August 29th's Waterfront Wednesday  music started around 6pm with Whistle Peak, and at around 7:30pm Tift Merritt took the stage. While Whistle Peak put up an upbeat and poppy performance that the crowd enjoyed, and Tift Merrit’s beautiful warm voice sounded effortless; Jukebox the Ghost  stole the show.
The Washington, DC born, Brooklyn-based three-piece rock band put on a fantastic show. Ben Thornewill (piano, vocals), whom I interviewed  July, is actually from Louisville. You could tell it was a special performance for him to play at Waterfront Wednesday for his favorite radio station in his home town. I am always hesitant to purchase a band’s music until I have heard them live. After hearing them perform I went home and instantly bought two of their albums off their website.
They had exceptional stage presence at Wednesday’s show. It isn’t over the top, and they aren’t boring. Each musician is slightly different making for a very interesting ensemble presence. I can’t help but love Thornewill’s quirky and somewhat creepy facial and eye expressions. Tommy Siegel (guitar, vocals) has this ultimate reserved cool persona with the occasional grin. Jesse Kristin (drums) never stops moving! He is always grooving to the beat. You can tell he’s feeling every accent and pulse. There is also this underlining connection between them you can feel. They are enjoying every minute of their performance.
I loved Thornewill and Siegel’s vocals. Individually they have great voices, but together they are even better. The harmonies were totally tight. I never once heard any vocals get out of tune. The tone of their voices blends together nicely as well. They used great dynamics, experimented with different articulations, and emoted to the crowd.
Something that is refreshing is that they really know how to play their instruments unlike many pop groups now days. No faking here. They know what they are doing and they do it well. Siegel’s guitar solo in “Everybody Knows” reminded me of Brian May’s guitar style.
Their overall sound is a blend of Ben Folds, Queen, and the Beatles. I definitely heard some Beatlesque moments in “Man on the Moon” which reminded me a lot of “Fool on the Hill.” Between the piano riffs and the guitar solo “Everybody Knows” sounded like a mix of Queen and Ben Folds. “Schizophrenia” reminded me a lot of Ben Fold’s style as well. They have created an amazingly full sound for a three person band, and I love the style they’ve created out of it.
There were a couple interesting moments in the concert. Thornewill’s sustainer pedal broke. Like a pro he went on and just changed his playing style to hold the keys down longer and it wasn’t even noticeable. To be honest I’m not sure if they ever brought a replacement one on stage or not. Then there was also a random moment when two people in pig costumes came on stage. Not sure what the back story was behind that, but it was all in good fun.
Overall it was a super performance. It was great to see a Louisville native achieve so much in the music scene. I foresee them doing even bigger and greater things in the future. Jukebox the Ghost is what pop music has needed and deserves.
Photos and Video: courtesy of Anna Blanton