This past March, at the annual South by Southwest music and film conference, Philly band Low Cut Connie hauled their equipment, including a piano named “Shondra”, to approximately ten separate gigs throughout Austin, Texas in less than six days. A daunting task and logistical nightmare that would make most any band shutter, yet the boys in Low Cut Connie handled it like professionals, battening down the hatches and delivering spectacular shows wherever they went. Having had the pleasure of attending one of these numerous performances, I decided immediately afterwards to make a point to see them play once more on their last day in town and just hours before drummer, guitarist, and co-frontman Dan Finnemore was scheduled to board a plane back to Birmingham, England where he holds down a full time job as a college film professor. So naturally, upon hearing that Low Cut Connie would be playing in my neck of the woods (NYC) less than a month later, I knew it was not to be missed.
Flash forward to this past Saturday night, April 9th. A handsome young crowd of New Yorkers file into downtown Manhattan’s Bowery Ballroom to see three acts, all of whom still firmly grasp the tradition of pure, straightforward rock and roll. Kicking off the night was New York’s own Jeremy and the Harlequins, a group whose members look like characters straight out of Francis Ford Coppola’s film The Outsiders and carry themselves with the “too cool for school” confidence of John Travolta in Grease. Their sound followed suit with their attitude and attire as the leather jacket clad outfit offered punky takes on classic 50’s and 60’s rock riffs and vamps while lead singer Jeremy Fury showcased his crooning abilities on the mic.
Next on the bill was another troupe of local boys hailing from Brooklyn, Dirty Fences. Incited by the ferocious playing and singing of drummer Max Hiersteiner, often while standing and snarling into the crowd, the Fences pumped out a raw and gritty blend of pop punk and skate rock. The group’s relentless energy, coupled with infectious lyrics and harmonies that bring to mind fellow NYC punks The Ramones, got the sometimes stiff New York concert-going crowd loosened up and ready to party. As in normal Dirty Fences style and tradition, the audience showed their appreciation by throwing empty beer cans and plastic cups onstage throughout the set while the band played on unfazed.
Finally “Shondra”, Low Cut Connie‘s beaten and chipped piano was wheeled out to the stage as the anticipation in the crowd built in a way not dissimilar to how it does when Willie Nelson’s trusty Martin guitar “Trigger” is placed onstage before a show. And once the members of Low Cut Connie hit the stage they did so with a bang, opening with an extended shimmering introduction to the song “Rio” in which pianist and frontman Adam Weiner forewarned the already jubilant audience, “we’re gonna get weird tonight” before exploding into the song’s driving rhythm. The group rode the momentum, rolling effortlessly through tune after tune of tight, dynamic grooves all while exchanging grins and nods amongst one another. Visibly pleased with the turnout and audience responsiveness, midway through the set the at times reserved drummer and singer Dan Finnemore even requested the house lights be turned on so he could take a photo for his mom back in England and prove how many people came to see him play.
Some of the shows highlights were inspired versions of The Velvet Underground’s “A Foggy Notion” and David Bowie’s “Suffragette City” which turned the remainder of the show into an all out Low Cut Connie sing-a-long. By the time the dust had settled and the houselights had flicked on it seemed as though the crowd was collectively thinking the same thing: “When’s the next Connie gig?”