New Jersey Stage
New Jersey Stage on social media

BIG NEWS! Here's the latest Issue of NJ Stage Magazine -- Click here

Makin Waves with The Cryptkeeper Five: "Trenton makes and takes over"

originally published: 07/04/2018

Makin Waves with The Cryptkeeper Five: "Trenton makes and takes over"

Together since 1997, The Cryptkeeper Five just keep getting better and better, as does the Trenton music scene that spawned them despite a recent tragedy that will be overcome! The Cryptkeeper Five will play Makin Waves’ “Trenton Makes Takeover” of Asbury Park Brewery on July 14 with Hub City Stompers, Molly Rhythm, Experiment 34 and Chalk & the Beige Americans. PHOTO BY ANTHONY VITO COSENTINO


Trenton-based The Cryptkeeper Five are one of my favorite Jersey bands, among 12 that I say that a lot about, part of a less formalized version of the Makin Waves Dirty Dozen feature I used to write annually in East Coast Rocker. They also are the embodiment of what I call the Jersey Sound, a cross between the anthemic edge of The Clash and the rootsy lyricism of Bruce Springsteen. Together nearly 20 years in TCK5 and longer in previous acts, vocalist-guitarist Johnny Ott and guitarist-vocalist Jimmy Harrington Jr. also are the bridge between the great old Trenton scene of the City Gardens days and the new burgeoning scene resting largely on the strong shoulders of Joe Kuzemka and Griffin Sullivan of Pork Chop Express Booking.

For them, TCK5 – also bassist-vocalist Mikey Groch, drummer Brian Mazzarini, and multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Buzzy Jones -- often play Millhill Basement, Champs, Trenton Punk Rock Flea Market, and Art All Night. So do Hub City Stompers, Molly Rhythm, Experiment 34 and Chalk & the Beige Americans, all of whom will play Makin Waves’ “Trenton Makes Takeover” of Asbury Park Brewery on July 14, each with strong, longtime connections to the Trenton scene but with a style and sound that the AP scene needs to know better. 

TCK5 also were supposed to play a Makin Waves show on Sept. 7 at The Court Tavern with The Vansaders, Bobby Mahoney and the Seventh Son, and Chris Brown in a nod to that Jersey Sound, but since the Court closed again, that show is in limbo (anyone want to host? Too great a bill to cancel). When not demoing the follow-up to “The Stronghold,” last year’s best-ever among several TCK5 albums, the tireless band also can be seen July 13 at Dingbatz in Clifton; July 18, Aug. 18 and Sept. 15 at the Millhill; July 21, Asbury Park Yacht Club, with The Vansaders; Aug. 3, Noble Earth, Bristol, Pa.; Aug. 10, Savage Mountain Punk Fest, Dante’s Bar, Frostburg, Md.; Aug. 11, Zombie Stomp Fest, Jackson, Tenn.; Aug. 16, Debonair Music Hall, Teaneck, with Chris Skel Band; Sept. 8, Phameless Fest, Century, Philadelphia, and Oct. 6, Ralph’s Rock Diner, Worcester, Mass.

Enjoy this chat in which most of the band shares their history, love of Trenton, and evolving sound.


Question: To me, The Cryptkeeper Five are one of the best examples of what I call the Jersey Sound: a cross between Bruce Springsteen and The Clash. Comment on how and why those acts are an influence?

Johnny: We actually get told that we have a ‘Jersey Sound’ a lot. It’s something I’m always happy to hear. We do have a bit of Jersey pride.

I’ve always liked Springsteen. My first taste of his music was a few 45s my old man had on the jukebox at home, but I wasn’t a huge fan until I was in my early ’20s. As little kid, I was, however, a huge fan of the movie ‘Eddie And The Cruisers.’ I’d say watching that was the first moment I truly realized I wanted to play music. The soundtrack that John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band wrote for that movie IS completely Jersey ... It’s also completely Springsteen, which I didn’t realize ’til I started REALLY listening to Bruce. 

Mikey: To me the ‘Jersey Sound’ encompasses so many different things. The Clash has been a huge influence on me, personally. I can see that comparison because the Clash and Springsteen both have songs that make you want to dance, and we try to do that too. We're a band with both punk and heartfelt rock roots, and I think that heart is really where our sound comes from. It's always evolving, but we always put everything we have into what we do.


Q: What other influences are most important to you, why and how?

Johnny: The Ramones will always be my #1 favorite band. They are everything I aspired to be when we started TCK5. No muss, no fuss ... Get in, play music, get out. 

As we’ve evolved over the years, people have compared us to everything from bands like Rocket from The Crypt and The Cramps to Against Me! and Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, which I am more than happy to hear. 

All music can be inspiring. Old. New. It’s hard not to want to incorporate something that makes the hairs on your arm stand up. So our lists are always changing. 

Jimmy: Ramones were definitely a giant influence on our band. For me, a lot of bands in the ’80s got me hooked. I have an older brother who use to make copies of different bands on cassette tape and would walk over to my bedroom and tell me to check this band out and the next. Back in the early days, I got inspired and hooked by old U2 albums, The Clash, The Police, Ramones and more.


Q: How have The Cryptkeeper Five evolved and changed over the years musically and personnel-wise? Are Johnny and Jimmy the only original members?

Johnny: We’ve gone from being a punk band in the same vein of The Misfits and The Ramones to being a seven-piece rock ‘n’ roll band very comparable to The E Street Band to whatever we are right now. I’m not sure what that is really.

Me and Jimmy are the only ‘original’ members in TCK5. We’ve been blessed to play with so many great musicians. 

Jimmy: For me, I feel Johnny and I's style has changed dramatically since the first era of The CK5. As years pass, we shape a more unique style instead of trying to sound too much like our influences.

Buzzy: I’m the ‘new guy’ in the band. I’ve been playing piano and acoustic guitar for TCK5 for only a few months now, but I’ve been in their orbit as a friend and a sometimes member of the band from the beginning. I’ve done stints as their drummer and bass player and have filled in on lead guitar for them, so it’s always easy for me to slip back into the lineup.

I’ve always been incredibly impressed by how TCK5 continue to evolve as songwriters and performers. The songs just keep getting better and better.  


Q: I really like the 'Stronghold' tune 'Frankie.' Is that autobiographical? If so, how? Can you elaborate? What inspired it, and how did both The Clash and Bruce Springsteen influence it? 

Johnny: It’s pretty cut and dry. ‘Frankie’ is a song about growing up in the Ott household with my twin brother, Frankie. My old man wanted to teach us how to fight at a very young age so he bought us boxing gloves when we were 3 or 4. He’d watch us fight on the front yard after he’d come home from work. 

I think you can hear a little touch of Springsteen’s ‘Seaside Bar Song’ in the outro. 

Q: It’s also like a prequel to ‘Highway Patrolman.’ Which CK5 tunes do you like the most and why?

Johnny: I like the songs on ‘The Stronghold’ the most. I find sincerity goes a lot further than I realized when I was younger, and the songs on that album are the most honest songs I’ve ever written. 

Jimmy: ‘Balboa.’ Johnny wrote the song but the guitar medley I wrote for it is so fun to play. Everything from the lyrics to the drums pounding is so powerful. I love it!

Buzzy: That’s an almost impossible question to answer, especially for someone who still considers himself more of a fan than a member of the band, but right now, ‘Ignite’ from ‘The Stronghold,’ I can’t get enough of.  The lyrics in that one really resonate with me. When Johnny screams, ‘I want to set the world on fire!’ at the end, it’s just the best.

Mikey: I love them all, but some of the ones I have the most fun playing are actually some of the covers we mix into our sets.



Q: What new unreleased songs are The Cryptkeeper Five playing live, and when and how will they be recorded and released? 

Johnny: We have a few songs originally recorded for ‘The Stronghold’ we never officially released that we play live: ‘Hey Glenda,’ ‘I Am Spartacus,’ a cover of The Green Goblyn Project’s ‘Song Right Now’ and an Arcade Fire cover, ‘Wake Up.’ We also have about 10 new songs. We play a few of the more finished ones live from time to time.

A song we intend to record when we get back into a studio is called ‘Idiopathic Heartbreak.’ It was originally written for a band me, Jimmy and some friends, including Anthony Catanese (Honah Lee/ Pissed!), were in called The Blacklight Devils.  


Q: You have been a part of the Trenton music scene for a long time. Did you grow up right in the city and do you live there now?

Johnny: I technically grew up in Hamilton Township, the first town east of Trenton, although our mailing was always Trenton. I now live in Bordentown. 

Jimmy: I spent most of my childhood in Hamilton Township. I currently live on the Hamilton/Trenton border. I'm originally from Iowa.

Buzzy: I grew up around the corner from Johnny and Jimmy and have been friends with Jimmy’s brother since high school. That’s how I originally met those guys, through Jimmy’s brother. Right now, I’m living in Ewing, about a 10-minute drive from downtown Trenton.


Makin Waves with The Cryptkeeper Five: "Trenton makes and takes over"

The Cryptkeeper Five at Trenton’s Millhill Basement, where they’ll perform July 18 with Tough Shits, Noogy and Khalil; Aug. 18 with Honah Lee, and Sept. 15. PHOTO BY ANTHONY VITO CONSENTINO


Q: What do you like most about the Trenton scene right now and why, and what do you like least about the scene and why? 

Mikey: The Trenton scene is all about people trying to do something positive. Trenton gets a bad rap, but there are a lot of people doing incredible things, especially with music and the arts. It's a tight-knit scene because we all want to accomplish the same things and come together for something we love. 

And what do I like least about the scene? That's like asking what I like least about my wife. Kind of a loaded question (laughs).

Jimmy: I like the Trenton scene a lot. A lot of great bands, you got the Mill Hill, which is a great place to play in Trenton. For me, it's like the CBGB of NJ. You also have the annual Art All Night festival, which is amazing. I highly recommend people go and support the local music and art scene.


Q: Tom Gilmour, Asbury Park's former director of economic development who brought Madison Marquette and iStar to town, now is the executive director of Trenton Downtown Association. What do you think the chances are of his being able to redevelop Trenton the way he did Asbury Park? Could the Delaware River, arts community and the city's venues be a focal point the way the ocean, boardwalk, arts community and venues are in AP? If so or if not, why and what do you think can be done about that?

Johnny: I’m a big fan of Asbury Park, but there was a long period of time that I can remember people referred to Asbury Park as a ghost town. I’ve never heard anyone compare Trenton to a ghost town.

There’s already a pretty devoted arts community in Trenton bringing a lot of love to the city. I’m pretty sure Artworks and Art All Night alone had like around 400 volunteers. That’s pretty impressive. 

I think the revitalization of Trenton, through a lot of people’s hard work, is something that’s been happening for quite some time so I think redevelopment is totally a possibility.

Q: What do you think realistically can be done to improve the Trenton music scene?

Johnny:  Nothing. Improvement, is completely welcome, but I’m completely happy with the scene as it is. 

Mike: Parking.

Johnny: Hah. Yeah


Makin Waves with The Cryptkeeper Five: "Trenton makes and takes over"

All the bands playing Makin Waves’ “Trenton Makes Takeover” have a strong connection to Trenton. POSTER DESIGNED BY JOHNNY OTT

Q: What do you think of the Makin Waves Summer Concert Series at Asbury Park Brewery and your 'Trenton Makes Takeover' show on July 14 with Hub City Stompers, Molly Rhythm, Experiment 34 and Chalk & the Beige Americans? 

Johnny:  I think it’s my birthday so people should buy me some drinks! 

Jimmy: Yes! Buy Johnny lots of drinks. Make sure you wish him a happy birthday. 

Johnny: All the bands are rad! We’ve been playing with most of the acts, or members of the acts, since the beginning of The CK5. One of our former members (Ceilidh Madigan) plays sax in Chalk & TBA. I’m pretty excited!

We shared our first bass player with Inspecter 7 back in ’96/’97. Travis (Nelson, HCS singer) shared vocal duties with Giuseppe back then. We’ve played a few shows with I7 over the past few years, but I don’t think we’ve played with Travis in, maybe, over 18 years. 

(HCS guitarist) Rob George used to sing and play sax for Buzzy’s former band, Bongo Jones. Me and Jimmy would watch Bongo Jones practice, now and then, when we were 15 or 16. They were a huge inspiration to both of us. So yeah ... I’m pretty excited! 



Q: Besides the upcoming Makin Waves concerts, what do Cryptkeeper Five having going on and coming up in the way of shows, touring, collaborations, videos and anything else?

We have that all. We’re in a development process of some videos. We’re gonna start the demoing new songs soon. We’re just organizing everything right now.

Q: What side projects do you still have cookin' these days, who else is in them, what do they play, and what's coming up for each?

Johnny: Me, Jimmy, Mikey and our old drummer, D.T. Graves, are part of a band called The Roving Midnight backing up our friend Argyle Goolsby, formerly of a band called Blitzkid. 

I play in The Mighty John Caseys with my nephew Joey Affatato of The Carousers, and I also play in Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken with Amazing Amy. 

Buzzy: I’m the front man and songwriter for the band Pretty Goats. We have a sort of David Lynchian gypsy-punk vibe. And I’m also the drummer for a Trenton band called Band of Beards.

Johnny: Brian is also drumming for a really great Philly-based band called Alcyon Lake. 

Q: Is there anything I didn't ask on which you would like to comment? 

Jimmy: Thanks Bob for thinking of us and giving us the opportunity to do this interview.

Johnny: We appreciate all the support you’ve sent out way. Thanks so much. 

Bob Makin is the reporter for and a former managing editor of The Aquarian Weekly, which launched this column in 1988. Contact him at And like Makin Waves at

For more by this author, click here

Jann Klose and The Voice's Josett Diaz To Perform At Ethical Brew To Benefit A Cause Close To Home
(TEANECK, NJ) -- On Saturday, December 8th, singer-songwriter and recording artist, Jann Klose will perform at Ethical Brew on behalf of Mind-Builders Creative Arts Center, a community arts and cultural center for children and teens located in Bronx, New York.  Doors open at 7:30, show begins at 8:00pm.
Kenny Chesney To Perform At Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
(ATLANTIC CITY, NJ) -- Focusing on smaller venues and markets not directly impacted by his massive stadium tours, Kenny Chesney sought to make his Songs for the Saints 2019 Tour mirror the intimacy of its namesake album. Inspired by the resilience of the people around him, Chesney doubles down on the human connection for his 2019 tour by seeking those members of No Shoes Nation who have spent the past decade and a half making the trip to stadium markets for what is now a summer tradition. On Saturday, May 11, 2019 he brings the tour to Hard Rock Live at Etess Arena in Atlantic City, NJ.
State Theatre New Jersey presents Cirque Dreams Holidaze
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- State Theatre New Jersey presents Cirque Dreams Holidaze on Friday, December 7 at 8:00pm, Saturday, December 8 at 2:00pm and 8:00pm, and Sunday, December 9 at 2:00pm. Cirque Dreams Holidaze, a division of Cirque du Soleil, has become a critically acclaimed, state-of-the-art Broadway musical, and a fun-filled, holiday family show. Tickets range from $35-$98.
NJSO presents 2019 Winter Festival, 'Music Speaks'
(NEWARK, NJ) -- A trio of renowned guest artists with distinct musical voices—pianists Emanuel Ax and Daniil Trifonov and soprano Dawn Upshaw—headline the NJSO’s Winter Festival, “Music Speaks,” in January 2019. The Orchestra’s signature artistic event takes place across three weekends, January 10–27, in six New Jersey venues.
RVCC Chorale to Perform Annual Holiday Concert on December 8th
(BRANCHBURG, NJ) --The RVCC Chorale will give its annual holiday concert on Saturday, December 8 at 8:00pm in the Welpe Theatre at Raritan Valley Community College’s Branchburg campus. The program will feature Johann Sebastian Bach’s cantata, Das Neugeborne Kindelein, as well as a cappella pieces from by Sergei Rachmaninov, Zoltan Kodaly and Giuseppe Verdi. The program also will include an audience singalong of traditional carols.

"Great Music!" Tavares and Harold Melvin's Blue Notes LIVE! at the Strand Theater
The music of the 1970s is alive and well this Saturday, November 3, 2018 at Lakewood, NJ’s Strand Theater with a concert by the ’70’s R&B and soul groups Tavares and Harold Melvin’s Blue Notes!
"An Amazing Musical Genius!" Brian Wilson LIVE! at the State Theatre
In the music room in the back of our house, there’s an electric bass and amp, two acoustic guitars, a microphone and PA speakers, several pieces of music recording equipment, and a bookcase filled with books on music, not to mention a slew of assorted music memorabilia. But, perhaps, one of the most highly prized items in the room is hanging directly above the piano next to the college music diplomas.
Jazz Saxophonist Don Braden LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
It’s a breezy day for a new installment of the Jazz On a Sunday Afternoon concert series at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center of the Arts this Sunday Oct. 27, 2018 afternoon. Today’s special 3pm performance is entitled Earth, Wind and Wonder and is presented by jazz saxophonist Don Braden.
Charlie Thomas’ Drifters, The Classics IV, and The Brooklyn Bridge LIVE! at The Strand, Lakewood
The stars are out this Saturday Oct. 26, 2018 evening in Lakewood, NJ for a “Golden Oldies” concert featuring Charlie Thomas’ Drifters, The Classics IV, and The Brooklyn Bridge!
PODCAST: Grammy Winner Terri Lyne Carrington At TD James Moody Jazz Festival
Drummer, leader, and composer Terri Lyne Carrington made history as the first woman to win a Grammy for Best Instrumental Jazz for her album “Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue.” Now, she brings her interpretation of Duke Ellington’s “Money Jungle” to the TD James Moody Jazz Festival at NJPAC on November 11, 2018, as part of a program called “Jazz Vinyl Revisited.” Producer Susan Wallner talks to Carrington about her connections to the jazz greats Clark Terry and Max Roach; her newest project, the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice; and why she thinks drummers make natural leaders.

From Our Magazine

Michael Patrick: Garden State Country

Michael Patrick: Garden State Country

Growing up in New Jersey doesn’t generally lend itself to becoming a country music artist. Michael Patrick took a bit of a winding road to get there, but he’s about as Americana as they come.  On his latest release, John Wayne Movies, Michael Patrick weaves country songs alongside rock and roll, folk and rockabilly tunes to create an excellent album that few would guess was born in the Garden State.

Makin Waves with Pamela Flores: ‘Women Don’t Owe You Shit’

Makin Waves with Pamela Flores: ‘Women Don’t Owe You Shit’

With the bubbling bravura of Janis Joplin and earthy intelligence of Ani DiFranco, Flores woos audiences like an exotic pixie, then slays them with stunning vocal and guitar chops, as well as an inspiring passion for justice and freedom that has been lending itself more and more to her music. While her recording and video output has been minimal, that will change in 2019, she said. And my, does she have a lot to say!

Featured Music Video: "Damn Thang" by Woodfish

Featured Music Video: "Damn Thang" by Woodfish

This month's featured music video is "Damn Thang" by Woodfish.

Inside Bongo Boy TV

Inside Bongo Boy TV

In issue 50, New Jersey Stage gave readers the opportunity to learn more about the writers who contribute to the magazine and the daily site. We’d like to give you the opportunity to learn more about the two shows that are featured in our magazine each month.  One is Bongo Boy TV, a monthly show that broadcasts great music videos from around the world.  The show is currently in its 7th season and you can see each new episode in New Jersey Stage magazine and on our daily website.

Event calendar
Saturday, Nov 17, 2018


THE GAY BLADES @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

HERMAN'S HERMITS STARRING PETER NOONE & THE BUCKINGHAMS @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 8:00pm

Nelson Riveros Trio: “The Latin Side of Wes Montgomery” @ Englewood Public Library, Englewood - 7:00pm

Hawaiian Music and Hula @ 1867 Sanctuary at Ewing, Ewing - 8:00pm

Pop 2000 Tour @ iPlay America, Freehold - 7:00pm

THE MACHINE PERFORMS PINK FLOYD @ The Strand Theater, Lakewood - 8:00pm


Todd Barry at SOPAC @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm

Swamp Boogie Trio @ Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton - 7:30pm


Annie @ Broad Street United Methodist Church, Burlington - 8:00pm

An Actor's Carol @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 3:00pm and 7:30pm

Annie @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Apples In Winter @ Centenary Stage Company - Kutz Theater of the Lackland Center, Hackettstown - 8:00pm

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat @ The Levoy Theatre, Millville - 8:00pm

Billy Bishop Goes to War @ Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum, Morristown - 2:00pm

Kiss Me Kate @ Broadway Theatre of Pitman, Pitman - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Phoenix Productions Presents: The Hunchback of Notre Dame @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 8:00pm

Enchanted April @ The Summit Playhouse, Summit - 8:00pm

Heathers, The Musical High School Edition @ Pebble Players, Oakes Center, Summit - 7:30pm

Junie B. Jones The Musical at Black Box PAC @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 11:00am

Into the Woods @ Studio Playhouse Upper Montclair, Upper Montclair - 8:00pm

The Drowsy Chaperone @ Lauren K. Woods Theatre at Monmouth University, West Long Branch - 8:00pm


Todd Barry at SOPAC @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm


BALLET FOLKLORICO DE MEXICO @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 8:00pm


ROALD DAHL’S WILLY WONKA JR. @ Ridgewood Ave School Theater, Glen Ridge - 1:00pm and 7:00pm

View all events


For more on our awards, click here

New Jersey Stage © 2018 by Wine Time Media, LLC | PO Box 140, Spring Lake, NJ 07762 (732) 280-7625 |

Images used on this site have been sent to us from publicists, artists, and PR firms.
If there is a problem with the rights to any image, please contact us and we will look into the matter.