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The Cryptkeeper Five

By Gary Wien

originally published: 10/23/2017

The Cryptkeeper Five

One of the most unsung bands in the New Jersey music scene for decades has been The Cryptkeeper Five (CK5) from Trenton.  They’ve been banging out their unique style of punk rock since 1997. Punk that includes a wide range of influences from Roy Orbison to the Misfits to Bruce Springsteen.  In a way, they’re like the Ramones with a Jersey twist.

The band’s latest release, The Stronghold, has been receiving rave reviews across the board with many music critics calling it their best work yet.  It’s their first release since 2012 and it’s been a long time coming.  In fact, the record was recorded and entered its final phases in 2014.

“Seems like with this album and the last album (The Unbeatable Cry) the band was always in a changing period,” said lead singer Johnny Ott.  “When we started the album we were without a drummer.  We started recording it and then mixing it and we didn’t have a set band.  So, we began playing with it.  Then we found our new drummer Brian and we started working on it more and more to try to finish it.  I feel like we couldn’t have finished it at a better time because I think we are probably the best band now that we ever were.  I think it took a long time because we didn’t have a band that was able to do as much as we’re doing now.”

Ott admits that he’s always nervous when he sends a new release out to critics, but he’s seen the positive reviews and he’s soaking it in.  He’s actually trying to send the record out to as many places as he can.

“The first few I opened up with sweaty hands and nerves,” said Ott.  “Now I look forward to them!”



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Ott says he liked how The Unbeatable Cry turned out, but believes that record never got the chance it deserved because the band temporarily broke up while they were making the album.  With the current lineup, Ott is hoping to book many shows to support the release.  He’s looking at possibly setting up a mixture of full band and solo acoustic shows with the goal of playing as much as he can.

The Stronghold was recorded by Sean Glonek, a former member of the Trenton band, The Commons, who has become a top recording engineer.  According to Ott, the calming personality of Glonek helped the recording go smoothly.

“It just came along naturally,” recalled Ott.  “Sean is a very stoic person and doesn’t give out compliments like candy, but as we were working on it he was giving out lots of compliments and I could see him smiling more than he normally does. It’s funny, I used to care more about being pitch perfect and making everything as perfect as we could get it, but as I’ve gotten older I realized I just want more honest sounding songs - something that moves you and makes you feel something.  That’s what I look for in music I listen to and it’s what I want our music to be.  I want people to feel the way I felt when they hear the song.  At least I want them to know where I’m coming from.”

The album features ten tracks starting with “MadDog 20/20 No. 2” and ending with “MadDog 20/20 No. 1” - the first being a traditional CK5 sounding up-tempo track and the latter an acoustic duet between Ott and Amy Matlack.  The song was originally written for a band called Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken that featured the two of them.  Ott says the track wasn’t planned to be on the album but the band kept pushing to do it.  In the end, he agreed to record it as long as they recorded the version with him and Amy as well.

“I’m happy to put it out because where I thought it might stand out like a sore thumb, it sticks out because people like it,” said Ott.

Actually both versions are great and among the best tracks on the record.  In a weird way, ending with the acoustic duet sort of reminds me of an encore after the concert with the lead singer and one other band member left on stage.  It’s a beautiful way to close out the disc and shows just how versatile the songwriting is — one reason why the band has been able to attract both rock and punk rock fans all these years.

Another standout track is “Balboa.”  Like most folks who grow up in the shadow of Philadelphia, Ott grew up a fan of the Rocky films.  In a heavily theatrical song reminiscent of Meat Loaf, Ott sings an ode to the legendary film fighter.

“I used to love the Rocky movies,” explained Ott.  “I used to think they’re great until one day I watched it and I guess it hit a nerve.  I realized it’s just a love story.  Well, for me, Rocky is not only a love story about finding the right person, but it’s about the way he loses and you’re still happy for him.  I think everybody wants to prove their worth at some point.  We all want to prove that we’re good enough.  I think I’m good, otherwise I wouldn’t continue doing it.”

One of the reasons why The Cryptkeeper Five may not be as well known as they deserve is because of where they are from.  Trenton is truly an underground music scene.  In fact, the best club to play runs shows in the basement.  The city not only carries its underdog reputation with pride, but it has a very punk rock feel to it.  Looking back, even with shows throughout the country and across Europe, Ott says many of his favorite performances took place in the Millhill basement.

Some think of Trenton and instantly think of crime, but Ott says punk rock is usually found in the bad parts of every town.  Ironically, it not only survives but thrives there with everybody getting along and enjoying the show. Ott thinks Trenton was meant to have an underground vibe, but he still imagines what could be.

“I feel Trenton is like a little nest that’s going to hatch at some point,” he said. “People care for it and people love the city. If you’re from Trenton and you live around Trenton, you kind of have a love for it. You want to see good things happen for it.”

The Cryptkeeper Five have a pair of shows coming up at the Millhill Basement in Trenton.

October 27 with Hot Blood, Doc Rotten, The Carousers

November 22 with St. James & The Apostles, Pissed!, Meeko Brando





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State Theatre Presents Diana Krall: Turn Up the Quiet Tour
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- State Theatre New Jersey presents Diana Krall live in concert as part of her Turn Up The Quiet World Tour on Friday, October 12 at 8:00pm. Tickets range from $43-$153.50.  This concert will feature songs from Diana Krall’s stunning new album, Turn Up The Quiet, out now on Verve Records as well as a mix of some fan favorites. 
Kean Stage Presents The Manhattan Transfer
(UNION, NJ) -- Going strong after more than 45 years, Grammy Award winner The Manhattan Transfer, with tenor vocals from Kean University alumnus Alan Paul '71, will captivate Kean Stage audiences with their distinctive four-part harmonies at Enlow Recital Hall on Sunday, September 30 at 3:00pm.
3rd Annual North Jersey Indie Rock Festival
(JERSEY CITY, NJ) -- The North Jersey Indie Rock Festival returns to Jersey City on October 6. Presented by Mint 400 Records and Sniffling Indie Kids, the festival includes acts from those labels and Little Dickman Records, Rhyme and Reason Records, and State Champion Records.  The festival takes place at White Eagle Hall. Doors are at 4:00pm and the music starts at 4:30pm. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door.
The Dryden Ensemble Presents Bach Cantata Fest
(PRINCETON, NJ) -- The Dryden Ensemble will present a Bach Cantata Fest on Saturday, October 20 at 7:30pm at Trinity Episcopal Church, 6587 Upper York Road, Solebury, Pennsylvania, and on Sunday, October 21 at 3:00pm at Miller Chapel, located on the campus of Princeton Theological Seminary, 64 Mercer Street, Princeton, New Jersey. Tickets are $25 for general admission and free to students with an ID. They may be purchased at the door or online at www.drydenensemble.org.
Steve Barton & Robert Darlington From Translator To Perform at Randy Now's Man Cave
(BORDENTOWN, NJ) -- Whether it's pure pop or moody acoustic ballads, singer/songwriter/guitarist, Steve Barton, has developed a reputation for crafting some of the most literate and poignant music in underground rock.  In addition to being a founding member of the revered punk/psychedelic band Translator, perhaps best known for the Barton-penned song "Everywhere That I'm Not", he has released several solo albums.  The seventh and latest, "Tall Tales and Alibis", is a sprawling triple album tour de force filled with Steve's brand new songs, which was released in March by Sleepless Music.   To celebrate the release of the record, Barton will be making a rare live appearance with his Translator partner Robert Darlington, this Sunday, September 23 at Randy Now's Man Cave in Bordentown (134 Farnsworth Ave) at 7:00pm.  


From the Ballpark to the Concert Stage: Bernie Williams LIVE! at The Grunin Center
Fans of sports and music are lining up outside Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center of the Arts this Saturday, September 8, 2018 for a concert by four-time World Series Champion and Latin Grammy-Nominated guitarist/composer Bernie Williams and his All-Star Band!
“Here’s Lucie!” Lucie Arnaz LIVE! at the PNC Bank Arts Center
Even though the weather outside Holmdel, NJ’s PNC Bank Arts Center is cloudy with some light intermittent drizzle this Wednesday, September 12, 2018 afternoon, the venue’s stage is still shining brightly with talent thanks to a live performance by television, film, and stage actress/singer Lucie Arnaz!
Mike Aiken Talks About Aiken & Friends Fest, North Branch At RVCC
(BRANCHBURG, NJ) -- Raritan Valley Community College presents Aiken & Friends Fest, North Branch on Friday, September 21 and Saturday, September 22.  The three-day event will feature a number of different musical shows by Mike Aiken, as well as other solo artists and groups.  
Virtuoso Jazz Violinist Jean-Luc Ponty LIVE! at the Newton Theatre
It’s a warm but lovely Aug. 23, 2018 evening here in Newton, NJ. After enjoying some hand-dipped Cliff’s ice cream from the window at Hayek Market, we march up Spring Street looking forward to hearing some world-class jazz at one of the Garden State’s favorite concert venues, The Newton Theatre.
An Interview with Bernie Williams
Four-time World Series Champion and Latin Grammy-Nominated guitarist and composer Bernie Williams will perform with his All-Star Band at the Jersey Shore this Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018 at The Grunin Center of the Arts in Toms River, NJ!










Event calendar
Saturday, Sep 22, 2018


MUSIC

Asbury Park Porchfest @ Booskerdoo, Asbury Park - 12:00pm

Carl Chesna & Co. @ Hotel Tides, Asbury Park - 1:00pm

Echoes @ The Stone Pony, Asbury Park - 7:00pm

Cole Swindell @ Hard Rock Live Etess Arena at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City, Atlantic City - 8:00pm

GRUPO NICHE @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 8:00pm

The History of Motown @ Englewood Public Library, Englewood - 7:00pm

Drake Bell @ iPlay America, Freehold - 7:00pm

Classic Stones Live feat. The Glimmer Twins @ The Levoy Theatre, Millville - 8:00pm

Opera Theatre of Montclair Presents Hansel and Gretel @ Central Presbyterian Church, Montclair - 4:00pm


Oscar D’León with Tony Vega and Los Hermanos Moreno @ Prudential Hall @ New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), Newark - 8:00pm

SunDog Band at Duffy's Tavern, Paterson NJ @ Duffy's Tavern, Paterson NJ, Paterson - 9:00pm

Celtic Thunder X @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 8:00pm

Young Person's Concert @ River Dell Middle School Auditorium, River Edge - 1:00pm


Tigerman record release show for “Descend Into Savagery” @ Debonair Music Hall, Teaneck - 8:00pm

Hubby Jenkins @ Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton - 7:30pm







THEATRE

Souvenir @ Surflight Theatre, Beach Haven - 8:00pm

East Lynne Theater Company presents SILENT SKY @ First Presbyterian Church (Cape May), Cape May - 8:00pm

The Shuck @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 3:00pm and 7:30pm

Incorruptible @ Ritz Theatre Company, Haddon Township - 8:00pm

West End Festival of the Arts- Theatre Brut Session 2 @ West End Arts Center, Long Branch - 2:00pm

Evita @ Broadway Theatre of Pitman, Pitman - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Seuls en Scene French Theater Festival - "Claire, Anton et Eux" @ Class of 1970 Theatre, Whitman College, Princeton - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

HUMAN ERROR by Eric Pfeffinger @ West Windsor Arts Center, Princeton Junction - 8:00pm

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 8:00pm

Assisted Living: The Musical @ Jay & Linda Grunin Center For The Arts At Ocean County College, Toms River - 2:00pm

Brick City @ Premiere Stages at Kean University, Union - 3:00pm


DANCE

SWAN LAKE - THE ATLANTIC CITY BALLET @ The Strand Theater, Lakewood - 7:00pm

SOLE Defined @ Mainstage @ Union County Performing Arts Center (UCPAC), Rahway - 8:00pm


LITERATURE

Monthly Saturday Writing Retreats @ Tiferet Journal, Bernardsville - 9:00am

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