“A whirlwind of emotions, I laughed harder than should be allowed on a dreary Monday evening”
Postmodern Jukebox came to play at Bristol on the first day of spring. In true British style the day’s weather had been nothing if not thoroughly bipolar. Showers followed by sunshine & yet more showers may, on another day, have steered me back into the warmth of my house. But not today. For today was Postmodern Jukebox Day. A day that I had been waiting for since I first saw the YouTube video of the bad playing Seven Nation Army in the music director’s basement. A sultry, jazzy rendition of one of the most well known baselines of modern music.
Since being added to my go-to playlist and played an embarrassing amount of times I had waited for the moment this New York group graced my fair city. I was expecting an off beat set of quirky reimagining’s of classic pop songs – what I got was so much more. When the ticket stub said doors at 7.30 I thought it must be a misprint, in what world would the set be that long? The support must at least be on till 9 with PMJ maybe doing an hour set. WRONG! From the second I walked in and heard the hilarious Gunhild Carling cracking jokes and walking through the crowd playing the trombone with the spirit of Louis Armstrong inside her I knew this was going to be a very special show. It was an evening that took me through a whirlwind of emotions and I laughed harder than should be allowed on a dreary Monday evening. Our host of the mammoth 2 hour performance, Ariana Savalas, was frankly hilarious.
Yes she had some serious pipes, a body to envy and my favourite level of shame (none) but she was also firing off one liners with the confidence of a well trained stand up with some of the quickest wit to boot. My highlight of the evening was, without a shadow of doubt, her rendition of Ginuwine, Pony in which she stripped to a bustier and pulled a man from the audience onto the stage for a lap dance (“don’t look at your wife, she can’t help you now”) – I was crying mercilessly. When she introduced to the stage Von Smith, a beautiful man with the highest of cheekbones, his range blew me away – pushed to the limits by an astounding rendition of Cry Me A River which caused a standing ovation for its intense purity and incredible use of dynamics showing such vocal control I could do nothing except stare wide eyed. You could literally see the abs through his t-shirt as he belted out high notes which would surpass Timberlake himself. Brielle Von Hugel made her European debut for the show and as she walked across the stage, small and blonde with a dress to die for, it took me 10 seconds into her first note to realise I’d completely underestimated her. She sang with a rich tone and such ferocious feeling that made my fingers tremble over my open mouth – it’s been a while since I was that captivated for an entire song.
Casey Bassy came out with a cheeky smile peeking out from a mane of glorious locks. Balancing his guitar on one finger and chugging a bottle of beer at the same time, you knew this gentleman was going to be the class clown. His delivery was fantastic. Using his soft gentle low tones to pull us in he then leaping to a husky bark to completely blow away within seconds. His classic take on ‘Creep’ by Radiohead and the ever so cheesy ‘Stacy’s Mum’ by Fountains of Wayne reflected the fun loving, hilarity of Postmodern Jukebox! Rayvon Owen hopped onto the stage as a present to the females singing Hotel and my oh my… You would. He looked like he’d just skipped out of a smokey jazz bar with a trilby and vest and the kind of smooth vocals that left you on the edge of your seat (minimal drool) praying for more. But before the heart had fully broken watching walk off stage, Aubrey Logan replaced him with ridiculously expressive vocals which presented a different character with each triumphant display of melodic capability; scat singing into octave leaps and slipping back down scales with ease where the band would meet her in harmony.
Bristol, we had a magical night, what an energy! Thanks for the love! And we had a special guest tonight: Gunhild Carling and Brielle Von Hugel just joined us on tour! Yay!
But we haven’t even spoken about the band yet! Oh the band, the tight as fuck spine tingling band. Every stab was played in unity, each improvisation leaped into with excitement rather than dread – they played with each other, in every sense of the word. The unwavering energy throughout was made possible purely by the amount of fun everyone was clearly having. It was like watching a group of your old friends entertain a room full of newbies because they were so incredibly relaxed, they made you relax and laugh and stare and shout and bathe in the fantastic quirks of each and every one of them. The double bass player and some of the quickest fingers I’ve ever seen, moving up and down the bass as if beating his personal best each time. The handlebar moustached drummer played with such precision you couldn’t help but click along with his big band belting beats. The saxophonist switched between wind instruments like it was no chore and played his solo wearing a horse’s head which somehow made him even more alluring. The trombone player swept through the many facets of the instrument in a way which made me smile – big! When the wind section invited back Gunhild Carling who shouted ‘Never Give You Up’ to which they all leaped into an improv of the well known song, she played the bagpipes like a god damn rockstar. I was speechless. The constant comic and ridiculously rhythmic tap dancer Alex stepped like nothing I have witnessed before – I’ve never been so totally transfixed by someone’s legs in my life. And last but definitely not least, the music director and keys player was the Man to thank for bringing this incredible group of performers together to do something I’ve not seen before. His playing was as exquisite as you’d expect and his arrangements were beautiful. The sheer amount of talent on one stage was just…inspiring. And if it sounds like I’m gushing, that’s because I am! I’m a pretty harsh critic when it comes to music, especially singers but there wasn’t one voice on that stage that didn’t give me shivers, or a soloist who didn’t prompt goosebumps. Yes, a couple of the tunes went a bit too far down the pop route for me (Bye bye bye was a no no no) but in terms of the standards on that stage – flawless. Each of them. If you missed it, you missed out and I cannot urge you to see these merry few more.