By Vickram Singh
Mayhem erupted at The Bitter End, but instead of chaos and disarray, it came in the form of soulful tunes and groovy horns. Taking the famous rock and roll club by storm, Mojo and the Mayhem brought the house down with their bombastic sound that makes you want to grab a partner and dance your heart out. If dancing isn’t your thing, as is the case for me, you will tap your toes to each song until you leave a hole in the ground. You’d be a fool to think you will have a nice, sedentary night out when Mojo and the Mayhem are playing.
With a name like that, you can’t expect a regular, four-man band. Mojo and the Mayhem has a whopping eight members, consisting of: Larkin McSurely Bradsaw (vocals), Jennie Reiverso (vocals/tambourine), Ben Deixler (keys/vocals), Aidan Boardman (bass/vocals), Paul Lederer (guitar), Tom McHugh (trombone), Jimmy Rose (trumpet), and Dylan Awalt-Conley (drums). With most of the members double-dipping into different roles, it’s easy to see how the band creates it frenetic yet catchy music.
Despite knowing all of this and listening to their music beforehand, it was still a jolt to my senses when the band started to play. Each song starts out as if its sound was held back and restrained, biding its time as it swelled larger and louder, until the band releases a harmonious sound that makes you want to jump out of your seat. They don’t let up either, with many of their songs feeling like a wall of encircling music, beckoning the senses to respond in any way. The band jam-packs so much into a sound that encompasses so many moving parts, that I had no idea how my eardrums didn’t overload and burst by the end of it.
Their larger-than-life sound is partly credited to the brass and woodwind section of the band. Together, they create a wall of sound that feels consistent across all of their original songs and covers. They fill up the sound to give the impression that that they have filled up the little empty space that was left over by the other instruments. It kept the music light and easy while reaching a crescendo so high and loud that it made me feel like my heart was going to burst out of my chest.
The other part to the music is the vocals, with the lead singer, Larkin, impressively carrying a job for two by herself. Her partner, Jennie, couldn’t make it that night, causing her to cry out her name multiple times during the set, like legendary rockers crooning the names of those that make their heart ache. Her beautiful singing did not betray any sense of strain, with the rest of the band lending their voices whenever necessary. They added to the wall of sound while making each voice distinct, giving a sense of community behind the song; something that vibes well with a dancing crowd.
The rest of the musicians are no slouches, with bass, keys, and drums playing their part to establish the rhythm that kept my head bobbing along. They provided the foundation on which the other sections shined, an impressive feat of teamwork and dedication. I have to give special mention to Boardman’s solo, whose slaps and licks swept me away, showing his deep commitment to his craft. Altogether, the band provided an experience in which every note made me yearn for a way to physically express myself through dance.
Mojo and the Mayhem’s on-stage energy complimented their catchy music. Larkin brought the personality, with her eye-catching, frilly red dress mesmerizing the audience as she sang and danced. The band was all smiles and laughs onstage, while keeping an air of professionalism, leading to a performance that was akin to euphoric glee. Despite the fact that the Bitter End is a sit-in bar that doesn’t have a dance floor, the audience continued to express their delight in their seats. People grooving near the bar, couples holding hands as they swayed in rhythm together, even bartenders toe-tapped alone— everyone tried to find a way to satiate their need to move along to the great music.
I got the opportunity to interview the band after the gig. Tired from their performance (which didn’t hinder their playful ribbing with each other), I was able to see them without their on-stage persona. They appreciated the opportunity to play a smaller set right in front of the crowd and see their responses. Larkin sullenly explained her missing Jennie, while explaining to me their soul roots, like how their original name was “Soular Power.” Though they weren’t used to playing at a place where people sit down, Larkin explained that she came prepared: “That’s why I brought this dress, to compensate for all the non-dancing. We are all tricks and frills.”
The Bitter End is a historic venue that has starred legendary artists ranging from various genres of music, from heart pounding rock and roll, to relaxing smooth jazz, to inhuman lyricism from incredible hip-hop artists. In a place that is defined by its prolific roster of talent under one roof, it was only fitting that a band that is an amalgam of so many influences would feel like the perfect band to encapsulate the prestigious music history within the Bitter End.
Their sound, while inspired by the very best of soul, R&B, funk, and groovy classic rock, does not let itself be defined by their inspiration. The result is genre-bending music that tightly packs the main beats and flourishes of soul and funk within a structure that sounds entirely new and fresh. They convey a sense of respect for their musical muses, while still being forward-thinking enough to be innovative and unique.
Based in New Jersey, Vickram Singh is a staff editor for Honeysuckle Magazine. He is also the managing editor and staff writer for The Medium, the satirical newspaper at Rutgers University, where he currently studies.