PHOTOS COURTESY OF BROOKE MORGENSTERN
Singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and content creator Billy Cobb played his first live show at Phantom Power on Sunday, Jan. 21. A modest crowd gathered to watch Cobb and his recently formed band play a variety of original emo and indie rock tracks as well as pop song covers for the first time in front of a live audience. The band consisted of Tim Youse on drums, Brendan O’Neill on guitar, Excelerate on bass, and Billy Cobb on guitar and lead vocals.
Billy Cobb’s catalog of music is nothing short of impressive. Despite starting to make music in 2016, he already has 11 original albums, five cover albums, over 20 EPs, and numerous covers and singles, as well as consistent content on his YouTube and TikTok channels. His YouTube channel has numerous videos with millions of views.
Some of his most popular videos include pop-punk covers of songs from “Spongebob Squarepants,” covers of songs where he sings as Carl Wheezer from “Jimmy Neutron,” and covers of popular songs with lyrics replaced by Google autocomplete results. Much like Lemon Demon/Neil Cicerega, who is responsible for numerous viral videos such as Potter Puppet Pals, “BrodyQuest,” and “The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny,” only a small fraction of the large general audience that has enjoyed his viral videos are aware of his original music.
Cobb’s most popular original music project by far is his EP “Zerwee.” Cobb described it as “I got tired of waiting for Weezer to release another album so I made one myself.” It is equal parts parody as it is a loving tribute; attempting to channel Weezer’s most acclaimed albums: “Blue Album,” “Pinkerton,” and “White Album,” while also poking fun at the band’s legacy and reputation as music for losers, geeks, and virgins. He’s also known for his large number of emo-styled covers of popular pop songs such as “Hips Don’t Lie,” “Just the Two of Us,” and “I Want It That Way.”
The rest of Billy’s catalog has an impressive amount of variety. Some of his projects, such as “The Boro,” “The Bear Album,” and “Strokes of Incarceration” are thoroughly emo; combining intense amounts of angst and heartbreak with melodic guitars and vocals that can go from soft and somber to screaming intensity within a single track. He has also released numerous horror/Halloween themed projects, whose imaginative lyrics range from spooky, hokey, nostalgic, and self-aware to terrifying and tragic. Some other genres he’s experimented with over his career include pop-punk, electronic, industrial, synth-wave, and even sea-shanties in his gay pirate rock-opera, The SS Krill.
The show itself was very impressive, especially considering it was their first live performance in front of an audience. All members of the band played competently and proficiently. In a radio interview with WIXQ in December, Cobb said that he hopes to imitate the energy and passion of Gerard Way, lead singer of My Chemical Romance, in his live performances. This was very evident at the Phantom Power show, with Cobb dancing and jumping throughout the whole set. During the song “Break the Ice,” he held his arms up, mimicking a figure skater gracefully gliding across a rink. During his cover of “Hips Don’t Lie,” he moved his hips playfully and proudly in time to the music.
Guitarist Brendan O’Neill was also a highlight; his mesmerizing shredding abilities added so much life to every single guitar riff and solo. He even improvised some of his parts on the spot, such as during the transcendent climax of “Girls Are Hot and I’m Afraid of Them.” During one of the closing songs, “Houses and Buildings,” bassist Excelerate sat down on the stage for a brief rest. Although likely unintentional, it added greatly to the performance. With the song discussing Billy Cobb’s exhausting and draining time at university, it was surprisingly very fitting. All members contributed backing vocals throughout the show, adding to the sense that each member was important in bringing Billy Cobb’s songs to life on stage.
Creating a setlist for the show was undoubtedly a daunting task considering Cobb’s massive and varied discography. But, the list the band chose was amazing, consisting of tracks both old and new, popular and obscure, but all working great in a live setting. The only baffling omission was that there was none of Cobb’s previously mentioned horror or Halloween tracks. This was especially surprising since Cobb considers some of those projects, “Halloween IV” and “Séance,” to be among his best.
I contacted Billy Cobb to clarify a few things for this article. He said that he’d been practicing with his band for about half a year, with all the members having gone to high school together. As of now, the band is just performing Cobb’s songs and won’t be assisting with song-writing/recording, which Cobb does almost entirely on his own. Cobb said that he’s working on booking more shows, but that it’s a lot of work and he’s unfamiliar with the process. His next show was just announced, which will be in Philadelphia at the Grape Room on March 4. For the time being, Cobb will mostly be performing in the area in places such as Philadelphia, Delaware, Maryland, and New Jersey so as not to travel too far. But Cobb’s nearly exclusively online fanbase has requested him to play shows everywhere from Los Angeles to Brazil.
The concert was possible in part thanks to Millersville’s radio station WIXQ. Several DJ’s had contacted Cobb about performing at Phantom Power, which prompted him to contact Phantom Power and set up the show. This is not the first time WIXQ has done something like this. Last year WIXQ DJ Andrea Yahraes (class of ‘22) helped to organize the Will Wood shows at Phantom Power. Will Wood played two back to back shows at the venue last March, one of which sold out, and came in for a radio interview. Although the Billy Cobb show had much less involvement from WIXQ than the Will Wood show, nor was it sponsored by WIXQ, unlike the Will Wood shows, it still allowed Billy Cobb’s first ever live show to be played within mere walking distance from Millersville University. WIXQ plans to continue to set up more shows going forward, with their next sponsored show being Shaffer James at Phantom Power on April 29.
You can find pictures and videos of the Billy Cobb show below:
Setlist playlist: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/6c41pmqB97tGwqG6v4fiRw?si=157b1942e5af4997
Billy Cobb links: