How Low Cut Connie guitarist, formerly of Delaware, co-created 'Tough Cookies' web show
Correction: Low Cut Connie is performing in Arden Saturday. An earlier version of this story included the wrong date due to a reporter's error.
Philadelphia rockers Low Cut Connie will play to a sold-out crowd of 200 folks in Arden on Saturday, bringing along their fiery internet show “Tough Cookies.” The web series was co-created by former Newark, Delaware, resident Will Donnelly, guitarist for Low Cut Connie.
Branded as a “soul music variety show,” Donnelly developed “Tough Cookies” at the start of the pandemic with Low Cut frontman Adam Weiner.
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There have been a number of “Tough Cookies” interviews with special guests, such as one last week with Hunter Biden, son of President Joe Biden. Spoiler alert, that episode with Hunter didn’t include any questions about his past service on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company. The video also has more dislikes than likes.
Hunter instead discussed his new memoir, “Beautiful Things,” which is about the loss of his brother, Beau, and his struggle with crack addiction.
Back in South Philly, where Donnelly lives, he’s looking ahead to playing a socially distanced show in Delaware to start off the weekend.
But he can’t help but think back to how naïve he was at the start of the pandemic.
“I think the first weekend we were baking a cake for making it through one week worth of quarantine. In hindsight, I realized that I'll probably be baking a lot more cakes,” Donnelly, 32, told Delaware Online/The News Journal.
“I had chocolate frosting. I think all I had was yellow cake, and I think I had to borrow flour from someone. Someone left like a cup of flour on my doorstep.”
The Low Cut Connie guitarist is originally from Washington, D.C., but he left Delaware for Philly about seven years ago, he said.
The guitarist is the last remaining member of Low Cut who lived in the First State.
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Donnelly spent a year commuting from Philly to Wilmington while working as a bartender at the Oddity Bar, under the former management of Pat McCutcheon and Andrea McCauley.
"It was like the first bartending job that I had, and they were very accepting of someone being able to leave and come back, and go on tour and do stuff like that," he said. "They were very supportive of it.”
Donnelly, who has upcoming shows in Red Bank and Jersey City, New Jersey; Philly; New York; and Washington, D.C. (most of which are in the fall), spoke to The News Journal about how he whipped up “Tough Cookies.”
He also shared his Philly state of mind on Kate Winslet’s performance in the Delco-based, HBO smash hit crime thriller “The Mare of Easttown,'' Low Cut Connie’s approach to touring during a pandemic and more.
You’re a Philly guy now. What do you think about Kate Winslet’s Philly accent on the 'Mare of Easttown?'
I think she does an all-right job. There are times when the accent isn't spot on. But, granted she's British. I'm going to give her a pass. But really, it's [about her] whole attitude. She’s drinking Rolling Rock all the time. And she just kind of has a general negative disposition. That's probably the nicest way I could put it, that I feel like can be representative of Delco affiliates.
What are your go-to items at Wawa?
In Philly you can get a hoagie at just about anywhere. If you have to resort to a Wawa hoagie, it might be because it's 2 in the morning and you've had a few [laughs]. If I'm making a Wawa run and it's early in the morning, I'll get a coffee and maybe a soft pretzel because those things are enormous. And I think it's literally all of the sodium intake you need for the day.
Where did the name 'Tough Cookies' come from?
It was a spur-of-the-moment thing from Adam. He was talking about Passover since we're both Jewish. He was talking about matzo, the cracker, being a tough cookie and then related it to our audience because they’re tough, but they’re also sweet on the inside.
What inspired you and Adam to create 'Tough Cookies' at the top of the pandemic?
We were kind of at a loss as to what to do. Someone suggested the idea of just … going on the internet. Most of our band lives out of state in Colorado or Tennessee. So it’s just the two of us. Adam was like, ‘I don't know. I’ve never done this before. So just bring over a guitar and an amp and we'll do it in my spare bedroom.' We had no idea what would happen. We looked at how many people saw it and it was thousands of people. And then the next day, it was like even more people. Then the Saturday after that, it just kind of exploded.
Aside from not being able to play much, has the pandemic impacted you in any ways you didn’t anticipate?
In the first two weeks I was very comfortable with staying inside. I had a bar job in Philly that I've since quit because I just kind of didn't feel like doing it anymore. You're sitting inside, trying to occupy your time, either playing music at home or staying sharp as a musician, and then the reality of it sets in. The full gravity of the whole situation rears its ugly head. Luckily, the "Tough Cookies" broadcasts have been able to keep me sane in some way.
As a touring musician, what are your thoughts on festivals like Firefly and Bonnaroo planning to return this year?
Initially, it's very exciting to see something like that happening again. But you can feel apprehensive [to take] as many steps as you can take to be as safe as possible: getting vaccinated and being socially distant. Low Cut Connie has decided to give it a few more months, like waiting for the fall [before planning lots of shows] because the pandemic is still far from over. Things can still be very up in the air; most of our shows won’t be happening until the end of September or October. We have an October show in Philly and also in D.C. It is great to see bands back out there doing it. But, you know, you kind of want to lay back a little bit and see how all the first round of shows and concerts go down.
Some people see the pandemic as already being in their rearview.
It's still very real. Thousands of people are getting cases, and [hundreds are] dying each day. Things are still all sorts of messed up. You get your vaccination shot and you think, ‘All right, I'm just gonna go kiss everyone on the mouth.’ But wait a couple more months for that [laughs]. There's also the whole curve with herd immunity. Even though a large majority of the adult population has a vaccination, we still have a long way to go.
Music venues told me they think they’ll be able to attract slightly bigger artists than usual because they'll be desperate for money right now. How much of a reality do you think this will be?
You would want a performer like ourselves, Low Cut Connie, to be able to make a living wage playing a small club because a lot of people that work at venues have been hit so hard. A lot of friends I know work at venues in Philly. … They’re still not back to work, and they’re trying to find odd jobs. So really, it would make sense if the venue can afford to spend a little bit of extra money, just so they can be able to support their own staff, and the bands that come through that aren't quite as big. You would think a large performer would do a smaller show like that on good faith and show support to a smaller venue.
Upcoming Low Cut Connie concerts in Philadelphia, New Jersey, New York and Washington, D.C.
7 p.m., June 6- Solo show for 90.5 The Night's member event Red Bank, New Jersey (99 Monmouth St., Red Bank, New Jersey), Tickets $65
9 p.m., Oct. 8 - White Eagle Hall (337 Newark Ave, Jersey City, New Jersey), Tickets $25
8 p.m., Oct. 9 - The Stephen Talkhouse (161 Main St., Amagansett, New York), Tickets $60
7 p.m., Oct. 13 - 9:30 Club (815 V St., NW, Washington, D.C.), Tickets $25
8 p.m., Oct. 14 - The Philadelphia Fillmore (29 E. Allen St., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), Tickets $30
8 p.m., Dec. 9 - Bowery Ballroom (6 Delancey St., New York, New York),Tickets $20
7 p.m., Dec. 11 -The Stone Pony (913 Ocean Ave., Asbury Park, New Jersey), Tickets$20
Andre Lamar is the features/lifestyle reporter. If you have an interesting story idea, email Andre Lamar at email@example.com