With beat-up piano Shondra in tow, Adam Weiner and his Philly band return to Tip Top Deluxe this week, riding a reputation as one the best live bands in the country. Read the Local Spins interview.
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This is a story about fiercely real rock ‘n’ roll, a well-worn secondhand piano named Shondra and a guy with “a deep well of insecurity and dissatisfaction” whose band uncorks one of the best, sweatiest and most thoroughly satisfying live shows you’ll see anywhere.
Take it from critics at big-league publications such as The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Huffington Post or the L.A. Weekly: Philadelphia’s Low Cut Connie is a live sensation with pretty darned good songs to boot.
Or take it from me: There hasn’t been a better or livelier piano-battering and piano-hopping act since the early days of Elton John, and seeing that sort of display in a cozy setting like Grand Rapids’ Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill hearkens back to the pioneering days of Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard – or even Detroit’s own Iggy Pop.
“I don’t know. The lights go on and the crowd is there and it happens,” Low Cut Connie frontman Adam Weiner told Local Spins. “I sort of have to pick somebody from your neck of the woods, Iggy Pop. I was watching him talk about when he’s on stage and he thinks of himself as sort of a short-order cook and goes around the audience, asking what they want.
“I can really relate to that. I just feel at home on stage and like giving people what they want. They want to be moved and they want to be entertained and they want to be titillated and they want to laugh and cry.”
With growing national buzz about the band’s concerts and a new album recorded in Memphis, “Dirty Pictures (Part 1),” Low Cut Connie returns this week to the Tip Top, playing the West Side club at 8 p.m. Thursday, with Scantron opening the show. Tickets, $12 advance ($15 day of show), and more info available online here.
Despite Weiner’s tongue-in-cheek assertion that his on-stage swagger comes from a “deep well of insecurity and dissatisfaction,” the pianist who grew up in New Jersey comes off as the consummate, confident entertainer on stage, backed by the equally exuberant James Everhart, Will Donnelly, Larry Scotton and Lucas Rinz – delivering a mélange of earthy fun recalling the likes of The Faces, The Rolling Stones and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins.
Weiner took time out of the band’s tour to chat recently with Local Spins about the group’s approach and its fourth album – soon to be followed by “Dirty Pictures (Part 2)” – which was recorded at the legendary Argent Studios in Memphis.
Q: So tell me about the new album, “Dirty Pictures (Part 1).”
A: I just wanted to dig a little deep deeper on this one. There’s been a slow creep of people hearing about us, and some of that has labeled us as a party band, a crazy bar band. That’s cool with me, it’s true, but I wanted to show people that we have more going on than just that. Everything from writing to production … I just wanted to dig my heels in and do something with a little more dynamics. I’ve been really impressed and happy that we’ve gotten the response that we’ve gotten. … It (recording) happened really fast. Now, I won’t want to record anywhere else but Memphis – just to have the total freedom in that studio and in that city. It’s Music Central. You never know who you’re going to meet there.
Q: So did you take piano lessons as a kid? You remind me of an early Elton John on stage.
A: It’s pretty cool you made that connection. Elton John just played the (Low Cut Connie) song ‘Dirty Water’ on his radio show last week and this weekend, he’s interviewing me for his show. (Watch the video for ‘Dirty Water’ below.) Every young barroom piano player’s dream is to get to chat with Elton. Rock ‘n’ roll among other things is visual. It’s a visual art form and you gotta have the look and the moves and it’s got to have that visual experience, otherwise it’s jazz. I love jazz, but jazz isn’t really a visual genre. KISS and James Brown and David Bowie, it’s visual. It’s about excitement and titillation and I feel like we’re just part of that tradition or trajectory. Yeah, I did take piano lessons. … I tried them for years but I really wasn’t good at reading music so I started trying to figure things out by ear. I figure I always secretly wanted to be a guitar player and smash things and pose and move around. So, you have to find other ways; it’s gotta come out.
Q: You guys still drag “Shondra” the upright piano around? Haven’t you thought about giving in and just playing an electronic keyboard of some kind?
A: Shondra. It’s like a badge of honor now. That’s my girl, for five years. There’s a music store in Freehold, N.J., where (Bruce) Springsteen grew up. I got the piano there and it was like the fifth or sixth one I got there. I’d say, ‘Give me the cheapest piece of crap that you have.’ They kept breaking. Eventually, I traded in for two junker pianos in the warehouse in the back. One of them turned into Shondra. It cost like $50. It’s just like Willie Nelson has Trigger (his beat-up Martin acoustic guitar). It’s like, that’s my girl and our fans sort of associate with that.
Q: What’s the next step for Low Cut Connie?
A: We’re doing about 80 shows (this year) so that’s something. We’re going to England in December, and just keeping busy and finishing “Dirty Pictures (Part 2).” We have more videos coming out and they’ve gotten quite a response. We’re booking all kinds of dates for next year. Just one brick at a time, keep building a church.
Q: What’s your impression of the Tip Top Deluxe?
A: I like the Tip Top. There’s nowhere to hide in there, for sure. There’s even nowhere for me to change my clothes so … I love that. I’ve been doing this for a while and my bread and butter has always been these little clubs. I love that club. It’s got a rock ‘n’ roll vibe there.
VIDEO: Low Cut Connie, “Dirty Water”
VIDEO: Low Cut Connie, “Revolution Rock ‘n’ Roll”
VIDEO: Low Cut Connie, “Jump Into the Fire”
VIDEO: Low Cut Connie, “Rio” (Live)
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