The Zolas + Hollerado @ The Commodore Ballroom – November 14th 2013

Hollerado 03

The chance to see a band at the Commodore always excites me. Its sprung dance floor never gets old and the experience is always intimate and engaging. On this particular cool November evening, I found myself climbing those familiar Commodore stairs to see Hollerado and the Zolas play a double bill. Opening for them was Pup, a Toronto-based punk rock band. It was an interesting choice of opener, drastically different from both Hollerado and The Zolas. They self-define their songs as “riff-heavy, slap-you-in-the-face.” While I do consider myself to have a rather eclectic taste in music, their sound didn’t really resonate with me. That said, if you are into the indie punk rock scene, I recommend checking them out. They have great stage presence and are sure to grow in size and popularity with time. If you’re interested, the CBC is streaming their debut album here:

The first main act in the double-bill was Hollerado. Hollerado has been performing and touring together since 2007, a fact made evident by the ease with which they transitioned from song to song and also by the comfort with which Lead vocalist Meeno conversed with the crowd. Despite the fact that Meeno complained that last time they were in Vancouver they played outside Canada Place to a crowd of no-one, I remember them getting a good welcoming when they played the Railway Cub in fall 2010. So, despite Meeno’s comments, I would argue that Hollerado has a pretty awesome fan base in Vancouver. This is perhaps largely due to the fact that our local radio station, The Peak 102.7, often features their music, including their 2010 single “Juliette.” One of my favourite Hollerado songs is called “Good Day at the Races.” As Meeno mentioned last night and in their live Youtube recording of the song, “Good Day at the Races” is based somewhat on Freddy Mercury. Given his comments in both the live recording and at last night’s show, it seems Meeno loves to take a dig at Toronto Mayor Rob Ford as a prelude to singing this song. Throughout the show Meeno spoke quite a bit about his Grandfather “Opa” who he lost recently and how their latest single, “So it Goes” was actually written about his Opa’s life and experiences in World War II. Hollerado’s Official Video of “So it Goes” is a lengthy 9 minutes but definitely worth watching if you are interested in more of the context around this song. The only major critique I have of their performance is the overuse of strobe lights. Being blinded several times throughout a song is not something I particularly enjoy and hope that they start to use this particular lighting effect more sparingly. Interestingly enough, in the break between Hollerado and The Zolas, I noticed an exceptional amount of couples wrapped in various embraces. It was an amusing sight, and left me wondering from time to time if I had stumbled across some sort of valentines day date scene in November. Alas, it was not too before The Zolas lit up the stage.

Marking their second concert and double-billed show in Vancouver this year, The Zolas were welcomed by an adoring, screaming and loving crowd. The Zolas went on to treat Vancouverites to nearly 90 minutes of magic. The crowd sang along loudly singing to almost every song, albeit out of sync with their clapping or timing of verses. Where we the fans lacked in timing, I’d like to think we made up for in enthusiasm. The Zolas set included my favourites “The Great Collapse” and “Marlena Kamikaze” off their first album, Tic Toc Tic, and they also played the entirety of their most recent album, Ancient Mars. I appreciated their heartfelt dedication of “Knot in My Heart” to their fans. They also read their crowd well by singing “Escape Artist” in and amongst the fans. The crowd was so eager to hear this particular song that they were almost singing the second verse before the lyrical portion of the song actually started. I was particularly blown away by hard hitting quality of the Ancient Mars track “Observatory.” Admittedly, I have somewhat overlooked this track in the past when listing to “Ancient Mars” however, their performance of this song was one of the highlights of the night without question. I was easily caught up in the euphoric way of fans jumping, dancing and swaying their arms in the air in unison to this song. Another startling number was the hazy but punchy track “Local Swan.” With it’s shifts in tempo, soaring chorus, atmospheric tone and rousing, climbing bridge, the songs power comes across through in a wave musically which compliments the uncertainty of the protagonist in the lyrics. Nice! I was thrilled they chose to play “Cold Moon” as their first encore song. It is a beautiful, slightly softer song choice but it’s lyrics resonate with their social media savvy crowd. There was a slight chuckle around the room when the lyrics “I found the stomach to deny, the urge to look you up online, don’t want to creep on your profile, but sometimes I still do” rang throughout the Commodore. After that, it was more or less a given that they would perform their upbeat and dancey debut single “You’re too Cool.” All in all it was an incredible night of live music, one I am not soon to forget. If I could ask The Zolas one thing, it would be to please play another Vancouver show soon. Your fans adore you and want to see you not as a double bill or second name of the ticket listing but rather featured front and centre.

Photos © Daniel Young

The Zolas


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