Scroll down for a gallery of image from the band.
Postmodern Jukebox is coming to The Silver Legacy in April. “Post what?” some of you may say. Postmodern Jukebox! It’s the brainchild of pianist Scott Bradlee, started in 2011 when he and some college friends started making music videos in his basement.
Since then the group has grown to a phenomenon boasting over 912 million YouTube views and more than 3.2 million subscribers. Their style is a sort of jazz/swing/ragtime representation of modern songs. You’ve probably seen their sponsored videos popping up on Facebook, but have you watched them? Go ahead. I dare you. I bet you can’t watch just one!
In advance of their appearance on April 7 at The Silver Legacy here in Reno I was fortunate to be invited to talk with Von Scott, one of the lead vocalists in the show coming our way. Von comes from a musical family. His father played drums and sang rock ‘n’ roll and his mother is a jazz singer. Von shared a little behind the scenes PMJ insight with me.
I mentioned to Von that until a few months ago, I knew nothing of Postmodern Jukebox and asked how he would sum it up to somebody that was as in the dark as I was.
“I would describe PMJ as a collective of jazz musicians living a rock star-style life, playing current material in an old fashioned way while also introducing those songs to people who otherwise might not know them because they’re not into the current music that’s heard on the radio, because it’s so processed and auto-tuned,” he said. “People come and experience the music in a somewhat [natural] and charming way because we just don’t take ourselves that seriously. We’re just a bunch of nerds having a really good time. I think that people who come to our shows feel like they are a part of something that’s a little bit ‘underground’.”
As we spoke, Von was in Los Angeles getting ready for rehearsals for this tour. I expressed surprise at that since they are here April 7, and asked about rehearsal time and when the tour starts. He told me they were only going to have three days of rehearsal. “The tour starts on April 5 and Reno is the third stop. We don’t over-rehearse. We hone it as we go. On day one we run over things and have a good time. On days two and three we get more specific and run through arrangements to see what works and then just let it be. From there it [evolves and] becomes an ebb and flow experience with the audience.”
Von has been a part of PMJ since 2014 when he hooked up with founder Scott Bradlee after tweeting him a video of a cover he did of PMJ’s cover of Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” (PMJ’s “Thrift Shop” video has received over 14,630,000 YouTube views since it was created). Scott invited him to come by his apartment. They ended up shooting a video of the song “Rude” by Magic that day that has gone on to get almost 15,000,000 YouTube views so far. Scott and Von hit it off right away, and Von has been a part of the tribe ever since.
Von says PMJ has a rotating cast of performers that number close to 100 these days. They will quite often have more than one tour group performing simultaneously on different continents at any given time. As far as the show that’s coming to Reno, Von told me that there will be 10 members on stage: three girls, a male MC, a male extra, and a five-piece band made up of piano, drums, bass, and two horns. There’s always a tap dancer in the mix, plus you never know when there will be surprise appearances by “celebrity performers.” Every show is unique. They’ll integrate vaudeville acts, vintage culture, and they get to play dress up and express themselves in creative fun ways. Fun is the name of the game.
Several members of the PMJ family are former contestants on “American Idol” and “America’s Got Talent.” Among them are Casey Abrams, Haley Reinhart, Joey Cook, Puddles the Clown (Puddles Pity Party), and Von himself. Von was part of Season 8 of “American Idol” and got to #17 before being eliminated. This was the season that Adam Lambert was #2 and Kris Allen took the #1 spot. The competition was tough.
Postmodern Jukebox has a self-imposed schedule to release one new video every week. That sounds like a daunting pace, but they do it. Von tells me they even record more than one a week, but only release the one. Every video has some sort of quirky fun to it. The first one I saw was filmed in Scott Bradlee’s living room (as many are). At the end of it one of the band members runs across the room and jumps out the window for no apparent reason. In their cover of Pharrell Williams’ “Happy,” Gunhild Carline plays 10 different instruments while she sings the song. In addition, she’s playing the upright bass while also playing a trumpet that’s balanced on her lips. Then she plays three trumpets at once! Did I mention the bagpipes?
From what I’ve learned watching Postmodern Jukebox’s videos, and talking to Von, this is definitely going to be a unique and fun show to see. Tickets may still be available, depending on when you are reading this. You can check at the link below. It’s bound to be a good time. If you can make it, it’s sure to make you happy!
Nick McCabe is a Reno-based photojournalist and musician. He’s been shooting concerts in the Reno-Tahoe area since 2006 and writing articles and reviews since 2012, as well as doing interviews on occasion. His musical education and playing experience goes back to 1967. He is a founding member of the Reno Tahoe Forte’ Awards, and he still plays music locally for enjoyment. First concert: Jimi Hendrix. Last concert: we’ll see.