On Sunday night, Liberty Hall transformed into a speakeasy when Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox stopped by. The band found fame on the internet via their swing and jazz covers of popular songs. Nearly four million subscribers later, they found themselves taking their tricked out arrangements on the road.
“Welcome to the 20’s 2.0!” the charismatic man on the mic, who goes by Cunio, roared to the fairly packed audience. He was full of charm and wit, and chatted the audience up between songs over the course of the two-hour set. Cunio, along with gust vocalists that included Dani Armstrong and Robyn Adele Anderson, tackled songs such as Britney Spears’ “Toxic” and a couple of Taylor Swift hits with a horn section to back them up.
But the audience was more jazzed for David Simmons, Jr., the #PMJSearch2018 winner, because he comes from Kansas City. Fans in the front row even made cutouts of Simmons’ head on a stick and waved them gleefully during his rendition of Keane’s “Somewhere Only We Know.”
The band lived and breathed the 20’s. They all dressed the part, in snappy three-piece suits, glitzy gowns, and tap dancing shoes (there was plenty of tap-dancing with a mic fitted to the tap-dancing board). Art Deco was a theme for the rest of the band’s stage decor, and there was even a vintage liquor cart with booze just in front of the drum set for the occasional toast.
It’s easy to loathe nostalgia. My generation, in particular, has sort of ruined it with endless empty remakes and throwbacks. But what Postmodern Jukebox has done is given nostalgia the respect it deserves. You don’t have to like their cornball antics and ultra-pun-filled remarks, but you absolutely can admire the musical arrangements. They’ve made something entirely unique and new out of not-so-new songs (with a not-so-new style, even). When they fire up a number, there’s something familiar and foreign about it all at the same time– an anomaly that shouldn’t exist at this point int time (like John Mulaney’s accent), yet here it is right before you.
Case in point: when Cunio delivered a Queen-inspired rendition of The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star.” The piano and electric guitar arrangements were especially Bohemian Rhapsody-esque without ever calling upon the actual notes from “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Yes, it was a Buggles song, but it sounded like Queen… but only if they were writing new music. It messes with your mind, in a way, but is completely admirable and impressive. Video may have killed the radio star, but YouTube stars like Postmodern Jukebox know how to translate the thrill of live music from your computer screen to the stage.