Joe Iconis on The White Stripes, His Eventful Twenties and Performing at 54 Below


Joe Iconis on The White Stripes, His Eventful Twenties and Performing at 54 Below |

Joe Iconis has been tearing through the New York music theater scene for years, both as a writer and a performer. His concert group, Joe Iconis & Family, plays shows that feature a unique blend of rock and musical theater. One favorite family tradition of theirs is a holiday concert that is, for the first time, coming to 54 Below. Billed as a "wild yultide explosion," the fifth annual Joe Iconis Christmas Spectacular will play on December 14 and 15. Below, Iconis talks influential rockers, singing with Phillip Seymor Hoffman and why Carousel gets him "hot and bothered."

What record/album was your favorite growing up?

When I was a little kid, Michael Jackson’s Thriller was my favorite. I frequently wore a lone white glove and busted sweet moves to “Billie Jean.” I was alternately obsessed with and terrified by video for “Thriller,” and would watch it constantly even though it made me cry. Other albums I loved were The Muppets Take Manhattan soundtrack and the original cast recordings of March of the Falsettos and Falsettoland. I had them on audiocassette and would walk around my suburban hometown listening on my Walkman and fantasizing about such exotic things as gay people and Jews.

What concert most influenced you as a performer?

I saw The White Stripes perform live many times. In an interview, Jack White said that he intentionally places obstacles in his way when he performs so that he has to fight against something. If he knows that he absolutely only has time to make it to the organ in five steps, he puts it seven steps away. That sort of tension was always evident in their performances. They never played with a set list, so everything felt alive and electric and dangerous. And their cover of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” is the best cover of any Dolly Parton song ever.

What is your go-to audition song?

I don’t audition regularly, but if I did, I would only sing “Anthem” from Chess and refuse to sing anything else. And if the person behind the table ever said, “What else do you have?” I would just sing “Anthem” in Spanish.

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