Postmodern Jukebox blasts brass and tap at Laxson


Chico Performances

Postmodern Jukebox full cast

Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox made a live appearance at Laxson Auditorium on Nov. 13. Playing “today’s hits, yesterday,” the touring group premiered a set of pop and rock songs in the tune of jazz, blues and swing from the ’20s to the ’50s.The group put on an astonishing, energizing performance rivaling the parties thrown in “The Great Gatsby.” Dazzling lights, costume changes and period-setting music painted the evening with a vintage edge.

The set opened with PMJ alumna Jack Dani singing a rendition of Panic! At the Disco’s “Roaring ’20s.” Dani emerged from a spotlight in a red sequined dress and feathered headpiece as the band played the opening chords. The stage lights steadily increased as the group approached the chorus, revealing the six-piece backing musicians and tap dancer accompanying the set.

When the first song came to a close, Dani was replaced by the PMJ master of ceremonies Rogelio Douglas Jr. who welcomed the audience to the show. 

“Ladies and gentlemen, what we are going to do is go back in time,” Douglas said. 

PMJ was first envisioned by pianist Scott Bradlee in 2011 who, after struggling to make it as a jazz musician in New York, went viral after creating a medley of ’80s songs in ragtime style. Using a large rotating cast of musicians and vocalists, PMJ places a vintage filter on popular songs from the 21st century.

Douglas listed a fraction of artists and bands the group planned to cover during the set, including U2, Katy Perry and a medley of music from the video game series Super Mario Bros.

After his entrance, Douglas introduced “PMJ’s dazzling ingenue” Allison Young, the newest touring vocalist who joined in 2020. Young performed a swing rendition of “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” by Australian rock band Jet. This cover had an extended saxophone solo that received an extended applause from the house.

Olivia K. Harris, a vocalist with PMJ since 2017, took her place on stage to perform Katy Perry’s “Last Friday Night” in the style of ’40s jazz. Despite Harris’ microphone briefly cutting out during the chorus, much of the audience clapped and snapped along to fill in the space. The sound recovered in time for the second verse. Harris had scat reminiscences of Louis Armstrong throughout her performance.

Douglas re-entered the stage for the next act, demanding the audience to harmonize with him before covering Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Douglas and the accompanying tap dancer performed Jackson’s iconic moonwalk and a version of the anti-gravity lean. 

After Douglas’ performance, the stage went dark until Dani, Young and Harris walked on, single file. The trio performed a doo-wop cover of “Wanna Be” by The Spice Girls as The Ladies of PMJ. 

After the trio left, tap dancer Jabu Graybeal stepped onto his platform.

“This is the Mario part of the show,” he said to the audience.

Graybeal performed a tap routine as the band played a five-part medley of music from the video game series. During the later-half of this act, Graybeal took over the drums for a brief moment. This act received raucous applause from the audience that carried over to the next set.

Dani made another appearance for her rendition of Lana Del Rey’s “Young and Beautiful.” Before her performance, she told the story of how she met her husband and PMJ guitarist Mike Chisnall during their first European tour. The couple married on Sept. 10.

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to our honeymoon,” Dani said before her act.

After a 20-minute intermission, Douglas and Young performed a duet of “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley. The jazz cover featured an extended clarinet solo and slow dancing.

Harris reentered the stage to sing Lizzo’s “Juice” and “Mr. Blue Sky” by Electric Light Orchestra.

For the finale, Douglas sang a soul cover of “Use Somebody” by Kings of Leon. Dani, Harris and Young provided backing vocals for the act. The group performed a bombastic, extended version of their cover to end the show.

PMJ briefly left the stage until coaxed back out by an eager audience. The encore consisted of another doo-wop cover from The Ladies of PMJ performing Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass.”

For the show’s true finale, Young approached the edge of the stage and asked if the audience wanted one more song. The crowd screamed its approval.

The PMJ cast performed “I’ll Be There For You” by The Rembrandts, better known to listeners as the theme song for the ’90s sitcom “Friends.” The group each performed a section of the song in the style of one decade, starting with ’20s jazz before returning to ’90s rock. The group finished the song with the four rhythmic claps featured in the song’s opening.

Postmodern Jukebox’s next appearance will be on Dec. 1 at the Heymann Performing Arts Center in Lafayette, Louisiana. Tickets for all tour dates are available on the Postmodern Jukebox website.

Michaela Harris can be reached at [email protected] and @MichaelaRH21 on Twitter.