Room For Everyone: A Conversation With Low Cut Connie
It was kind of perfect to interview Adam Weiner in an East Austin Diner. Adam’s band Low Cut Connie was named for a character he created, based on a waitress he met in New Jersey. The band was in town playing their second sold out night at the Mohawk. With 5 albums behind them and a 6th slated for 2020, Low Cut Connie continues to level up. Their live show is getting a lot of buzz: bigger rooms, larger presence on the festival circuit, and a grass roots audience that continues to expand with plenty of room for everyone and every persuasion in their tent. We started by talking about Luck Reunion…
AW: I was watching Willie and I looked to my right, about 10 feet in front of me was Neil Young and Kris Kristofferson smoking a joint. If this isn’t the place to be, I don’t know what is! The band at that time was just about to break through, a lot has happened in the last few years.
Luck: We caught your sets at Pickathon last August. How was the festival?
AW: It was pretty cool - it's an interesting festival, this year we played Bonnaroo, Newport Folk, and Bottle Rock but that one was very unique. We did two sets and I felt the people were fantastic, very open minded vibe there. The indoor night time show was explosive.
Luck: That galaxy barn set was so fun!
AW: I loved it. I was definitely the only guy curling my hair in a gold sequin jacket on a haybale. It was cool, what we do as a band is not usually right down the middle for a lot of things we end up doing. Meaning we did Newport Folk, Pickathon...we aren’t right on the money for what they are known for, just a little outside of the norm for what they book, so they take a chance on us which we appreciate and usually they aren’t disappointed.
Luck: You care about the fans and their experience...
AW: It's not my party, it's your party. I’m there to get everybody else off. It’s not about us, it’s how we make everyone else feel. I take a quick temperature of the room...what's the environment, what is this crowd feeling, what do they want to feel? We do a wide array of shows and find ourselves in all kinds of different situations. Saturday Night party, charity events, and everything in between. Sometimes I'm there to make people feel crazy, help them release their anger, to make them feel connected, feel thoughtful or to make them forget.
Luck: You play that role of therapist…
AW: Yes, I do think the bottom line is release… that is part of what performing is about. Facilitating release, to help people feel lighter than when they walked in, freer than when they walked in. We just headlined First Avenue in Minneapolis, that was easy… all I had to do was ride the wave. Those people were ready to tear us apart. Other places people are little bit reticent and [fake slaps] we have to wake them up.
Luck: Minneapolis is a great city, you’ve established yourself there…it’s becoming a home away from home.
AW: This was our fastest growing market but we’ve only been there five times! For us to fill First Ave was a major achievement for us. We’ve been to cities like Chicago, 12-13 times and we’ve sold out Chicago on this tour, but that venue was half the size of First Ave. The contrast between playing to 1,500 rabid LCC fans one night, 80 fans the next. We are playing IA, KS 100-150 people on a weeknight and then back to NY, and home to Philly where it's a crowd 5 times the size or more.
Just surviving in this industry, keeping an act together is an achievement in and of itself. This is our 7th year but it didn’t really click until about 2-3 years ago. We had a lot of notoriety but we hadn't really built up this legion of obsessive fans and cultivated this deep relationship.. I like to tip my cap to those faces I’ve seen in the crowd, some of them 15 times, it makes them feel good that we stuck it out.
Luck: It’s helpful when the fans bring their energy; make their contribution.
AW: I like to say we have a 10% shed rate. Sometimes we lose some people in that first 3 minutes and they look at it like “this shit ain't for me, I just wanted to hang back, didn’t want to get my hair messed up.” We do lose some people and we also bring a lot of people in. At Newport Folk Festival the number of people in the tent quadrupled in the first 15 minutes of the show. People walking over the hill and they saw there was a thing going on.
Luck: In other interviews or articles, you’ve mentioned that you were teased growing up. How did that shape your ability to be inclusive, to show care no matter what space a person is in?
AW: It’s well documented, not just in rock n roll but throughout art the phenomenon of black sheep, the ugly ducklings. I’ve recently read some books on a few of my heroes Patti Smith, Petty, Springsteen, Lou Reed, James Brown. I saw a running theme, most of them came out of their younger days, they weren't really accepted or endured something. Out of that, they turned that into rocket fuel. It puts a more sensitive eye on where people live. I do think that is probably the most important quality of being an artist. It’s that sensitivity, empathy, that curiosity of how people live. If you never have to think about it, you might not have the same sensitivity. It's just amazing in our little way, that people even care to hear what I think or come to my shows and sing the words back to me that I wrote. Considering how introverted I was, and am, and how unlikely that I would be the guy to be in this position. To put it simply, if you grew up and your name was A. Weiner and you were cross-eyed, my left eye was all fucked up. Just that alone, it’s not a recipe for popularity [laughs] but now I’m happy about it, now I own it.
AW, continued: Artists these days use digital platforms to say things… separate from the art they make. They use those platforms to go on the record on where they stand on certain things. I’m not one of those people. I try to do everything through the art that I make itself. The show, the songs, the images, videos...the best thing I feel that I can do, it makes people feel a certain kind of way rather than think a certain kind of way. There is no right answer or wrong answer. I would rather be an entertainer and I feel primarily that is my job, to entertain. But through that entertainment I can open minds and open hearts.
I’ll give you an example. We have done free city, community events where we we will make more of an impact than at our own headline shows. Where people can bring their kids, where focus is not 100% on alcohol. Folks that couldn’t afford to come to the show, homeless, people that come to heckle, it’s a very a potent mix of people there. And we do our show, the same songs, the same vibe. What I notice is it feels like an arena for me to make more of an impact than at our own headline show. When I go out and mess peoples’ hair up, slap fives, hug people, steal fries out of their meal. When I do that equally with security guards, the 85 year old in the walker, kids, gay, straight, black, asian, white. People of all walks feel the energy that we are all in this egalitarian setting. I feel like that does more than me giving a speech.
People crave connection, but it's becoming more challenging to do. I’m making it a point to make known that the tent is open to everyone, come in here and feel good. When we first started, we didn’t have those goals, we were a party band, still are. I guess I didn’t realize that being a party band was a profound thing to be in 2018.
Every performer has a certain agenda. Sometimes it’s to be cool, to rile people up, make them go crazy, flaunt wealth or success. Our particular agenda has to do with letting people let loose and feel uplifted. In order to do that, there has to be an approach of honesty right? In order to release the stresses, you have to recognize them first, [you] can’t pretend they are not there.
We played Pittsburgh the night before the synagogue shooting. The venue we played is a stone's throw from there. Some of the people who were in attendance at our show go to that synagogue. The synagogue I grew up with in Jersey, the rabbis are very close to each other.
I was very touched that they thought of us, and I’m gonna try to take in as much as I can in the next month of what people are feeling here, so I can do the best job I can do to help them feel the way they want to be. So I’m gathering information.