DAYTRIPPER: jxdn at Starland Ballroom, Sayreville, NJ, 03/25/2023

Most of the concert reviews that I write are for artists that I know and love.  Occasionally I will take an assignment to cover bands that I either don’t know much about or bands that I don’t have a vested interest in.  I think most concert photographers and writers prefer the known to the unknown.  My oldest son is 15 and is getting interested in live music and concert photography.  I told him to make a list of artists that he wants to see.  My plan is to check them off the list one by one as the artists come within driving distance.  To my surprise, the top name on his list wasn’t Drake, Red Hot Chili Peppers, or some other mega-celebrity.  I saw the name jxdn and told my son to let me know when the artist went on tour.  Billed as the “I Hope This Never Ends Tour,” jxdn was joined by Southern California band Beauty School Dropout and NYC-based duo Good Problem. The tour came within a three-hour drive from Albany, so I bought us tickets, and we headed to the historic Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ, on Saturday night.

Jaden Hossler, known professionally as jxdn is a pop-punk phenom who got his start on TikTok. He was quickly signed to Travis Barker’s DTA label, releasing his major label debut, “Tell Me About Tomorrow,” in 2021. A supporting slot on Machine Gun Kelly’s “Tickets To My Downfall” tour followed, gaining jxdn a ton of new fans. I did some preliminary research on Hossler prior to making the trip.  The 22-year-old singer/songwriter has been very open about his struggles with mental health and depression.  His songs are full of lyrics about depression and overcoming it.  Hossler is doing his part to remove the stigma often associated with depression and mental health issues. I think it is important for someone of his stature to use his platform for good.  While many other artists of his age are writing throw-away pop songs, Hossler is baring his soul and his scars for everyone to see.

We arrived at the venue two hours before the doors were set to open.  It was raining steadily, so we figured we would get a good spot in line. I couldn’t have been more wrong.  The line stretched from the front door across the front of the venue, wrapping around the building. The doors were at 7 pm. The fans in the front had been there since 3 pm. We made our way into the venue, and my son quickly claimed a prime spot on the side of the stage, behind the monitor mixing desk.  It was not where he wanted to be, but it ended up being a great spot for him to experience his first show in a legit rock club.  The venue itself is iconic.  Everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Green Day has graced the stage here.

At 9:10 PM, jxdn and his band hit the stage like they were shot out of a cannon. Hossler was a ball of energy, bounding across every inch of the stage, reaching out and touching as many fans as he could.  The opening track, “Angels and Demons,” had the huge crowd singing every word back to him.  Backed by a stellar live band, jxdn’s live performance is much rawer than the studio versions of his music. Drummer Tosh Peterson and bass player Brent Burdett laid out a fierce rhythm that lead guitarist Kenji Chan ripped on top of. Peterson hit the drums so hard that I am surprised he didn’t break a cymbal or drum head.  His playing with Burdett was so tight and in pocket that it reminded me of Travis Barker and Mark Hoppus of blink-182. Chan played searing, tasty leads that never overshadowed the rest of the band.  The setlist had several unreleased songs sprinkled throughout, but the fans already knew the words to them.  This is the power of social media as an engine for musical publicity. Gone are the days when an artist was a slave to radio. Hossler has been selling out shows all over the country without the benefit of a big radio hit.  I have been a fan of punk since I was my son’s age.  As punk morphed into pop-punk, I became a fan of bands like Fall Out Boy, blink-182, and Green Day.  I have seen all of these acts live, and I can say unequivocally that Jaden Hossler is as good as any of them. Song after song, I found myself taking note of the soaring choruses and pensive verses.  A stripped-down cover of the Coldplay classic “Yellow” saw hundreds of cell phone lights held aloft. Halfway through the set, Hossler welcomed opening act Beauty School Dropout back to the stage to perform BSD’s single “Freak.”

The main portion of the show ended with a fan-favorite song, “Friends With Benefits.” The band left the stage but the fans weren’t ready to go home. The sound of the crowd begging for an encore was deafening. Hossler obliged, returning to the stage to close out the night with “Elevated Heartbreak.” He grabbed a bouquet of red roses from the drum riser and threw them to his fans. He held the last rose over his head, then gently set it on the stage. I saw this as him leaving everything on the stage, literally and figuratively. It is not often that I am this impressed with a live performer.

Beauty School Dropout played a spirited forty-minute set. They call their brand of music “Renegade Pop,” and it couldn’t be more fitting. The band consists of singer Cole Hutzler, who could be the spiritual son of Zach Delarocha and Billie Joe Armstrong.  Hutzler has a stage presence for days. Guitarist Bardo practically levitates off the stage with his pearl-white Gibson Les Paul.  Bass player Brent Burdett did double duty for the night, playing in both BSD and jxdn. Drummer Mike Rose rounded out the band, playing thundering drums that propelled the band like a rocket ship—toward the end of the set, BSD surprised the capacity crowd when they pulled indie-rock star and New Jersey native Ryan Santiago onstage to sing “Starphucker” with them. Santiago is known professionally as Royal & The Serpent.  She has released collaborations with Demi Lovato, Mod Sun, and Rivers Cuomo, among others.  She will be touring in support of Fall Out Boy later this summer.  

NYC-based duo Good Problem opened the night with a quick thirty-minute set as fans were still making their way into the venue.  The group consists of Eli Ostheimer on vocals and guitar and Elton Holmsten on drums.  I would be interested to see what they could do with a full backing band, as their set consisted of the duo playing over pre-recorded backing tracks.

My “Daytripper” concert review series is just as much about the venue as it is about the performers. I can’t say enough good things about Starland Ballroom. The venue is located off a side road and has a HUGE parking lot to accommodate all of the fans. The venue security staff was by far the most friendly crew that I have encountered, ever. They chatted with fans waiting in line, handing out earplugs to those who wanted them. When one bouncer found out it was my son’s first show at a rock club, he made sure to tell my son where the best place to stand would be. The stage is super wide, giving a lot of fans a chance to get a coveted spot “on the rail.” There are multiple bars throughout the building, making it easy to get refreshments.  There is even a 21 and over section for old heads like myself. When the show was over, they didn’t force everyone out the door immediately like in some venues. From my front door to the Starland Ballroom were two hours and fifty-five minutes. I can see myself making this drive often in the future. If you’re looking to see a band live and they are not coming to our area, make the drive to Sayreville.  Thank me later.

Photo Gallery of Jaden Hossler, AKA jxdn, by Claude Sawyer

Photo Gallery of Beauty School Dropout featuring Royal & The Serpent by Claude Sawyer

Photo Gallery of Good Problem by Claude Sawyer

1 Comment
  1. Rudy says

    Nice work Claude. Continue to explore the unfamiliar.Its important to expose ourselves and our readers the unfamiliar.

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