I clearly remember the first time I saw Low Cut Connie perform. I felt the way Jon Landau must have when he wrote, “I saw rock and roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen.” I was knocked out by the energy, positive vibes and sheer showmanship of the act. Low Cut Connie’s frontperson Adam Weiner played piano like a demonic Jerry Lee Lewis. He would contort his body acrobatically while pounding the keys, singing, and sweating. There was no way to stand still while watching him perform. The whole room was bouncing to the good vibrations. Weiner preached to the crowd about the pleasures of the flesh, the spirit inside all of us, and our connections to each other.
“I don’t care if you’re black or white, straight or gay, young or old,” Weiner sermonized from the stage before launching himself into the crowd at Maggie Mae’s during South by Southwest in March of 2017. He did the same shtick at a much smaller venue full of technical problems like the microphones cutting out a few nights later and it had the same effect. Since then I’ve heard him give this spiel in person more than a dozen times at shows indoors and out, to large audiences and small ones, and it’s never lost its electrifying impact. His inclusivity comes from the heart.
Weiner shares a lot in common with the Boss. They both have New Jersey roots and the same musical influences from past R&B, pop, and rock expressed in an organic and informed manner. They both understand the importance of performance and actively including one’s audience in their concerts. The two musicians use their shows as holy roller churches to celebrate the gospel of rock and roll as a religion that brings people together. Now the Boss came first. He’s older and has certainly had an impact on Weiner. Springsteen is an elder statesman; a dignified rocker deserving of respect. Weiner is now in his prime.
Since that 2017 show, Low Cut Connie have released two top notch albums (Dirty Pictures Parts 1 & 2) and continued to tour relentlessly with changing lineups. That is, until the pandemic hit. The band used the adverse situation to create one of the longest running livestream shows (more than 50) twice a week called “Tough Cookies”. It’s a brilliant mix of chutzpah and song with Weiner and bandmate/guitar maestro Will Donnelly tackling everything from glam to punk to soul to folk to rawk to tunes from a hundred years ago mixed with those from other nations, and of course Low Cut Connie’s past catalog. And they have slowly been mixing in tracks from their forthcoming double album, Private Lives. Each one has been a winner making one thirst for more. The good news is, no—the great news is—Private Lives is a killer.
Weiner produced the record and utilized almost 30 different artists to get the sounds he wanted. Although he utilized the studio instead of on-stage performances, it has the feel of a live record. Every song seems to want to break out from the constraints of the workshop in a positive way. This keeps the vibe taut and suggests the promise of liberation.
The characters of his songs are looking for something to believe in. They are the have nots who find pleasure where they can even as their situations seem to be deteriorating. Weiner sees their hearts and flaws. He knows life can be rough and not everyone makes it. Consider his (apparently unintended) sequel to Springsteen’s “Atlantic City”, called “Look What They Did”. Weiner begins by singing over a soft piano melody, “Tough shit for the little guy / Livin’ like a chump with his back to the wall” as he bewails the modern day plight of those dwelling in America’s Playground. These chumps are the everyday people who populate his songs.
Weiner has a generosity of spirit that expresses itself in unfiltered ways. He invites those in need to “Stay As Long As You Like” in a firm but gentle voice. When he asks someone for assistance on “Help Me”, it’s so he can “be a good man” and to be kinder to others. On the title cut “Private Lives”, he admits that he depends on the emotional support of his fans to survive. He knows it’s cheesy to say that out loud but being undignified doesn’t stop him from acknowledging his own needs. Weiner puts his emotions right in the forefront. He’s the James Dean of our time, rebelling against the societal constraints that limit our connections to our feelings and to others. We’re the Sal Mineos and Natalie Woods welcomed into his orbit.
That doesn’t stop Low Cut Connie from being funny. Humor is just one weapon the band employs as a tool to survive with heads high and a bounce in their step. He jests over a slinky beat that “The Fuckin You Get (for the Fuckin You Got)” that sometimes life just doesn’t work out the way one expects. He knows “It Don’t Take a Genius” to understand his motivations. He just wants to have fun.
Life can be a “Wild Ride” even if it means that one is just planning to “Take a Ride Downtown”. Perhaps it’s because so much of the album was recorded while he was on the road, but the songs always seem to be in motion. “You got to boogie for yourself,” he sings on the jubilant “Nobody Else Will Believe You”, and it seems like he’s almost always in boogie mode. When he’s just chilling, on songs like “Let it All Hang Out Tonite” and “Tea Time”, it’s just a way of gathering strength before moving on again.
Let’s face it. None of this would matter if Weiner wasn’t such a charismatic and talented performer. His empathy for others is noble and part of his charm, but there is something more magical happening here. Private Lives captures the spirit of the times in which we find ourselves—the weird world that like Low Cut Connie defies easy categorization—and offers musical solace to help us do more than just survive.