Low Cut Connie
When outsiders think of Iowa, they envision rural scenes like fields of corn and soybeans. While New Jersey is another mostly rural state, it usually brings to mind power lines, factories, industrial wastelands, and urban blight.
But New Jersey native Adam Weiner, lead singer of Low Cut Connie, knows the positive side of his home state. “New Jersey is flush with good diners,” he said. People can get together 24 hours a day to eat, schmooze, or just hang out.
Low Cut Connie takes its name from a waitress at a diner. “Connie is sort of our patron saint,” Weiner explained. “She’s had a very rough life and experienced a lot of adversity. No matter what, when it comes to the weekend, the stresses she experiences during the week are forgotten. She puts on a low-cut top and goes out and has a good time. That image of Connie encapsulates what our band is about.”
Low Cut Connie was one of this year’s breakout acts at South By Southwest, although the band was not entirely unknown. President Barack Obama had its songs on his handpicked Spotify playlist. Television’s The Voice offered Weiner a chance to compete on the show without having to audition. He refused, but the group is poised for rock stardom.
Low Cut Connie will be making two Iowa appearances in May, at the Raccoon Motel in Davenport on the 19th and Big Grove Brewery in Iowa City on May 23.
Their live show certainly embodies the spirit of their patron saint. When Weiner climbs atop the piano bench, rocks the keys, and preaches that we are all going to make babies tonight in a voice that demands an “amen,” the crowd cannot help but feel good.
And of course the other four band members pitch in. It’s not unusual to see guitarist James Everhart covered with sweat, his knees bent so much that he’s almost backwards on the floor, hitting the strings with intensity as the others pound at their instruments. It doesn’t matter if you’re short on money for bills, your true love has flown the coop, or the nation is headed for war—for that moment, nothing else matters.
“We try to lift people up and give them a good feeling,” Weiner said. “Being a professional entertainer is really a privilege, and my job is to elevate the audience. I am not there to be admired or show off or be part of the cool club.”
His music is inclusive. He deliberately calls out to the crowd that he doesn’t care where they are from, what their sexual identity may be, or what racial or ethnic group they belong to—all are welcome to join in the fun. No wonder Low Cut Connie has ended many of its recent gigs covering Prince’s provocative track “Controversy,” which begins with lines that blur the distinctions between being straight or gay and black or white.
While many acts bring their own instruments to their shows, Low Cut Connie also brings its piano. Affectionately named Shondra after a dancer at the Clermont Lounge, the 400-pound behemoth goes on every tour. “She has been with me since 2013,” Weiner said. “There is no show without Shondra. She has been through a lot.” That is clearly evident by her dents, stains, and broken pieces. Weiner cannot help but abuse the instrument as he climbs aboard and kicks, struts, and bangs the keys, but the piano never falters.
Shondra is a bit like New Jersey, too. The state has been the butt of jokes for decades and verbally abused by comics, television shows, and movies. But as Weiner points out, New Jersey gave the world Frank Sinatra, Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith, Frankie Valli, the Misfits, Queen Latifah, the Fugees, and more. Something about the place allows people to be creative.
“New York may be the most important city in the world,” Weiner said. “To be a musician there means being part of the rat race. You gotta have something to say. New Jersey allows one to be oneself. You just have to be who you are and express what you feel.”
Weiner and Low Cut Connie are now based across the river in Philadelphia, but they still perform frequently in the Garden State. Weiner takes pride in his roots and openly brags about where he’s from. “That doesn’t mean I got anything against Iowa,” he said. “I look forward to both of my shows there.”
As for opting out of the opportunity to be seen by millions of TV viewers on The Voice, he doesn’t have the slightest regret. “I just don’t belong on that type of program. I don’t do modern pop,” he said. And as for whether the current President of the United States is listening to his music, Weiner said, “I didn’t get an invitation to the inaugural. Word on the street was that the man doesn’t really like music.”