Profile: Low Cut Connie’s Adam Weiner
In quarantine, one musician found a new audience
By Jayne Jacova Feld

Photo: Jered E Widmer

Adam Weiner may just be the tough cookie we need to lift our pandemic-weary spirits.

The charismatic frontman of Low Cut Connie was one of the first musicians to jump to the internet in the early days of quarantine. Weiner, who grew up in Cherry Hill, is still livestreaming his unpredictable act to an ever-growing international audience.

The gig is not so much a concert but, as Weiner describes it, a soul music variety show. You’ll find him strutting around his South Philly apartment belting out songs while pounding on the piano with nearly every part of his anatomy. By the show’s end, he’s always drained, sweaty and stripped down to his underwear. Sometimes he’ll interview another musician ­– Nils Lofgren of the E Street Band and Michael Nesmith of the Monkees have Zoomed in – and other times he’ll try out a comedy routine. Occasionally he’s on a soapbox, sermonizing about the news of the day or paying tribute to great lives lost.

“I preach resilience and strength and the healing power of art,” he says. “There are stresses. There are obstacles. But not only must you make it through, but when the weekend comes around, you have to find a way to have fun and to let go.”

Weiner calls his fans Tough Cookies, which became the name of his Thursday and Saturday 6 pm shows. There are thousands of Tough Cookies worldwide, including hardcore fans in Japan, New Zealand and Australia who catch it live in the early-morning hours. A particularly devoted group of South Jersey frontline workers will put their phones in sterile bags so hospitalized patients can watch too. The streaming chats are like a sideshow. That’s how fans connect and express gratitude for a momentary diversion from reality.

“We started doing this 2 weeks into the quarantine when people were feeling very depressed and starved for some kind of live entertainment and connection,” says Weiner. “It sounds kind of quaint now that we’ve been doing it for so long, but if we started it even 1 week later, I don’t know if we would have made it.”

Tough Cookies blew up, earning acclaim from influential media, including Rolling Stone magazine and NPR. Following an article in the Washington Post in March, some 125,000 people tuned in.

Like the rock band version of “The Little Engine That Could,” Low Cut Connie has a history of outperforming expectations. The group has been producing its own records for a decade (after receiving rejection slips from 20 major labels). In 2015, when President Barack Obama put their song “Boozophila” on his Spotify playlist, the music industry took notice.

“That was pretty shocking,” Weiner recalls, noting that it later led to a White House visit with the Obamas. “Everyone was trying to analyze how a no-name, unsigned band made this list.”

More A-list moments followed, like when Sir Elton John dedicated a song to them during his 2018 Farewell Tour Philly performance, saying: “There’s a band that I love at the moment so much called Low Cut Connie, who are also from Philadelphia. And I’d like to dedicate this song to them right now, because I love them very much, and you should check them out.” Only months earlier, Bruce Springsteen invited Weiner backstage during one of his Broadway engagements.

For Weiner, who until 10 years ago very much fit the definition of a starving artist, rock ‘n’ roll fame has been a long time coming.

“I was a very quiet, introverted kid growing up in South Jersey,” says Weiner, 40. “I was bullied terribly. My eyes were crossed – I’ve since had them fixed – I was a dancer and had Weiner as a last name.”

He credits Appel Farm Arts Camp in Elmer for helping him find his path.

“It saved my life,” he says. “It was a refuge for all the art-minded kids. I took dance, theater, piano and photography. Staff members came from all over the world, and the friends I made are still my friends today. They were gay and straight, black and white. It really opened my mind.”

A 1998 Cherry Hill East graduate, Weiner started in an experimental acting program at New York University before transferring to the University of Memphis to study ethnomusicology. He dreamed of playing original music, but there was that extreme shyness factor.

“The first gig I did of my own music was at a sidewalk café in New York City,” he recalls. “My leg was shaking so badly. I was an actor and performer, but when playing my own music, I was completely wracked with anxiety.”

His solution was to play anywhere and everywhere he could.

Low Cut Connie started as a side project among musician friends who decided to record an album in 2010. The music gained an audience even before the band had a name. Weiner has described “Connie” as a world-weary waitress modeled after waitstaff he fondly remembers from late nights at South Jersey diners.

“She’s not what I guess you would call a conventionally beautiful woman,” he says. “She has clearly had some rough times. But you can see this sort of spirit in her and resiliency. No matter what’s going on, she’s going out on the weekend and having fun.”

December 2020
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