Last Saturday, John Cozz hosted a release show for his new album, Salt, Pepper, Ketchup, in the basement of the Underground Skate Shop in Newark. The show featured an impressive lineup, paintings on display from local artists, homemade Taylor ham, egg, and cheese sandwiches, and well over a hundred people packed into the basement. I’ve previously written a review for Salt, Pepper, Ketchup in which I praised John for his D.I.Y. attitude and all of the hard work he put into creating this album. It was really great to see him get the payoff he deserved with this show, so first and foremost, congratulations, John.
Zorp, down from Sussex County, opened up the show. The only thing more experimental than this band’s music was probably bass player Quentin Castillo’s attire for the night, which was primarily comprised of a garbage bag. But the fun didn’t stop there, as Zorp was also responsible for bringing the balloons to the party, which was a blast for everyone in attendance.
The next band up was the heavy three-piece, Kult of Mary. This band doesn’t fuck around. Every one of their songs was an ass-kicker. They had elements of that early, throwback punk style blended with some thrash metal. I came to the show in generally a pretty good mood, but a few minutes into Kult of Mary’s set, I wanted to give someone a bloody nose. I didn’t though, because it wasn’t not about that, but that was the level of aggressive energy compressed into each of these songs. They did not put a strong emphasis on their vocals; rather Zach Baransky took charge with a truly lyrical guitar lead.
John Cozz, the man of the hour, began his set by thanking the audience for coming out to the show in the self-deprecating way that only he can. “It’s not often I finish an idea I had, and so far things are going really well, so that’s a rare occurrence. So thanks for being here, because you’re all part of this going well.” Each time I see Cozz play, with each album he releases, there’s such an apparent growth at each step of the way, both in his musical proficiency and in his confidence. It’s been only a little over a year since the release of his first album, Fall into Place or Pieces, but in that year he has proved beyond any doubt that this is where he belongs. There could be no better evidence of that than the size of the crowd that came out that night to support him.
Leah Kallins and Kevin Donnelly joined Cozz on stage for his set. He rocked it out super hard, putting all of the love and passion that was evident in the album’s recording into the live performance. At one point, the audience picked up and crowd surfed Cozz’s girlfriend around the venue and, after she had reached the far rear of the basement, broke into the first mosh pit of the night. It was probably the most energy I had seen at one of John’s shows, and he fed off every second of it.
As Cozz was packing up his equipment, his good friend Randy Haze came up to the stage and decided to surprise everyone with an improvised song, which I’m assuming was titled “John Cozz.” Oddly enough, it was the first time I had ever seen Randy play an acoustic live, but it was still undeniably Randy shredding like hell.
NGHTCRWLRS, still high from their own recent album release, quickly followed and played Raging Hot in its entirety. These guys impress me every time I see them play. They just sound flawless, even when playing in a brick basement without a sound guy at the controls. It’s possible they sounded even better than they did on the album. The songs boast a complexity in their composition, which were performed as technically as they were aggressively. The contrast in Eric Goldberg’s melodic vocals to Brian Goglia’s being so raw and violent helped to highlight the rise and fall throughout the set.
Of course, NGHTCRWLRS can be a tough band to follow, but if there’s any band that’s up to the task, Whiner, fronted by a shirtless, fire-wielding Cam Castan, is that band. Even under the bright fluorescent lights, Whiner had a way of making the space feel dark with the often bleak and personal subject matter. You could tell the band really hit their stride during the set when Castan started making sexy eyes at the audience, but things got taken to an entirely new level when ketchup bottles started flying around the crowd and John Cozz started lighting his hair on fire.
Things got wild, they got crazy, they got…dangerous? But that’s why you come to basement shows in Newark, isn’t it? For the unexpected? Maybe you came to this one for the free Taylor ham, egg, and cheese sandwiches, but you sure as hell got a lot more than that. I go to a ton of local shows obviously, and although work is involved to write about and to take photos and all the rest, it never feels like chore. But they’re also not all this much fun. I think that can mostly be chalked up to John Cozz’s own goofy, irreverent personality. Just a good dude, having a good time, with good people. I think we can all agree, that’s not something you could ever have too much of.
If you haven’t checked it out yet, give Salt, Pepper, Ketchup a listen. Buy it on BandCamp, order a vinyl. It’s well worth your money.
Adam gave man-birth to N.J. Racket and is as close to an "editor-in-chief" the site has. He's a god awful photographer.