Postmodern Jukebox Brings Life & Flair to Pop Music at Highline Ballroom
It’s not often that a group can so seamlessly intermix entertainment, musicianship, and distinct style, but when a such a group comes about, you can’t help but watch and interact in wonder. Postmodern Jukebox is this rare and sought after combination. Taking modern pop songs and transforming them with jazz, doo wop, ’60s style R&B, swing, ragtime, and old-timey flair, group visionary, composer, arranger, and pianist Scott Bradlee believes “songs can be twisted, shaped, and altered without losing their identities” (PMJ). He wants people to see pieces of music as multi-dimensional and malleable. Bradlee openly admits his love/hate relationship with pop music, so whether you love, hate, or love to hate most pop songs, there’s a very great chance you’ll be enamored of this rotating group of multi-talented, highly skilled performers. Their viral YouTube videos cannot do them justice. If selling out back-to-back shows at the Highline Ballroom in New York City in one night didn’t make it clear, I’m here to tell you that this band is a must-see live.
We entered the Highline Ballroom as one of the lead vocalists, Ashley Stroud, dressed as a Jazz-age flapper, engaged the crowd and introduced the opening song, “Fancy” by Iggy Azalea.
With the alluring and rhythmic vocals by Ashley Stroud, a ragtime twist, and some “Fancy” tap dancing footwork, PMJ took the word and the song to a whole new level. The style was so divergent, I almost didn’t recognize the original! The group’s covers are different enough from their originals that if you’re not that familiar or up to date with pop music, a few might go right over your head. Either way, resisting the urge to engage this show is no easy feat. And how many of you can refuse Beyonce? PMJ’s big band rendition of “Drunk In Love” featured the resonant vocals of a second singer, Cristina Gatti, with sexy sax and trombone support. To keep things even more interesting, the talent kept on rotating every few songs, with a total of five different female vocalists, one male vocalist and mainstay MC, and an EWI player. PMJ’s healthy balance of seriousness and comedy kept the audience reeling.
The Postmodern Jukebox show was not complete without costume changes, stage antics, corny 1950s-esque radio commercials from WPMJ Radio, and playful, comical crowd interaction. Pow Girl cranked up the energy, providing her booming voice and vivacity to a slow jam take on the DuckTales cartoon theme song – both hilarious and bursting with musical aptitude. And let’s not forget the tambourine man, who lent his bubbly flow and smile to the stage, and our MC (Andrew Baron Roland), who half way through the show graced us with his singing voice in a surprising Motown cover of Nickelback’s “How You Remind Me.” I know, I know. Laugh all you want, but this guy had serious soul and made the whole audience openly enjoy a Nickelback song. It was simply fantastic.
A cover that especially captured the spirit of Postmodern Jukebox was of Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop,” doo wop style with warm and timeless vocals by Robyn Adele Anderson. The crass lyrics of this song contrast especially with Bradlee’s style interpretation, inspiring feelings of whimsy, familiarity, and amusement, as well as appreciation for part of Scott Bradlee’s vision for PMJ – to force people to see outside the box. Covers of “Just Dance” – Lady Gaga, “Talk Dirty” – Jason Derulo & 2 Chainz, “Timber” – Ke$ha & Pitbull, “Get Lucky” – Daft Punk, and a jazzy, embellished take on the Game of Thrones theme song all illustrated the depth of Bradlee’s ability to arrange and transform these seemingly static songs into musical pieces that showcase individual musicianship, stir the mind, and deliver the unexpected. Balancing out the highs of the show, PMJ closed out with Bradlee on piano and a fifth vocalist, Andromeda Turre, in a delicate and modern arrangement of “A Sky Full of Stars” – Coldplay.
With such an animated and talented crowd on stage, it’s easy to miss a name but difficult to forget his or her skill. The stage cleared, and Scott Bradlee stood solo to address the audience directly, instilling in each of us his message that, “If you don’t like the music, change the station.” Bradlee lives this both literally and figuratively: not a big fan of pop music, he set out to make it more interesting and wound up with something much bigger. Postmodern Jukebox has rightfully gained so many fans through their creativity, exuberance, and stage chemistry; they are currently on their first international tour! The stage presence, technical skill, and passion in each musician on stage at the Highline Ballroom was more than evident; it was downright undeniable. Thank you PMJ for an imaginative step back in time and forward in thinking about pop music.
See more tour dates for Postmodern Jukebox here.