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Highland Park was the place to be on Thursday night. Mondo Cozmo blasted through a set at the Lodge Room that included insights by lead singer Josh Ostrander into his songs and life as a musician. The night was the first of Mondo Cozmo’s three-stop tour across Southern California. Also, if one is a fan of ice cream, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams was having a grand opening across the street from the Lodge Room. A long line waited for a chance at a scoop of free ice cream. If people got a free scoop of ice cream and then crossed the street to catch Mondo Cozmo and opener SWIMM, that would have been a truly special night.
On the Lodge Room stage, three perfectly aligned Modelo beer cans were ready for Ostrander. It represented his working-class image that included him walking on stage with a fourth beer, work boots and that final detail of having his keys attached to a carabiner clip. The band opened up the night with “Chemical Dream.” They let the song breathe and ascend before the crowd took over and started to sing, “All my life is a chemical dream.” The band then jumped into the percussion clanging of “Hold On” with vocals punching hard. The song “Electrify My Love,” which was just one of two songs played from their most recent album, “This Is for the Barbarians,” had the crowd screaming as guitarist Drew Beck entertained the crowd with twists and turns.
Before the song “Generator,” which is off the “New Medicine” album (released in June, 2020), Ostrander had this to say about how he was feeling low during the pandemic and, then, an unanticipated surprise: “We recorded that record to play live and it just didn’t happen, and it really hurt. I was confused as to why we released that record. And then I was sitting there on a Saturday night and I was watching TV … and I started getting texts from folks: ‘Josh, go to Twitter’ … And I said, ‘Ah, that ain’t good’ … but when I went to Twitter, what I saw was a New York Times article interviewing Bruce Springsteen. They asked Bruce what music he listens to and he said, ‘I listen to Mondo Cozmo.’ And that’s why we released that record.” You could see the wave of emotion hit him as he relayed that story.
For both “Generator” and “Hold On To Me,” Ostrander took to the keyboard, which added to the power of the songs. “Hold On To Me” is an especially heart-wrenching song that was released with a music video starring Anna Faris and filmed at a senior care facility.
Mondo Cozmo’s set included one new song, “It’s Principle!”
Prior to the song “Plastic Soul,” he mentioned that the song was written after the death of David Bowie. He also added a lovely tribute to his wife Aria Pullman, who co-wrote the lyrics and was in the audience, “We thought about this idea of what if we keep meeting up in the next lifetime and we don’t know it. You know what I mean and how cool that might be,” Ostrander said. “It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon and we crafted lyrics and we talked about it, and we talked about the Berlin Wall and we talked about World War II and we fit it in somehow. It is just my favorite thing and it is all because of that girl right there. And she deserves to be recognized for that. She’s a great songwriter.” As the song was played, the Lodge Room must have been inspired by the story, because they provided a beautiful light show that had the disco ball throwing off images of diamonds floating in the air.
The set ended with the spiritually infused songs “Shine” and a cover of the Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony.” For “Shine,” the band hit the crescendo mid-song and then let the audience cheers fill the venue before picking it back up with “Everything will be all right if you let it go,” as well as going off on a minute-plus jam session. The band left the audience with a raised guitar that had the words “Thanks” painted on the back.
Opening up the night was SWIMM. Lead singer Chris Hess came up on stage and opened the set with quiet solo vocals. His bandmates then came on stage and the quiet turned into a rocking, dance-friendly set from that moment to the end. A number of times, Hess raised his arms high to bring out the cheers. To end the set, Hess called out, “We’re called SWIMM, f*ck yeah!” It was a set worthy of a headliner’s.
Setlist: Chemical Dream, Come On, Higher, Meant for Livin’, It’s Principle!, Like A Bird, Electrify My Love, Generator, Hold On To Me, Plastic Soul, Black Cadillac, Shine, Bittersweet Symphony.
Photos and recap by Notes From Vivace