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Postmodern Jukebox plays sold-out show at DPAC

| Monday, February 4, 2019

Joseph Han | The Observer

“Let’s do what we do best: dancing to hot jazz and drinking bootleg gin,” vocalist and emcee Michael Cunio said at Saturday night’s Postmodern Jukebox (PMJ) concert, a statement that perfectly captured the mood of the evening.

Featuring numerous costume changes, bottles of beer and glasses of liquor, PMJ pulled out all of the stops to transport the audience to what they call “the 20s 2.0.”

Once the lights dimmed and the band took their places, Cunio came out in a top hat and tails with vocalists Robyn Adele Anderson and Dani Armstrong behind him in red-sequined dresses. Starting a trend of audience participation for the rest of the evening, Cunio began by engaging the audience in an exchange of “hidey hidey hos” before launching into a high energy, jazz cover of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” 

Erin Swope | The Observer

Next, Armstrong came forward to deliver a sultry 1930s-inspired performance of Britney Spears’ “Toxic.” Armstrong showed off her impressive range while still managing to take a few sips of brandy and asking the audience how her hair looked before launching into an impressive final vocal run.

PMJ has made a name for themselves as Adam Kubota, the bass player and one of the founding members of PMJ, said, covering “modern pop songs in an old-timey style.” The band started in the basement of founder Scott Bradlee’s basement on YouTube and has grown to have over one billion views on YouTube and international tours with a rotating cast.

Saturday’s group included a mix of original and new PMJ members. PMJ originals included vocalist Anderson and bassist Kubota, while the new additions were Dr. A.J. Kluth on saxophone and clarinet and 2018 PMJ Search Winner David Simmons Jr. on vocals.

Cunio energized the sold out crowd by calling the audience “sexy and smart” and asking those sitting in the seats behind the stage if the band’s butts looked good.

After asking, “Are you ready to Charleston like its 1929?,” Cunio welcomed Simmons to the stage to perform a Motown inspired cover of Keane’s “Somewhere Only We Know.”

Simmons delivered a masterful performance. His smooth vocals provided a wonderful contrast to Cunio’s and Armstrong’s throaty performances.

Simmons was followed by Anderson appearing on stage in a sheer black dress to perform Iggy Azaela’s “Fancy” with a flapper twist and a tap dance solo.

Guitarist Mike Chisnall surprised the audience by stepping to the center of the stage to perform an incredible guitar solo featuring excerpts from the intro of “Stairway to Heaven” before Cunio returned to the stage carrying a mic stand similar to Freddie Mercury’s to perform an electrifying Queen-inspired cover of The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star.” Cunio owned the stage as he transformed the 1979 hit with guitar riffs from “Bohemian Rhapsody” and lyrics about “YouTube stars.”

Simmons then emerged back on stage to completely change the mood of the concert with a Bobby Darin-styled cover of Jimmy Eat World’s “The Middle.” The audience was swaying along in their chairs and cheering loudly as Simmons demonstrated his “signature 360 shimmy.”

Armstrong returned to the stage ready to have some fun. Dressed in a tight black velvet dress with a tulle bustle and feathered headdress, Armstrong belted out a gritty cover of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.” When Shields appeared on stage to perform another intense tap solo, Armstrong sashayed across the stage and stopped the song.

Erin Swope | The Observer

“This doesn’t seem too hard,” she said and proceeded to join Shields in trying to match his impossibly fast toe tapping. After making several slow taps with her toe she joked that she would be taking over for Shields from now on.

After completing the song, PMJ proceeded to perform a 60s soul cover of Outkast’s “Hey Ya” with audience members copying the vocalist’s dance moves in their seats.

Cunio elicited screams from the audience as he performed Jet’s “Are You Gonna be My Girl” complete with Cunio running around in the audience and Anderson and Shields swing dancing on stage.  

PMJ ended with Simmons crooning Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” before intermission.

PMJ returned from intermission in full force.  After Armstrong performed Cage the Elephant’s “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” in a long turquoise dress complete with elbow length black gloves and Cunio gave an overdramatic rendition of Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” ending with kicking the mic stand over, Anderson and Simmons appeared once again to change the mood.

Anderson dressed in a almost transparent, shimmery silver dress and Simmons in a smart blue suit stood back to back to perform a shiver-inducing cover of A Great Big World’s “Say Something.” The audience held its breath as the two finally faced each other in the final lines before turning away once more to depart to opposite sides of the stage.

While the audience was still recovering from that performance, Shields appeared on stage in a newsboy cap, red shirt and suspenders and began to perform a tap solo. Eventually he paused for a minute to yell “One, a-two, a-one, two, three” in a questionable Italian accent and the piano joined in to accompany him with a jazzy rendition of a Super Mario Bros medley. During his performance, Shields’s shoelace came untied.  The audience grew more and more tense as they anxiously waited to see whether or not he would trip over it. Luckily, he did not.

Once he was finished, he went over to the drink cart to pour himself a drink before bending down to tie his shoe.  

At this point, Kluth came to the center of the stage with his tenor sax. He looked around at the audience before taking his hair out of his bun. After shaking it loose around his shoulders, he slowly slid out a pair of sunglasses from his pocket. Taking one last look at the audience, he took a deep breath and launched into George Michael’s “Careless Whisper.” Anderson came out to join him in a blue and black lace dress. The main focus though was on Kluth. In the middle of the song, Kluth performed an incredible improv solo complete with outtakes from “Take 5” by Dave Brubeck.

Erin Swope | The Observer

After Kluth returned to his stand with a final hair flip, PMJ performed the Chainsmokers’ “Don’t Let Me Down” with Kluth and King swaying in time together in the background.

PMJ wrapped up the concert with a performance of Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” and Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off.”

In the middle of “Shake It Off,” Cunio highlighted each band member once more with each of them taking a solo. Particularly notable were Kluth’s sax solo featuring excerpts from John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” and drummer Tom Jorgensen’s impressive brush work. Pianist Logan Thomas used his solo to perform a jazzy version of the Notre Dame Victory March eliciting many cheers from the audience and subtle humming along.  

Once they had made it through the band, the cast returned to the stage to perform the end of “Shake It Off” and left the stage with a standing ovation.  

The concert wasn’t quite over yet. PMJ returned to the stage to perform one last song, “What is Love,” with influence from the Isley Brother’s classic “Shout” complete with falling down across the stage, dancing with the audience, and a few more drinks.  

The concert ended with the cast taking a few selfies with the audience.

Saturday night, PMJ showed why they have had such incredible success: they have fun with the music and they get their audience to have fun with them. Whether it be the amazing vocals, incredible instrumentation, crazy dance moves or bad jokes, PMJ takes their audience on a ride back to the 20s that is anything but boring.

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