Friday, September 23, 2016

I've Got A New Favorite Band

If  you were to ask me the name of my favorite band of 2016, I've got a definite answer. There's a clear winner. But if you were to ask my favorite song of 2016, that might be a little trickier to answer. Mainly because there's two frontrunners, and I just can't quite decide between them. But since both songs are performed by that same favorite band of the year, do I really have to choose? Can't I love them equally, like my own children?

Yes? OK, good. Glad we cleared that up. I don't want to have a Sophie's Choice situation on my hands.

I hope that over the years we've spent together with me serving as your musical guidance counselor, that I have gained your trust. Remember when nobody had heard of Pink Martini? Remember when I made it my mission to introduce as many people as possible to their incredible sound when they came to Redding the first time? Remember how good that show was? Total strangers still still come up to me in the grocery store and thank me for inspiring them to get a ticket to that show.

So I'm hoping that I've earned a spot in your musical brain trust. That when I tell you something (as long as it relates to music) is awesome and amazing, that by now you would place some faith in my word and just believe me without question. But you won't have to. Because of course, I'm going to share my favorite band (and favorite songs) of the year with you.

One of the coolest things about this band is that - and this is a pretty bold statement for the chick that is lucky enough to get a front row seat to a lot of really amazing live music performances in this town - unlike many other great bands, these guys are better live than they are in the studio. You all know how much I love a good concert, but it's hard to live up to the produced studio version of your favorite song. Go ahead, it's okay to disagree with me. I want you to, really I do. Because it means you value live music performance, and that is one of the best things about Redding.

I know, a little luster has worn off of Redding's shine over the last few years. I think we're all struggling a little bit to keep the love alive with Shasta County. But admit it, we have some incredible music happening in this town, both locally made and coming from far away. We are lucky to be able to bear witness to music at outdoor festivals, in small clubs like Vintage, and bigger venues like the glorious Cascade Theatre (my home away from home), and the even bigger Civic.

Speaking of the Civic, my favorite band of 2016 is going to be playing there in November, and hopefully they'll be playing some of my favorite songs. And the point that I was trying to make (albeit kind of badly) two paragraphs ago is that this band is just so much fun to watch, that I think I'd rather see them live than listen to them recorded. Which is why maybe you haven't heard of them, because they've never graced Shasta County with a live performance. Yet. I suppose I should tell you who they are. I've been keeping you waiting long enough. Better yet, I'm going to show you who they are, and introduce you to both of my favorite songs…in alphabetical order, because as you know, I'm not playing favorites with my favorites.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome for your viewing and listening pleasure, PostModern Jukebox - my favorite band of 2016 - performing the most amazing rendition of Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun" that you've ever been witness to. Even if, for some strange, unfathomable reason, you don't care for the song, you'll probably appreciate Haley Reinhart's dress.

And here's their version of Radiohead's "Creep."

Do I have your attention? Incredible, right? Has PostModern Jukebox just kicked Pink Martini out of the eternal first place spot in The Mistress of the Mix's Top 10 All-Time Favorite Uber-Hip Bands? Well, maybe so.

There's actually a lot of similarities between these two bands. First of all, it's really hard to define them, because they're just not like anybody else.  And they're huge in Europe. PostModern Jukebox, like Pink Martini, is a collective of about a dozen ever-revolving members, many professionally trained musicians schooled in classical and jazz. Pink Martini (or PM) has Thomas Lauderdale arranging the songs and leading the band from the keyboard, while PostModern Jukebox (or PMJ) has Scott Bradlee doing the same. PM is teaming up with the VonTrapp Family Singers to inject some variety into their show these days, while PMJ has brought Puddles Pity Party's sad clown in to sing. All 6' 8" of him, not including the little hat. What a sight.

Puddles Pity Party, the Sad Clown (aka Mike Geier)
The biggest difference between Pink Martini and PostModern Jukebox is that after Pink Martini put out their first album, they made us wait another 7 years for the next one. Meanwhile, Scott Bradlee is steamrolling ahead at breakneck speed, and since their first release hit the shelves in 2012, they have put out an astonishing 14 albums in 5 years. The other big difference between the two is that Pink Martini tends to lean towards finding obscure, vintage foreign songs to cover in the most amazing way, while Postmodern Jukebox will happily take the hottest hits of today (or the 80's) and arrange them into something totally new, yet with a vintage, jazzy or Motown style that I find so endearing and fun. PMJ has covered everything from "Seven Nation Army" to "All About That Bass" and Lorde's "Royals." In fact the last song (featuring Puddles) has received over 15.3 million YouTube hits. The guy's voice really is amazing, although I'm a bigger fan of his version of Tears For Fear's "Mad World." The other thing that makes PMJ so cool is that Bradlee is always looking for a new twist. A great piece in Mother Jones a few years ago refers to PMJ as creating an "alternate history of pop music...Lady Gaga transposed to the '40s? Daft Punk done by Irish tenor singers? A Motown tribute to Nickelback?" Yup. And it's all so cool.

I hope you'll find them as mesmerizing as I do, and that you'll join me for their performance at the Civic November 19th. In fact, I want you there so badly that I'm giving you tickets. I can't take everyone with me, but I'm giving away a pair of tickets to the show, all you have to do is post in the comment section below, and you'll be entered into the drawing. No need to post any contact info in the post…we'll get ahold of you through your email address to let you know if you're the winner. by October 1st.

To wet your whistle a bit further, check out today's Spotify streaming playlist of My New Favorites below, full of PMJ and PM, as well as a lot of the other bands that fit into this fascinating somewhat undefinable genre of retro-jazzy, vintage swingy yet progressive and space age martini lounge music.

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