I've never had a musical lesson in my life," D'Ambrosio said.
Brown said the two met a decade ago through their wives, who grew up together. D'Ambrosio recalled once hearing Brown strumming a guitar at a party, and the rest is history.
"We would jam with Jim's equipment," he said. "He suggested I get a djembe," which is a hide-covered drum played with bare hands. "It really just went from there."
Since then, Two Man Acoustical Jam has developed a solid local following, performing at venues like Grumpy Jacks in Port Jefferson and Carmody's Restaurant and Public House in Rocky Point. The duo plays mostly covers, including "We Can Work it Out" by The Beatles, "Cat's in the Cradle" by Harry Chapin and "You Found Me" by The Fray, but the guys sprinkle in some originals.
D'Ambrosio said the two men try to stay true to the sound of the original tracks, which attracts people to their music.
The win may take a few days to sink in.
"We were not even remotely expecting to win," Brown said. "This is a very rare opportunity for a local acoustic duo to play at a big venue."