Over the weekend I went up to Concord, NH with my aunt to see Scott Bradlee and Postmodern Jukebox at the Capitol Center for the Arts. It was a bit of a trek especially considering the rain we had that night, coming all the way from Medford, MA, but we got up there with just enough time to have dinner at the Common Man before the show.
I’ve been getting pretty lucky with my seats these days, the both of us were seated center row near the back, just close enough to see everyone center stage. I had never heard of these guys before, and while I’m not a huge fan of any jazz in particular, I was impressed by them enough to actually at least like their jazz twist.
Founded in 2009 by pianist and arranger Scott Bradlee, the band started off with a myriad of videos shot in his Queens living room that now have more than 925 million views on YouTube, and a whopping 3.2 million subscribers. Postmodern Jukebox, commonly referred to as PMJ, reimagines contemporary pop, rock and R&B hits in styles from swing to doo-wop, ragtime to Motown, although this night’s showcase was mostly jazz-twisted. While much of the crowd was mostly my aunt’s age, there were a lot of young people my age and even younger, some even having gone as far as dressing up in sequined flapper dresses and feathers in their hair or suits and the classic fedora jazz hat. I found myself being so impressed none of these young-un’s were on their phones but actually watching and occasionally dancing in their seats to some of the catchier songs. Call me old, but I like when people get off their phones to enjoy something they or somebody paid easily near $50 for.
While it had the vibe of a variety show between the intermittent tap dancing for some of the songs, they were catchy, starting with an amazing performance of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Other songs following were a heavy metal and New Orleans jazz-themed version of Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” a distressed vaudevillian version of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “Thrift Shop,” plus The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army,” Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass,” Toto’s “Africa,” Beyonce’s “Single Ladies,” and The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star,” just to name a few.
The show was about two hours and then some, but the band gloriously managed to pull off cramming a good 10-15 songs.
PMJ was also joined by crazy Casey Abrams, winner of sixth place in the tenth season of American Idol. The band seems to be made up of at least a few former such contestants, all with their own solo projects on the side as well. After wrapping up the night with a wild rendition of Fountains of Wanye’s “Stacy’s Mom,” Abrams performed an almost anthemic, toned-down, heart-wrenching version of Radiohead’s “Creep,” which my aunt and I stayed just long enough to hear.
While Post-Modern Jukebox is one of those bands that’s almost timeless in how they attempt to bring back the old styles of music by taking new songs and thrusting them back into the past, it’s one of those bands that are great live. They’re not something I would listen to on my commute, however they are definitely a band worth seeing in person, especially being one of those few bands whose shows are never the same twice.