I will never turn down an invitation to see live music (as long as life doesn’t get in the way), and that goes double if the show is set at my favorite Columbus venue, the Basement. I love the intimacy of the venue, and there were maybe 60 people total in attendance tonight to see Cousin Simple and Friday Pilots Club. My best friend Hannah asked me yesterday morning at some ridiculous hour if I’d go along with her, so I knew it would be good music. Boy, did these boys not let me down!
I can honestly say I haven’t seen many bands that play with more energy and passion than Cousin Simple. Front man Harsh Hoag channels an incredible charisma into his hip-gyrating dancing and gritty vocals. All the jumping around and dancing along side lead guitarist Ryan Ulibarri only lead to one lost water bottle and a harmlessly knocked-over mic-stand, which is pretty good for five boys packed the tiny stage at the Basement. Cousin Simple hails from Columbus and has seen an incredible rise in local popularity, in part to their victory at Groove-U’s 2017 battle of the bands, and their second place achievement at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s High School Rock Off in 2018, which qualified them to play a set at the Van’s Warped Tour stop held at Blossom Music Center. That’s right, these boys are all fresh out of high school, self-proclaiming that they are “Columbus’ Youngest Alt Rock Band.” I did the math; they were all born after 2000. It meant that a majority of the crowd had X’s on the backs of their hands, and several other guests were clearly family, but they still serviced the crowd with an unmet veracity none-the-less.
Their set was a great mix of their discography, as well as an unexpected alt cover of the Daft Punk song “Get Lucky.” The entire group was well rehearsed and had incredible self awareness on stage; I thought for sure Hoag would lose an eye at any moment to swinging guitar necks but he always seemed to curve out of the way just in time. I was also very impressed by the versatility of all of the members, specifically bassist Mitch Whittaker and rhythm guitarist Luke Hamrock. For several songs, Whittaker would hand off his bass to Hoag in exchange for a keyboard, and even once a ukulele. Similarly, Hamrock would frequently break from his funky rhythms for another keyboard set up stage opposite from Hamrock’s. Drummer Joel Lorenz tied the entire act together with his exciting and fresh rhythms at a tempo that kept the crowds’ feet moving.
Cousin Simple has an EP out currently called And We Would Never End, most of which they played at the show, as well as a couple new singles. “Honeybee” is a cocky little song that I very much enjoyed hearing live. Hoag’s Jagger-like dancing mixed with the sassy chorus of “I want your guy to know I can take you back” really showed off his personality in the best way. “Star Destroyers” is their newest single, and they are currently hosting a competition for one fan to participate in the filming of the bands first music video set to the song. My favorite song off the EP is a song called “Strangers” which they played second to last, ahead of “Star Destroyers.” I think I enjoy the song so much because it reminds me for some reason of Hannah, probably because of the line in the chorus “You don’t know any strangers.”
All through the Cousin Simple set, I could spot any one of the members of Friday Pilots Club watching with grins on their faces. It was awesome to see this more established band be just as awed by the stage presence of this fresh young group as everyone else. After the Cousin Simple set ended, the members of Friday Pilots Club went to offer praise of their young new friends, and would go on to commend them multiple times during their own set, even saying they’d love to tour with them some day.
Rating - 4/5
Friday Pilots Club
Friday Pilots Club officially hails from Chicago, and is the creative collaboration between lyricist/vocalist Caleb Hiltunen and songwriter/mixer Drew Polovick. The group has only six songs on their Spotify, but they have garnered much notoriety with their latest single “Glory,” co-produced by Polovick, Nothing But Thieves’ guitarist Dom Craik, and John Fields, known for producing acts including Switchfoot, Jonas Brothers, American Hi-Fi, Semisonic, and many more. In fact, the band idolizes Nothing But Thieves so much, they covered one of their songs. The band also covered the much loved song “When You Were Young” by The Killers, Hiltunen even invited Hoag back on stage to help him finish out the song, much to the crowds excitement. Friday Pilots Club’s original sound is unique with its mixtures of exciting danceable beats, soulful guitar on Polovick’s part, bluesy vocals from Hultunen, all grounded in pure rock and roll. Their song “Bad As Hell” was absolutely my favorite; it’s a bluesy rock jam with sexy lyrics that had everyone dancing along. I have to say I like this group’s more danceable songs compared to their sappy ballads, but maybe I’m just a cynic. Friday Pilots Club played this set in Columbus fresh off their weekend spent at Bunbury Music Festival in Cincinnati Ohio, and will be touring up to and past their appearance at Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee in a couple weeks. Hopefully we will see an EP or an album shortly after!
If you’re in the market for something exciting and fresh to help kick off your summer of listening to music with the windows down, definitely check out both of these bands. I’ll be waiting patiently for either of these acts to play again in Columbus!
Rating - 4/5
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