On Stage: Biff Banger

By Darrell Ray Elmore

Biff Banger, a.k.a. J. Gregory Sanders. Man about town. Counter-culture icon. Loudmouth Knowitall. Ego on parade. He is infamous among the rock/poet/beatnik/coffeehouse set. In fact, he pretty much lives at the Highland Grounds coffeehouse on Bardstown Road.

Biff Banger, he of the Gilligan/Maynard G. Krebbs (Bob Denver) Haircut. Harmonica, bass, guitar rocker for 18 years. I frst met Biff when he was camping out in the lobby of my apartment building. This has been something like six years ago and since then I've seen him go through some awesome changes. From living in a tree house to making lots and lots of money doing landscaping, to playing solo acoustic outside of the Alameda restaurant for change, Biff epitomizes the struggling artist

He has played in a score of rock bands, The Pastels, The Beach Wimps, The New Deal (formerly Core of Resistance) and Men in Black, with Chris Abromavage, brother of Kinghorse's infamous Mark Abromavage. But now, Biff mainly does the solo acoustic thing. He also owns his own recording label (Loud Music) and has tapes of his own material for sale (I think he said there was only one left of his Have You Seen This Man release, so you'd better act fast!).

Biff has a wide vocal range, from tenor to counter tenor and describes his brand of music as "post-punk/neo-Celtic," whatever the heck that means and he claims his favorite pastime is chasing women, his taste ranging from "18 years old to Nancy Butcher." He plays an Ibanez Cutaway acoustic with an inboard pick-up and his songs have a rather angst/pop catch that sound like they would be right at home on the radio.

Lulling, serene, yet with an underlying edge, like tinfoil, or those forks in school that always tasted vaguely of the sterilizer. My only complaint about his music is that most of it is rather depressing.

Biff does about a 50-50 split on covers and originals ... he is an admitted John Lennon freak, but his range goes from Alice Cooper to Neil Young to David Bowie; heck, he even covers Robert Gruber's (of Lightnin' Rod Jones) "50 Freds." My own personal favorite is a Biff Banger Original titled "Eskimo Bar Mitzvah."

As I said, Biff is a regular attraction Thursday nights at the Highland Grounds and the only downside is the obvious audience apathy for his performing ... many of the denizens talking, talking, talking while he is onstage. But hey, anybody who swills those double cappuccinos that owner Scott Davis brews, well, they're bound to start talking in those caffeine-addled sentences that never seem to have an end and just run on and on and on and on and so on. After all, it is a coffeehouse. Biff also hosts "The Biff Banger Show" every Monday night. It features weird acts and music stuff and you can buy "throw-sponges" for a dollar a pop with which you can pelt the performers onstage, in case you don't really like what they're doing (or if you just feel like it). Biff says that people interested in performing should come up on one of the RANT open-stage nights and he'll audition you.

At the moment, Biff is hard at work on a Rock Opera which, when finished, will be performed at Highland Grounds. Biff also performs with the Generation X ensemble of avant-garde theater types that populate the Alley Theater in back of the coffeeshop, doing ad lib pieces and what not. Biff says: "Yeah, well, it's sometimes a lot of young kids, you know, who can't get into the bars, so they come here to hang out and giggle at us onstage when we say words like penis and vagina."

Mr. Banger is also scheduled to participate in a Renaissance Fair in Central Park with companion Bryan Hurst, as a wandering minstrel, every Saturday, June 4, through July 31, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.