Photos By Armando Gallardo, Review By Julie Espinosa
“It all started in Nashville” told Abner Ramirez to a room packed of people of all ages in which females turned out to occupy three quarters of the venue. “In an attempt for musical self-discovery I not only found my work partner but also half of my heart, Amanda”, which was followed by sighs and claps from the mesmerized crowd.
Musical couples have been around for quite a while; Yoko and John, Bono and Cher, June and Jonny and now Abner and Amanda have found a way to not only hit the jackpot with their music but also create that magic that makes Johnnyswim an delightful and irresistible duo that captivated The Hamilton this past Monday.
Johnnyswim started in 2005, somewhere in Nashville, Tennessee when the duo met again at one of Abner’s show and Amanda, whose musical influence is undeniable (she’s the daughter of Donna Summer), asked him to write together. They been with each other ever since.
After a few successful collaborations they decided to embark in the musical adventure that is ‘Johnnyswim’. Why Johnnyswim? Well, we don’t really know. The couple loves to tell bogus stories about how the name came together but won’t reveal the mystery behind it, mostly because they think “the story is just too boring”, they say.
Mystery or not, this couple knows how to keep the audience stuck to their seat with their folky, loungey pop which charms everyone who hears it because of the familiarity of these two. This was very apparent during the show in which Abner will lock eyes with his partner in more than one occasion followed by a kiss on the back or a subtle look, which certainly didn’t go unnoticed by the audience. And they loved it.
The show started almost 20 minutes after it was scheduled because of some technical difficulties which were Amanda explained as “The need for Abner to finish putting hair product”.
Their set was a relatively quiet one- allowing for their vocals and ooos harmonies to drive most of the songs, except for ‘Home’ where they took a more growling rock & roll approach.
As it is expected with a new comer receiving lots of praise by the industry the house was packed and the show sold out. Yet, we felt as Johnnyswim is still shaping who they want to be and going through an identity crisis of sorts. The talent and chemistry that these two have is unquestionable but their stage personas and random commentary left us wondering if they have found their niche yet.
At some point Abner went on a 10-minute story about how he proposed to Amanda. Now, the story was funny and unique, one with dog poop and brothels included, but spending almost the time one could spend singing 3 songs was a bit too long for us. After all, the paying audience came to a music show not to see a stand-up routine. Yet, once again, they loved it.
If there’s something that Johnnyswim has is loyal fans who will listen to these two talk about the other for hours without flinching or questioning a single thing. Instead they became hypnotized by the love doves.
And these love doves, as much as they might be finding themselves musically and artistically, can hold the house down. Abner’s powerful vocals in contrast with Amanda’s soothing voice create a harmonious match made in heaven. Abner’s stage persona reminded us of ‘The Rock’ but with a bluesy musical style closer to Tracy Chapman’s while Amanda’s fluttered from echoes lows to soaring highs with such ease that reaffirmed genes are certainly carried from mother to daughter.
But that’s not all. Abner got some very catchy and soulful guitar licks which move the songs from beginning to end in arpeggio form. Add to that the special connection of these two and you got a perfectly marketable production.
To prove this further, Johnnyswim decided to go down into the audience for a cover of Bonnie Rait’s “I can’t make you love me” and Jonny & June Cash’s “Jackson” which ambience made us reminiscent of some old town cantina in Texas where cowboys & cowgirls alike come to show what they got, musically speaking.
Johnnyswim certainly has the chops to show the world why they made the cut of VH1’s Artist you ought to know 2013 list and we will continue to sing their praise until these two break up or go onto a story too long to sit thru. So, Johnnyswim, we beg you to stay together and stick to the music, the back and forth bantering will come on its own, no need to force it.