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.
The calm before a storm, the lights are dim, beers in hand, and the sound-check is over. The Vaughns are set to open the Experiment 34 album release show at The Asbury Park Yacht Club. There’s usually not a crowd so large for the opening band, but The Vaughns, consisting of Anna Lies, David Cacciatore, Ryan Kenter, and Tom Losito from Springfield, are not a typical opening band. I have been looking forward to this show since I first heard their album Tomfoolery and can I just say, if you haven’t been listening, you are seriously missing out.
There was a pretty special show hosted at The Edge Mansion in New Brunswick on January 19. I’ve been meaning to write about it for over a week now, but since January 20 I keep feeling overcome by fear, hopelessness, and impending doom, but so is life following the inauguration of the small-handed Tangerine Tyrant. I didn’t intend to ever get political on this site, but it’s been vaguely unavoidable in the past ten or so days. Still, few things can inspire such feelings of freedom and strength as good, honest music. Just like Woody Guthrie taught us, “This Machine Kills Fascists.”
The Edge Mansion has the perfect setup for a basement venue. The main stage area is pretty large and wide open, dimly lit with rows of Christmas lights. There’s the long hallway when you first go down the stairs which gives the artists a great space to set up their merch. You can pack in right up front and dance around face to face with your favorite bands, or hang back if you’re trying to have a more chill night. Sure, occasionally a monitor might cut out during a set, but that’s part of the D.I.Y. charm that you grow to love when you start indulging in this scene.
Really quick, for any of you reading this right now that have seen Will Wood and the Tapeworms perform live before, holy fuck, right? If you know already, there’s not much else to say besides that. The rest of you are seriously missing out. But that’s okay. I’m here to help.
Will Wood and the Tapeworms have truly mastered the art of the live performance. They have an incredibly theatrical approach to the stage, wearing flamboyant outfits and face paint. Almost all of the band members seem to have adopted on-stage personas that are caricatures of themselves. I’m assuming that these guys can’t be as jacked up and dialed in 24/7 as they are during performances, unless they’re doing all the cocaine. Like, ALL the cocaine.
Sound & Shape, out of Nashville, are making their way up to New Jersey this month in advance of the release of their new EP, Peasants (which will only be released on vinyl. Because this band is cool).
These guys have already released four studio albums together, and it shows in their music. Each track is incredibly tight and polished, maintaining melodic riffs over killer guitar and Grant Bramlett’s high-energy drumming, even on alt-rock jams like “Dandelion.” The result is a sophisticated album showcasing variety and talent from every member of the group.
The songwriting itself is thoughtful and optimistic, combining with the music to give the EP an anthemic feel. As Ryan Caudle sings in the title song, “It’s not that easy to be/The only peasant in a world full of kings and queens/In the shadow of the castle/I’ll find everything I need.” These songs acknowledge how shitty things can get, yet they speak of resiliency, and scrappiness, and hope. It’s exactly what I want to hear these days – and you might, too.
So do yourself a favor and see Sound & Shape on January 28th at The Mill Hill or the 29th at The Scarlet Pub. Or go to both shows, if that’s what you’re into. I promise you will be physically incapable of standing still in the crowd like some fucking anti-dancing hipster. Then go and pre-order Peasants on vinyl when it comes out, so that you too can be one of the cool kids.
For anyone who is unfamiliar with Sussex County, or has only passed through it, it is truly like no other place in New Jersey. You know that meme that’s like “when you think you’re from the south but you live in Pennsylvania” well it’s like that, but worse camouflage, worse pickup trucks, and nothing but mint skoal long cut everywhere. Honestly, MTV should have capitalized on this. Buckwild could have totally taken place in Sussex County and then The Jersey Shore and Buckwild could have had a cross over episode. I’d watch that shit. Anyway, sorry for that tangent, but I just felt there needed to be some context to Sussex.
Fuhgawee Hunting Club (FHC), Sussex’s unlikely surf rock band, released a four-track vinyl last month called Mirrors. The songs are fast, powerful, distinct, and full of energy. My favorite song off Mirrors is 18 Wheeler, a song that touches one of the three golden topics of song writing – driving (lovers and addiction are the other two). Unlike your standard highway songs of going on a peaceful, long drive to forget about all your troubles, frontman Joe Chegwidden sings about the fear of driving on a highway filled with 18-wheelers and thinking one of them is going to run you off the road. He screams the lyrics with such intensity. I can very vividly see him getting boxed in by a bunch of trucks on route 80 and screaming THIS COMMUTE IS KILLING ME as he tries to escape.