Jan 25, 2019 | 8:00 PM | Friday

Fri Jan 25, 8:00 PM - Fri Jan 25, 11:00 PM
in 7 days
37 John St, Charleston, SC 29403

Community: Charleston Place

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The work of Scott Bradlee's Postmodern Jukebox has been viewed on the ensemble's YouTube channel well over a hundred million times. Most of those doing the viewing, however, are not fully aware of the method to Bradlee's madness.

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On the surface, the method is video – clips of full-band performances (that's Bradlee on piano) shot in the bandleader's living room with a single stationary camera. The madness: pop hits of the present performed à la pop hits of the past. Miley Cyrus' "We Can't Stop" assayed as a doo-wop number; Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' "Thrift Shop" tricked out in flapper jazz; Sam Smith's "Stay With Me" rendered a 1940s big-band standard.

In fact, Bradlee's method runs deeper. He's educating his audience about 20th-century song styles; he's commenting on the elasticity of the pop form; he's confounding cultural context; he's uniting generations; he's breaking the rules. He's manifesting postmodernist ideas in his approach to production and business as well as music. But as far as the fans are concerned, it's just fun (and sometimes funny). Bradlee himself will tell you, simply, "I reimagine a song in another style because I want to hear it that way."

Asked what appealed to him about the popular music of the 1920s, ragtime especially, he says, "I could play it fast and loud. It was brash. And it had contempt for rules, which really appealed to me."

How does he come up with this stuff? "A lot of pop songs are constructed of elements that lend themselves to a certain feel," he points out. "The simple progression of the bass line in 'Blurred Lines,' for instance, reminded me of bluegrass. 'Sweet Child' sounds like an old blues song – the structure, the way the chorus repeats …" With Cyrus, it was more an instance of tongue-in-cheeky cultural criticism: "She'd gained all that notoriety from her 2013 VMA appearance. I had to recast her song for the '50s, which everyone thinks of as this squeaky-clean era."

The PMJ scene is more reminiscent of a speakeasy, with swells in vintage threads swilling Prohibition-era cocktails. "It's a variety show, a musical revue featuring special guests," Bradlee illuminates. "Coming to a PMJ show is like time-traveling back to Old Hollywood – it's an experience." Creating that for audiences appears to be PMJ's ultimate mission.

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