Postmodern Jukebox stops by Clyde Theatre
Postmodern Jukebox chief turned to YouTube videos to find worldwide success
It’s time to party like it’s 1929 as Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox stops at The Clyde Theatre for a night of memorable music on Friday, Oct. 14, during their Life in the Past Lane Tour.
With multiple chart-topping songs in their arsenal, its sure to be a night of hits and surprises as the Summit City gets a dose of the Roaring ’20s and beyond, right here in 2022.
The nostalgia-based Postmodern Jukebox have created a worldwide audience with the somewhat ironic help of modern technology and the internet. The band, with a revolving door of musicians, releases weekly YouTube videos, putting a new — or old, depending upon how you look at it — spin on a song we all know and love. Because of the consistency of releases and quality of offerings, fans look forward to each week’s video like a surprise birthday cake, devouring each piece and sharing it with friends.
discovered through social media
The phenomenon, known as PMJ by fans, started almost by accident in founder Scott Bradlee’s Queens basement in 2011.
Bradlee had moved to New York City to try to “make it” in the music industry but was struggling to find work. Instead of playing in bars and music venues, Bradlee found his success in a more modern way, posting videos to YouTube in his spare time.
“I found that by uploading these YouTube covers there was a much bigger audience than I ever imagined for the stuff that I was doing,” Bradlee told CBS News.
Now, more than a decade later, Postmodern Jukebox have grown to become a pop culture mainstay, having played thousands of shows on six continents.
Bradlee’s first YouTube video was a medley of ’80s songs for ragtime piano. It went viral almost immediately with the help of English author Neil Gaiman, who tweeted it out to his almost 3 million followers.
“Part of me was thinking like, ‘What does this mean? Does this mean I’m famous? Am I gonna be recognized?’ ” Bradlee said. “No, it doesn’t mean that, but it provided kind of a starting point for us. From there, I’ve just been kind of obsessed with creating this whole universe where pop music of today exists in other times.”
creating his own style
Bradlee’s secret formula isn’t much of a secret. He simply molds songs that everyone knows in order to take them back in time, while maintaining the essence of the original, producing something that is familiar and new at the same time. By recreating songs in a way that most would have never imagined, Bradlee not only managed to forge a career in the music industry, but actually created a new genre.
He has proved time and time again that he can work his magic on just about any song. He even asks for leads to new songs from fans on the band’s website where anyone can submit a suggestion for the next video.
His process is simple enough, but he has an ear for it and an imagination that no one else has managed to replicate. He hears a song he wants to remake, sits down at the piano, and proceeds to play around with the arrangement until he comes up with something he likes.
While many other artists have developed mix-genre styles, Bradlee takes it to another level by maintaining the sound of the original while injecting some old-time feeling into it, making some wonderful hybrids.
“The idea is to bridge today’s pop music with all the sounds of the past,” he said. “I can do that because I don’t have a record label. There’s no record label telling me what to do or making us clear things or anything like that. It’s basically very self-contained.”
dressing up for night at concert
An unending number of musicians who want to work with Bradlee is what has allowed him to continue making music at a pace most musicians would find impossible. Some names you may recognize include saxophonist Dave Koz, banjoist Cynthia Sayer, Swedish multi-instrumentalist Gunhild Carling, and Animals as Leaders guitarist Tosin Abasi, as well as a number of American Idol vocalists including Blake Lewis, Melinda Doolittle, Haley Reinhart, and Casey Abrams.
At the live show, you’ll get a variety of world-class musicians performing a setlist that will keep you guessing. Fans often make a night of it, coming to the shows dressed in clothes of the era, just like the performers.
“That’s kind of the most fun thing,” Bradlee said. “That’s something that didn’t come from me, I didn’t even have that idea, I don’t think, until we came out there and we started seeing people all dressed up, just like the way that we do in the videos. Sometimes it’s confusing because, with so many people dressed up, it’s hard to tell who the performers are.”
Bradlee and his team have built a YouTube following with nearly 6 million subscribers, transforming that video success into sold out tours.
The Life in the Past Lane Tour will be part celebration of vintage music and culture, part Saturday Night Live for singers, and an unforgettable trip back in time. Wear your fedora, or don’t. Either way, it’s going to be a lot of fun.