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Low Cut Connie earn their reputation

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Low Cut Connie are making their move from critics’ fave to live juggernaut. - AMBER PATRICK
  • Amber Patrick
  • Low Cut Connie are making their move from critics’ fave to live juggernaut.
It’s not every band that’s been championed by both Elton John and Barack Obama, but Low Cut Connie clearly earned those honors. After playing 80 raucous shows last year to support their Dirty Pictures (Part 1) album, the hard-working rock ’n’ rollers went back into the studio to record their predictably titled fifth album, Dirty Pictures (Part 2), which is set for release this coming May. Meanwhile, they continue to tour with a lineup that now includes backing vocalist Saundra Williams, who spent seven years with Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings.

“This is a crazy life, this rock ’n’ roll life I lead,” says bandleader Adam Weiner, whose onstage demeanor includes climbing on top of his piano, tearing off his shirt, and venturing off the stage to embrace audience members. “It’s tough on your body, tough on your spirit, tough on relationships. A lot of people quit. A lot of people don’t make it. I’m still here. I haven’t achieved a very high level of success, but I’m somewhere.”

A piano player par excellence, Weiner was working in New York piano bars when, in 2010, he assembled the musicians that became Low Cut Connie. The upstart band, who now work out of Philadelphia, traveled to the Florida garage of one of its members to record some songs that became, intentionally or not, the band’s debut album.
“We did this thing as kind of a weekend getaway fuck-around,” recalls the frontman, who subsequently pressed up and sent around 200 CD-R copies of what the largely inexperienced musicians had recorded. “A couple weeks later, Robert Christgau, who was at the Village Voice then, gave it an A-. The next thing I knew, we’re in Rolling Stone, on NPR, USA Today, Guitar World and on and on. We hadn’t played five shows!”

Taking its name from a waitress known for her low-cut tops, the band officially released the recordings as Get Out the Lotion, then followed that album with two more albums, Get Me Sylvia and Hi Honey, both of which were also critically acclaimed.

Through the years, the band felt increasing pressure to deliver the goods live, and have risen to the challenge. “I knew we had to come up with the live band, to make it something special, something that everybody that saw it remembered,” Weiner says. “About three years ago, our reputation changed from a critics’ band [to] a live rock ’n’ roll juggernaut.”

Dirty Pictures (Part 1), released in spring 2017, kicks off with the song “Revolution Rock ’n’ Roll,” on which Weiner pledges himself to the real rock ’n’ roll that has driven his life for most of a decade.
Shortly thereafter, Elton John started playing their song “Dirty Water” on his radio show, then called Weiner out of the blue. Soon thereafter, he interviewed Weiner, exposing Low Cut Connie to listeners who likely had never heard of the band until Elton started playing its music.

Not surprisingly, there was much for the two to talk about, including the instrument that’s been an integral part of both musicians’ sound.

Weiner, who continues to bash away on an old upright he calls Shondra, was influenced by numerous piano greats of the past. That starts with the often-overlooked boogie-woogie and blues player Mose Vinson — “He had a very sloppy whorehouse deep blues piano style” — and extends to New Orleans masters Professor Longhair, James Booker and the late Fats Domino. Then there are the two quasars of rock ’n’ roll piano — Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard. “Ain’t nobody ever going to touch Jerry Lee for rock ’n’ roll,” says Weiner. “He and Little Richard are like 10,000 firecrackers going off all at the same time.”

While the Elton John endorsement gave the band further validation, it’s hard to top President Barack Obama’s inclusion of the Low Cut Connie track “Boozophilia” on his 2015 Spotify playlist, alongside such better-known tracks as the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter,” Florence + the Machine’s “Shake It Out,” and Sly & The Family Stone’s “Hot Fun in the Summertime.”

“That was mind-boggling,” Weiner enthuses. “It really is an amazing thing, because we’re a DIY band. I had to start my own label because no one would put out our records. I don’t have a manager. We’re just doing it ourselves.”

Weiner was even more blown away when he received an invitation to meet his most powerful fan in person.

“When I met President Obama, he said to me, ‘Hey, when’s your next record coming out?’ I told him we’re working on it. He said, ‘Well, I like what you do. I like your style. Keep it up.’ For a guy who doesn’t make a lot of money and is working so hard, it meant the world to me.”

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