Post Modern Jukebox
Bringing “pop with some barber shop” and “hits with glitz,” Post Modern Jukebox is a collective of vocalists, instrumentalists and tap dancers. (Dana Lynn Pleasant photo)

Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox (PMJ), known for viral videos of surprising vintage remakes of pop, rock and hip-hop hits, often accompanied with stylish tap dancing, launched their “Welcome to the ’20s” tour on Feb. 7, infusing Santa Barbara’s historic Granada Theatre with a lush old-Hollywood nightclub vibe.

Bringing “pop with some barber shop” and “hits with glitz,” PMJ is a collective of more than 50 vocalists, 20 instrumentalists and seven tap dancers. The Granada evening featured five powerhouse vocalists, a piano, a standup bass, a guitar/banjo, drums, a trumpet, a saxophone and a trombone, and lanky tap dance wonder Lee Howard.

Casey Abrams, the crowd-rousing emcee, opened the show with Rihanna’s “Umbrella.” He then took a love-song rendition of Toto’s “Africa” into the crowd, walking across seats and the audience, and blew away the crowd with his encore of Radiohead’s “Creep,” some of which he sang a cappella, some unamplified, when he turned his head away from the mic, belting out the heart-rending, profanity-containing verse.

The three main singers alternated on stage, performing with a strength of voice that wouldn’t be sustainable if they had to carry the whole show. It also allowed for lots of costume changes; each song featured colorful, lush new vintage attire. Each song had a “grand finale” feeling that kept the crowd pumped.

Dani Armstrong infused her potent singing with juiciness and verve on songs including Britney Spears’ “Toxic,” Sia’s “Chandelier” and Weezer’s “Say It Ain’t So.”

Olivia Kuper Harris sprinkled Ella Fitzgerald-style scat across torch-song versions of Katy Perry’s “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.),” Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” and Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself.”

Sara Neimietz’s clean, bright jazz singing highlighted lyrics and left the crowd agape with her final notes on Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” and breathtaking versions of David Bowie’s “Life on Mars?” and “Heroes.”

The first set closed with a fun rendition of Meghan Trainor’s “All About the Bass,” with turn-taking among the three singers, silly duet choreography on the standup bass, drumming on the floor, a weensy pocket trumpet and Howard on his tapping board.

Kortnie Frazier, winner of the 2019 PMJ talent search, made her debut in the second half with a disarming, tender version of Tove Lo’s “Habits.”

Howard took the stage twice to dance to instrumental medleys: jazz with a Janis Joplin rag, “Sweet Georgia Brown” and “In the Mood,” and a Disney/Pixar set featuring “Under the Sea” and “Friend in Me.”

Howard blends classic tap style with Dr. Jimmy Slyde/jookin-inspired moves and hip-hop overtones, building artistic bridges between the early 20th and 21st centuries. His numbers added sparkle and depth to the entire evening.

Bradlee himself took the stage, explaining the mission of PMJ to spread love, healing and unity through music. He took requests of bands from any era. Audience members shouted out Styx, Huey Lewis, Beastie Boys and Elvis Presley. Even though he said “voting is closed,” Bradlee allowed a write-in of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

What came next was a startlingly moving jazz piano solo seamlessly incorporating “Power of Love,” “Come Sail Away,” “Under the Bridge” and “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party)” that wrapped up with “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You.”

The audience also was treated to #mood covers of “Uptown Funk,” Guns ‘N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” The Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights” and “Hey Ya” by Outkast.

After Abrams stunned with “Creep,” the show closed with a mashup of the Starland Vocal Band’s iconic 1970s “Afternoon Delight” and Haddaway’s “What Is Love (Baby Don’t Hurt Me),” wrapping up with no-holds-barred rock n’ roll pandemonium to The Isley Brothers’ “Shout.” Howard used his suspenders as a jump rope, Bradlee wailed on keytar, the pianist blew a melodica, the brass was downstage in full swing and all vocalists belted at full-tilt. The crowd couldn’t wait for the end to stand up to holler.

PMJ’s next stop is scheduled for Feb. 28 to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the historic Fox Theatre in Visalia (well worth the drive). Enjoy its binge-worthy work anytime online.

— Local arts critic Judith Smith-Meyer is a round-the-clock appreciator of the creative act. The opinions expressed are her own.