JOHNNYSWIM Review @ Brookfield Zoo – Chicago, IL

JOHNNYSWIM Review @ Brookfield Zoo – Chicago, IL

August 8, 2015

Review by Dan Scheiman

Johnnyswim is a soulful folk duo that originated out of Nashville Tennessee. Amanda Sudano, daughter of the famous singer Donna Summer and producer Bruce Sudano, found singer-songwriter Abner Ramirez and formed Johnnyswim in 2005.

This duo has enough passion to fill any venue to the brim with their musical expression and heartfelt lyrics. The combination of brilliant songwriting and a powerful and profound love between the two singers produces something in a performance that is extremely rare and unique. Abner would start each song with a playful and loving approach while aggressively and confidently strumming his guitar. The two have a strong enough connection that either one can branch off from the set rhythm at any time and the other will carry on without being thrown off in the least. The harmonies they piece together are as beautiful as two voices could possibly sound. Stopping the show mid song to announce to the crowd, the couple announced that they had their first child just 5 months ago, both smiling from ear to ear.

About halfway through the show, Abner references a story about an old friend who didn’t believe he would make it as a successful musician, and tells how they wrote a “suck-it” song in spite of that doubt, inspired by how far they have come. The song that followed the story was “Diamonds,” a track that has an extraordinary amount of passion and heart hammered into it. Seeing this particular one live brought very welcome tears to my eyes as the sun was setting behind the crowd.

The other fan favorite that got a clear response from the audience was “Heart Beats.” I’m honestly not sure if it is primarily the loving chemistry between the performers that makes their show so amazing, or if the lyrical content is responsible for the awe inspiring sensation. Either way, I can say that I have never seen a performance this intimate before. Even when one of the two would be singing alone, you would always see the other gazing at them with utmost admiration and love.

At one point Amanda asked the fans if it was alright if Abner sang a song in Spanish by himself. With the okay from the crowd Abner proceeded to strum and tap on his guitar with flamenco influence and sing a jaw dropping solo of one of his father’s favorite songs. Showing a wonderful comparison to what I think is the future of their success, they broke out into a cover of Johnny cash’s “Jackson.”

Occasionally the love birds would sing into the same microphone, getting close enough to kiss, and then just giggling and backing away like young kids under the spell of their first crush. For the last few songs they invited the audience to stand and come closer to the stage. Abner eagerly tells the loving fans, “you better get ready,” as they begin to pour out the rest of the energy they had left. Everyone cheered and danced throughout the last of the set, including the well executed cover of Britney Spears’ “Til’ the World Ends.”

A fantastic ending to the Brookfield Zoo’s Summer Nights, if I do say so myself. A shout out is due to their supporting band as well; it is not easy to accompany such emotional music so fluently as that trio did. Honestly, I see this band blowing up extremely fast. I would recommend catching them next time they come to town, as it may not be much longer before you will only be able to find Johnnyswim at much larger venues.

Photos by Nicci Allen

Dan Scheiman With an entirely open and unbiased obsession with music, Dan decided to take the opportunity given to him to share his thoughts for On Stage Review. Having been to hundreds of concerts of a variety of styles and genres over the years, he's no stranger to live music. He has been playing bass guitar for over twelve years now and has been dabbling in vocal work, drums, and piano for almost as long. Growing up listening to metal and industrial then transitioning into jazz and classical, and now having a particular love for funk or anything that grooves; his perspective comes from a well-rounded musical background and some amateur experience as a musician. He has too many favorite bands to list, but some of his favorite live experiences include: Sigur Ros, Porcupine Tree, Papadosio, Tool, The Ocean, Animals As Leaders, Lettuce, and of course, Victor Wooten.