Streetsounds: TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb

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Courtesy Daniela Sessa TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb are Dan Bruskewicz (left), Joshua Willis (center) and Dan Martino (right). The folk-rock trio says Philly just fits them.

With an acoustic guitar and harmonica strapped around his neck, Dan Bruskewicz leads the explosive folk-rock trio TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb.

His deep vocal drawl rings out over chaotic, stomping rhythms from drummer Dan Martino and the rabid bass playing of Joshua Willis, a musician who met up with the two after reading a Craigslist ad “demanding” a bass player. Willis also brings the occasional banjo into the mix, giving the band’s sound an even more rootsy feel.

Bruskewicz has a different way of describing the sound:
“Jerry Lewis drank Tom Waits and pissed on Bob Dylan.”

The band’s live performances are raw and wild, with Bruskewicz strumming the life out of his acoustic guitar and Willis dancing to the groove of his bass melodies.

TJ Kong has generated a rather mysterious Internet buzz over the last year, one the band sometimes doesn’t quite understand.

“It’s weird,” Bruskewicz said. “One day our name pops up on a few of the most important blogs in the world and a picture surfaces of our bassist taking DMT with the chick from Beach House, and then everyone’s talking about the shoes our drummer wears.”

In February 2009 the trio released The Hinterlands EP, a palatable collection of five songs strung out with pragmatic lyrics and heartfelt melodies.

It opens with “The Trail of the Lonesome Hobo,” a rousing toe-tapper infused with banjo plucking, on which Bruskewicz confesses, “I don’t know what love is, but I can feel it in my veins.”

On “Cantankerous Old Men,” Bruskewicz relays some of grandpa’s wisdom: “Everyone’s a jerkoff/ You can see it in their eyes/ Hunched over a desktop and looking for a place to hide/ All these assholes on their cell phones in their cars/ Let me tell you something boy/ They won’t make it very far.”

Bruskewicz likens the band’s connection to Philadelphia to an old pair of shoes.

“When the right pair of shoes fit, I can’t throw them away, no matter how bad they smell or how old and useless they are,” he said. “Philly is widely overlooked. Not only is it a great music town, but it’s the sixth largest city in the country, according to Google.”

“Philly has really good sandwiches, too. I love it here,” the guitarist added.

Friday will be a celebration at Johnny Brenda’s in Fishtown, as the band will self-release their first full-length album.

Kevin Brosky can be reached at kevin.brosky@temple.edu.

1 Comment

  1. Saw these guys the other night at Johnnie Brendas Friday night for the CD release. Great sound, the rhythm and syncopation was right on. Really great vibe. They really do have a unique sound, a solid blend that just produces music that is refreshing to hear. keep up the good work.

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