Pounding and standing on the piano he calls "Shondra," Adam Weiner cranks out some serious rock-and-roll with his band Low Cut Connie. A Jerry Lee Lewis-meets-Little Richard-on-Broadway showman, Weiner comes by his brand of distinctly American music naturally.
"When I was 13, I bought a Lead Belly album," Weiner says. "My music listening has been chronological, almost. I got into country blues, then blues, then Elvis, Jerry Lee, and the Sun stuff, Little Richard, and the New Orleans piano guys, and then Ray Charles. I grew up in New Jersey, so Springsteen in the 1980s is a big touchstone. Then Bob Dylan. What's the bottom line in all this? American rock-and-roll."
- courtesy Missing Piece
- Adam Weiner of Low Cut Connie
So what exactly is American rock-and-roll? "Boogie, soulful," Weiner says. "It should touch your heart, making you want to dance. And it's about freedom. Free your body, free your mind. What was Prince's music about? Freedom of spirit, freedom of sexuality. More than being cool, it's about letting go, being free."
In other words, something like what's captured on Dirty Pictures (Part 2), a joyous 10-song ramble Low Cut Connie recorded along with its predecessor — Dirty Pictures (Part 1) — at Memphis' legendary Ardent Studio.
Adam Hill, who worked at Ardent at the time, recalls, "Adam Weiner worked for Beale Street Caravan years ago, when he was going to U of M. Early on, they played a show at The Buccaneer that was recorded by Beale Street Caravan, and they liked my mix, which led to us making Dirty Pictures (Part 1) and (Part 2). I've been engineering for them the past year, working on their next batch of songs in various locations. The band is tight and loose, in all the best ways. We've been cutting basic tracks live with everyone in the same room."
Dirty Pictures (Part 2) starts with the taut, driving "All These Kids Are Way Too High," which finds Weiner looking out at zombies standing at a show rather than dancing up a storm to the rollicking piano and the big beat. It's his job, Weiner says, to get the walking dead to put away their phones and get moving. And that's a different challenge every night.
"Every city has a different culture," he says. "Every country has a different culture. Daytime versus nighttime, outdoor versus indoor. Do they know our songs, or do they have no idea who we are? Every show should be different. You try and make people free, to put them in the moment. I've got to be aware of what's going on in the moment ... what's going on outside the walls of the club. I've got to bring all of that into the moment.
"At the end of the day, I try to give people what they really want," Weiner says. "They're in a communal situation, they're part of the moment. They feel their feeling and release that feeling. It's not a total escapism, but a tension and release."
This winter and spring, Weiner will be getting the crowds going with a run of headlining dates in the U.S. that extends into May, before heading to the United Kingdom and Europe. It's the latest series of shows in what has become a never-ending tour for Low Cut Connie. It's the kind of work that needs to be done by a band that, little by little, is breaking out.
Formed seven years ago, and named after a waitress who wore low-cut tops, the band released its first recordings as Get Out the Lotion, and followed that album with 2012's Get Me Sylvia and 2015's Hi Honey — all critically acclaimed.
The band got its biggest shot of attention in 2015, when President Barack Obama put "Boozophilia" — a 2012 song Rolling Stone described as "like Jerry Lee Lewis if he'd had his first religious experience at a Replacements show" — on his Spotify summer list.
That got Weiner a White House visit. Earlier this year, he had another summit meeting, talking with Springsteen after attending one of his Broadway performances. The Boss, it turns out, is a Low Cut Connie fan — which thrills the New Jersey-born Weiner.
The attention, the recordings, and Low Cut Connie's never-less-than-great live shows are now paying off, bringing the band an ever-larger audience. "The word is spreading," Weiner says. "The tent is expanding. We're a cult band and people are finding us, coming to see us."
Low Cut Connie plays the 1884 Lounge at Minglewood with the Klitz and Louise Page on Saturday, March 9th, at 9 p.m.