"These guys are great! Do they play here a lot?"
love hearing those words whenever I go to see the fabulous Johnson
Brothers play. It happens every time. Somebody is blown
away at the discovery of this incredible band. It reminds me of
the first time I went to hear them play: the infectious music packed
the dance floor with sweaty, happy people; everyone was having fun -
the dancers and the musicians. This is the key to the J.
Bros. Not only are they a collection of incredibly talented
musicians, but they obviously have fun while they are onstage.
enthusiasm starts with Aaron (lead vocals). I don't know what
he's like off stage, but he's a blur of constant motion on it. He
sings and dances with an energy that can't help but draw people
It's a toss-up who actually cuts loose next:
Miquel (bass guitar) tends to dance while playing even before it
becomes really obvious. Whether it's a subtle head bob or a
full-body swing of his bass, Miquel is whole-heartedly moving and
feeling the music. Nicole (sax) habitually wows the audience with her
impassioned, impressive, high-energy solos. Once she steps up
front, you know the audience is only going to get crazier. Doug
(lead guitar) sizzles while he plays. I'd swear sometimes
literally. It's almost eerie how everything will kind of stop
while he's soloing only to explode back into frenetic activity once he
stops. Brian (trumpet) seems almost shy compared to the rest of
the front line, but he shines absolutely when he steps up with his
solos. Once he starts dancing, however, the energy definitely
flies off the chart as he and Aaron take it to the next level.
years of listening to live bands, I've reached a conclusion: some
people play keyboards; some people are pianists who use
keyboards. Mike (keys) is definitely the latter. Notes skip
out from under his fingers seamlessly, without effort. It blends
so perfectly, matching skill, tempo, feeling, and energy that it is
almost completely unassuming. But, even if the orgiastic audience
misses the nuances, that voice nourishes the energy of the rest of the
The funny thing about percussion instruments is that you
have to hit them hard enough to be heard,which sounds easy enough, but
there has to a light agility to carry you quickly into the next beat,
which is a lot harder than it sounds. Schaff pulls this off without
a hitch. His driving rhythms guide and goad the J. Bros. through
their sets. The pinnacle of it all is his solo during the Doors'
"Touch Me"--the band gathers around his kit as he takes the beat to a
primal level; the release is an orgasm of rock-n-roll
proportions. I get shivers just thinking about it.