Since 2011, I've been fronting the band Low Cut Connie, screaming Rock 'n' Roll trash every night in dive bars and punky clubs. I travel close to 200 days a year, always with my beat-up old junker piano. Her name is Shondra. I rescued her from demolition in the back room of a music store in New Jersey. We are both funny-looking and sensitive and loud - cosmetically-damaged but structurally sound. We deserve each other. She weighs close to 400 pounds, and the way I see it, bringing her to every gig is sort of like a penance. I have had the audacity to think that I could have a career as a wastrel piano-plunker and no-goodnik and for this I must push a 400 pound boulder up the mountain every night and through the smudgy doors of a boozeria. (Actually, for full disclosure purposes, at this point my beefcake band and crew do most of the boulder-pushing). These guys are all very handsome, and I love watching every night as their rippling sweaty muscles lift my queen onto her stage. Once the scene is set, me and Shondra sit for a minute under the harsh lights. We take a breath and then we go make art together.
And after doing this schtick for a bunch of years now, here are five things I have learned.
1. The Piano Is a Drum Set
It is a percussion instrument, so learn rhythm. If you wanna play with a band, you better have a good, strong, confident beat.
2. Piano Players Are Crazy
We are somewhat withdrawn and then often explosively extrovertedly ferocious. That's part of the attraction to the instrument - the solitary nature and the wild dynamic swings are part and parcel of the piano...and in Rock 'n' Roll, these things are exaggerated tenfold. Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elton John, Fats Domino, Professor Longhair, Ray Charles... all of them had a twitchy private nature paired with explosive spiritual bursts behind the keys.
3. A Baby Grand Piano Is a Therapist's Couch
Sit there and play for a few hours in a piano bar, and people will lean across the lid with their cocktails and tell you their life story. This is a rare gift and you hold a special intimate place for these folks for a few tender moments. It is a privilege to sit among people and soundtrack their lives, especially their secret lives.
4. Learn to Sound Great Playing a Shitty Instrument
You will play in clubs with the most godforsaken instruments known to man - pianos that were ruined 40 years ago and have been alternately ignored and abused every day since. These are angry feral dogs and they don't want you to succeed. Tame the beast and make some magic happen. Don't blame it on the piano, find a way to squeeze the juice out of it.
5. The Piano Is Alive
It has needs - love and affection and occasionally some rough hands giving it a good lap around the track. Sit there long enough and it talks to you. So make some noise together.
For more information visit lowcutconnie.com