We’re all lucky it’s been a pretty mild winter so far this season. Even so, Cousin Earth invited some friends to the Knitting Factory on January 5 for their annual Wintercourse celebration and they brought the heat.
Brooklyn-based outfit Bushicks started the night off strong with their original spread of rock and roll, staying true to the classic genre. Chunky guitar riffs, no-nonsense lyrics, and a hard-hitting rhythm section of John Adamski on drums and Jessica Bogwicz on bass really drive this three-piece. Front-man Jonny Patrizio shredded his way through the ten-song set featuring mostly originals, a song debut, and some special guests. Saxophone player Dan Visintainer lent his horn skills all throughout mid-set on “BioFunk,” “No Goal,” and an ode to the Bushicks music influence in “Rock Rollin’.”
Former Bushicks vocalist David Schnurman aka “David The Goliath” then took the spotlight behind the mic in his first hometown performance back with them for “No Buts About It.” In a triple threat to close out the set, the trio blasted through their very first single “Truffle Shuffle” before debuting a flawless take on the Rush classic “YYZ.” Finally, Joey Calfa of Cousin Earth appeared on stage while SUNY Oneonta professor Mark Pawkett was brought up for a blazing rendition of Frank Zappa’s “Black Napkin.” As the leader of the SUCO (State University College at Oneonta) Frank Zappa ensemble, Pawkett served as a mentor to Patrizio, Calfa and Nate Searing of Cousin Earth, all of whom were enrolled in the Zappa cover band Mothers of Intention. It was an emotional throwback, solidifying Pawkett’s success as a teacher.
Set break music was provided live in the form of a Teddy Midnight DJ set provided by Teddy Midnight bassist Sean Silva, also a student of Mr. Pawkett. In previous years of Wintercourse there has been a comedian MC’ing between bands, but this year, Corey Feldman took the reigns and introduced each band by displaying hilarious photos of their members in front of the stage.
Next up was the incredibly high-energy Funky Dawgz Brass Band of Connecticut. As the rhythm section of tuba and drums laid down the first groove of the set in “I Like It,” the rest of the six-piece horns came out dancing which quickly spread throughout the willing audience. From the bands anthem “Dem Dawgz” to the party track “Beyond the Void,” the Funky Dawgz showcased their infectious mix of NOLA funk, R&B, and twists on classic pop hits. As the crowd inched closer to the stage, an all-out dance party broke out for Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough” before trumpet player Aaron Eaddy took a turn with vocals on the hip-hop track “Live Ya Life.”
Each member of the band was given time to shine as they traded solos throughout the hour long set, mixed vocal melodies with horn parts, and hyped up the crowd. Taking advantage of the welcoming listeners, saxophonist Tommy Weeks hopped off stage and weaved his way through the crowd during a peaking solo. The Funky Dawgz didn’t let up once, keeping the crowd moving and energy way up as they closed the set with “Love Don’t Cost A Thing.”
After a short break, the night’s hosts “Cousin Earth” quickly set up and opened their Wintercourse set with the Queen staple “Bohemian Rhapsody,” highlighting newest member Melissa Goscinski’s beautiful falsetto, much to the delight of everyone in the room. With their unique ukulele arrangements and stage antics, Cousin Earth provided a set full of surprises. “When The Dinosaurs Come Back From Outer Space” saw the appearance of a dancing dinosaur in the crowd before they launched everyone back into the stratosphere with the dance track “Super Fun Laser Beams.” The funky “Alive,” from the recently released album Human Music, paved the way for former vocalist Tara Lawton to come out and rejoin the group on Aretha Franklin’s “Rock Steady.”
The whole Cousin Earth family was in high spirits, joyously singing and dancing together before breaking out into an rocking “Outrage” by Soulive which saw Calfa trade his ukulele for an electric guitar. Continuing in their space-themed tradition, a new song was offered in “Please Don’t Kill Us,” a humorous plead to extraterrestrials to spare planet Earth. “Soft Shell Crab Nebula” took things up one last notch before The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter” ended the nearly 80-minute set and brought us all home.
Shortly after midnight, and with the crowd still eager for more, Bella’s Bartok gladly provided. Bassist Dan Niederhouser noted the Massachusetts band’s love of playing in New York City and it was obvious the feeling was mutual with the Brooklyn crowd. Kicking off with “The Strigoi Waltz,” the six-piece band of gypsy-rockers captivated the audience with their speakeasy attire and lively stage presence. It was a fitting set for the late night crowd as fans sang along and swung to “Frankenstein’s Monster” and “The Fiddler and The Devil” as if they were suddenly transported to a dance saloon, if there ever were such a thing.
Toward the middle of the set in “Satan’s Song” the band had already weaved their way through a genre bending selection of original material, commanding the music like a witchdoctor. Singer Asher Putnam hypnotized the venue during the circusy “Masquerade” and joyously lead the Beetlejuice-infused dance party on stage through “Creepster,” “Bones,” and “Zora.” With such unique theatrics and an array of influence, it’s difficult to describe Bella’s Bartok other than completely original. They have managed to take Eastern European folk sensibilities and mix them with Americana, pop, and punk traits, all while keeping the vibe fun and joyful.
The crowd was left fulfilled and spent as the 8th year of Wintercourse proved Cousin Earth knows how to throw a post-New Year’s party. Going on almost a decade for this event, one thing is certain: everyone loves having Wintercourse.
Words by Tom Dillon. Photos by Amanda Siedner