Cousin Jack EP Release Party @ Mavrick's!

March 29th, 2019

It was a night of milestones at Mavrick’s Music Hall in Barrie, ON as local band Cousin Jack celebrated the release of their debut self-titled EP (see the album review here). Joining them to open the show was All My Life and House Art, making it a truly local bill.

Before the show, I caught up with Cousin Jack to see how they were feeling. “We are confident. ‘Jacked up’ (pun intended).” Said the band, “There was a lot of stress leading up to today putting all of this together, but now we can focus on the show.” When asked what it means to them to hold their release at such a large venue in their hometown, they said, “It’s a cool milestone. We have seen some of our favourite bands here and never thought we would play on this stage. It’s breaking new ground because we are the first local indie band to ever headline a show here, and the first time there has been a completely local indie bill.

For me, it was amazing to see these Barrie bands testing the waters and trying something new on a large scale. Having booked each of them at The Foxx Lounge, it was clear they haven’t forgotten their roots, but also know the importance of trying something new. The atmosphere was one of excitement, and the newly renovated venue provided a warm feeling and sound suited to the event.

All My Life

First up was local rock trio All My Life, a younger band who made their debut not even a year ago and have since been hard at work making a name for themselves. AML is made up of Kasey Kohring on guitar/vocals, Alex Lii on bass/vocals, and Brandon Pellatt on drums. Their energy and audience interaction was strong right off the bat as they opened the set with their song ‘Story of You’. It was a true rock and roll sound with accents of funk and blues. For a newer band, they commanded the stage with confidence as they moved into ‘Left to Lose’.

AML kept the momentum going as they began the third song in their act, a cover of Wheatus’ ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ to the delight of the crowd. They made it their own while still keeping the angst-filled nostalgic feel of the 90’s, and saw Kohring and Lii nailing the vocal harmonies throughout. Overall, the set was a great mix of original and cover songs (including ‘Wake Me Up When September Ends’) played to a rapidly growing crowd. The lighting and sound of the large venue tied it all together and AML was all smiles as they exited the stage.

Catching up with bassist Alex Lii after the set, he said, “We never thought we would get this far this fast. I take every gig and put in the same effort, big or small!” Way to go guys!

House Art

After a quick intermission, Mavrick’s Music Hall was continuing to fill up with excited friends, family, and fans. As the six-piece post-rock group House Art took the stage, the energy in the large room grew. Although a different sound compared to the other bands on the bill, House Art provided a strong set with an ambient, almost “trippy” sound with rock influence.

The first song ‘Safe Council’ provided a great buildup and introduction into the set to follow. Each of the six members – Bekah Hawker, Connory Ballantyne, Will Crosson, Will Crann, Evan Smith, and Kyle Gottschalk – came together seamlessly to bring the crowd on what can only be described as a “musical journey through the surreal”. Next up was ‘Rough Passage’, which was anything but rough on the senses, and a brilliant cover of ‘On and On and On’ by Wilco.

Although many of the members had come down with the flu, their big sound did not suffer despite cutting a few songs from the set for the sake of health. This is another band I have seen perform at other venues and the larger room was easily filled and intensified the airy, ambient sound House Art is known for.

Cousin Jack

Anticipation grew with the increasingly rambunctious crowd gathered in front of the stage. Suddenly, the room went dark and the music cut out. Fans ran toward the stage as blinding white lights started pulsing to a smoky background. Drummer Jake Thompson appears, full of energy, taking his seat at the drum kit and pounding the bass drum to the rhythm of the lights. Next, guitarist Lucas Millar and bassist Cam Stevenson (donning a yellow bandana Rambo-style) jumped up and were met by the deafening screams of the audience. This entrance, while apparently a last-minute decision, was exactly what I have come to expect from Cousin Jack.

As the lights went down and the first few ringing notes of ‘Vinyl by the Hour’ swept across the room, I knew we were in for a treat. CJ was ready to make this a night to remember. Their trademark sound was complimented by the incredible acoustics of the hall, and every note was warm and clear. Though the massive stage dwarfed the smaller combo amps, drum kit, and keyboard, not one square inch went unused as Cam and Lucas confidently moved around. Though this song (as well as the next tune, ‘Disneyland’) are off of their new EP, the crowd still chanted along to every word.

CJ’s new manager Blayne Stone hopped on stage for ‘Disneyland’, taking over on bass as Cam manned the keyboard. Next came a quick tempo increase as ‘Spanish Mistress’, a song clearly inspired by Red Hot Chili Peppers, began with funky bass, fast drums, and quickly delivered vocals. Much of the onlookers couldn’t help but dance and sway to the music. The set continued with a perfect mix of old favourites and new material.

After a quick reminder that the first 40 people to order a shot of tequila from the bar would receive it in a Cousin Jack shot glass that they can KEEP (even a professional such as myself couldn’t resist that deal!), only a few songs remained. As exhausted as the trio looked, they were more than happy to answer the crowd’s call for an encore. A slow drum intro with soft chords over top started the song, and it was unmistakable – ‘Grace, Too’ by The Tragically Hip.

When all was said and done, the boys in CJ looked exhausted but were smiling widely. After all the planning, stress, and time – they had done it, and made their hometown proud. This would be a milestone for not only them, but potentially for the local music scene as well. A sense of pride was overwhelming me, both as a friend of the band, a member of the Barrie music scene, and as a promoter. They made a statement this night, and to share the experience with them was a pleasure!

Bonus Post-Show Interview with Cousin Jack

Screams Media: How was it heading onto the stage tonight?

Cousin Jack: “This has been in the works for two years. The anxiety picks up when you take the first few steps on stage. It was fun! We were trying to feel out the crowd, get into the mode. The crowd was feeling us out too. We just picked up on what we saw and went from there. The show went exactly how we wanted it to!”

SM: And how do you feel now?

CJ: “We are happy with how it turned out, the friends and family and new people we have never met… [We] could say it was everything [we] wanted it to be, but it was easily more.”

SM: That was quite an entrance on stage! What’s next for Cousin Jack?

CJ: “The entrance came together over the last few hours leading up to the show. We wanted to hype it up, stagger our entrances, hit the bass drum, build it up. [The venue] was great about adding that in. The sound guy Dane did a great job, as did John Derlis of Impact Live with promotions, and all of the staff here at Mavrick’s Music Hall. Now, we are ready to rumble! Ready for more! And we are planning tours for the summer and fall!”

Cousin Jack's EP is now available on most major streaming platforms, at Sunrise Records in Barrie, and direct from the band.

Photography by: Kalei Lynn of StS Promotions

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