Home MUSIC Low Cut Connie Is Proud to Be a Jew in Concert Film ‘Art Dealers’

Low Cut Connie Is Proud to Be a Jew in Concert Film ‘Art Dealers’

by Ohio Digital News

About 10 years ago, Adam Weiner was onstage in a shitty NASCAR bar in Illinois, playing two sets of piano-driven rock & soul for about 30 onlookers. Weiner, who’s Jewish and fronts the band Low Cut Connie, was wearing a Star of David around his neck as he sang and banged on the keys, and the pendant caught the attention of a group of guys, standing arms folded, near the back of the room.

“My guitar player Will Donnelly, who was brand new in the band and also a Jew, goes to get a drink. He runs over to me and says, ‘We have to get the fuck out of here. They have swastikas tattooed on their neck,’” Weiner tells Rolling Stone. “I ran out of the club, into the van, locked the doors, and took my star off. And I waited while the band loaded the piano out and we got out of there. I felt horrible. It really bothered me for many years — that feeling of just hiding in the van.”

Since then, Weiner doesn’t hide anything, least of all his Jewish heritage. In the new documentary slash concert film Art Dealers, the New Jersey native is an open book as he recounts the origins of Low Cut Connie (it’s both a band name and an alter ego), flatly explains why he’ll probably never have a hit song, and describes what he calls the “Jew hunger” that consumes him when he’s spent too much time in the Midwest away from his home in Philadelphia. In one scene, he’s shown wrapping the leather straps of tefillin — small prayer boxes — around his arms. “I’m very Jewy,” Weiner says in the film. “A couple years ago, this Jewish magazine made me ‘Jew of the Week.’”

Art Dealers is a visual companion piece to Low Cut Connie’s new album of the same name. Directed by Weiner and Roy Power, it screens at this week’s Philadelphia Film Festival before a public showing and solo performance by Weiner in Asbury Park, New Jersey, in December. As a music doc, Art Dealers succeeds on the strength of the musicians it profiles: not just the group’s flamboyant frontman, but the ragtag bunch of players (like magnetic vocalist Amanda “Rocky” Bullwinkel and multi-tooled singer-guitarist Abigail Dempsey) who join him as he schleps his piano around the country. As a concert film, it expertly summons the sweaty revival that is a Low Cut Connie gig by culling the best from three shows at New York’s Sony Hall and jazz outpost the Blue Note.

But it’s a performance in Pittsburgh that is Art Dealers’ defining musical moment and the heart of the movie. Recorded just two months after the October 2018 hate-crime massacre at the city’s Tree of Life synagogue, the clip finds Weiner, in a white undershirt and black suspenders, earnestly preaching love and community to a crowd still in mourning. “Do we have a good feeling right now?” he asks, hoping he’s done his job. “We’ve got to spread it all over this country and this world, and if we do that, boys and girls, I promise you one thing: We’ll never fucking lose.”

“That was a situation where you just see what the people in front of you need. And that was a group of people who needed to be uplifted,” Weiner says now. “It was a time of such hopelessness and despair, and I have a moment with a microphone to give them something that could be useful to them. And that’s what preachers do. That’s what rabbis do. That’s what singers do.”

Weiner found further inspiration in the strength of the Pittsburgh crowd when he was writing one of the standout tracks for Art Dealers, the boldly titled “King of the Jews.” He calls it a “hype-up” song.

“I needed to have a song that would completely flip the script for myself. Where I could stick my chest out and say, ‘Here I am,’” he says.

After playing “King of the Jews” for an older Jewish man, Weiner was struck by the man’s review. “He said, ‘You know, in the Seventies, it was very cool to be Jewish — now it’s dangerous.’ You think of all these different stars in music and film who not only were Jewish, but they really looked and acted Jewish: Barbra Streisand, Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow, Elliott Gould, and on and on. It was a cool time. And there’s different avenues to antisemitism now, different directions that point that way. You don’t even need to look very hard. And so, he said to me, ‘It really moves me what you’re doing, because this is cool again.’”

JUST A FEW days after Weiner’s interview with Rolling Stone, the militant group Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel. More than 1,400 were killed, many of them civilians, including scores at a music festival. In light of the events, we followed up with Weiner, who, as he does across the movie, on Low Cut Connie’s new album, and especially onstage, responded in a way that puts his faith squarely in his art.


“One of my best friends is Palestinian. We both grew up in the Philly area, went to public schools, and have always considered ourselves American first,” he wrote in an email. “We never talked much about our ancestry until after Trump got elected, when a swastika was painted on a building a few blocks from me in Philly with the words ‘Heil Trump’ painted below, and Trump was instituting a ‘Muslim Ban.’ Now we both watch the terrorist attacks in Israel, the war, the bombings and fatalities in Gaza, the insane and hateful commentary from so many people, and we send each other love.  

“It’s hard to know what to say about such things,” Weiner continued. “By and large the world generally hates both of us, Jews and Palestinians. Ultimately, they don’t really want us in their countries. It’s the kind of prejudice that can either harden you to violence, or turn you into an artist, someone who paints the world from the margins. I hope for more art, and less violence. Art can heal and connect us.  Violence only destroys.  Art can lead the way forward, if we let it.”

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