There’s nothing quite like a homecoming show. On their last date of the tour, the Zolas performed to a massive crowd at the Vogue Theater, and absolutely blew it away.
For their popularity, the Zolas are one of the most down-to-earth bands I’ve ever seen live. Despite having a crowd of at least 1000 people, lead singer and guitarist Zachary Grey set up and tuned his own guitar before the show (to many hoots and hollers from the crowd). Before Thursday, I had this idea in my head that once a band reached a certain level of fame, they just weren’t allowed to be their own roadies anymore. It was the first of many ideas I had about being a musician that were challenged that night.
Grey had a fondness for sharing personal anecdotes between songs, including introducing “Cultured Man” as containing “the two worst lyrics I’ve ever written” and musing about the difficulties of balancing social activism with enjoying your life as a prelude to “Freida on the Mountain”. While some (read: most) monologues I’ve heard at past shows range from cookie-cutter to borderline preachy, Grey’s off-the-cuff demeanour kept them all fresh, funny, and engaging without going on too long. Another pleasant surprise.
And just like the dialogue in between, the music had the same feeling: casual, fluid, and yet perfectly timed. The fake ending of “Marlaina Kamikaze” stood out as especially well-played. Tom’s piano solos during “Fell in Love with New York” and “Cab Driver” were absolutely stellar. The standout performance, however, goes to bassist Dwight Abell. Grey put it better than I ever could: “Sometimes, I look over, and I see a 12-year-old boy who’s living his dream.” His energy and exuberance were a joy to watch; the man sweats more in the first in the first 10 minutes than I do in a 30-minute workout (not that I do many 30-minute workouts, but the point still stands!).
A night with the Zolas really makes you appreciate how incredible their repertoire is. While songs like “Molotov Girls” and “Swooner” were obvious hits with the audience, other, lesser-known tracks like “You’re Too Cool” and “CV Dazzle” instantly had people dancing and grooving along. Their newest song, “Ultramarine”, a song about “the uncontrollable desire to throw away your fucking phone,” drew an instant connection with the audience. So much so, in fact, that one guy literally threw his phone on the stage. Now that is true passion.
Seeing Zachary in the lobby immediately after the show, striking up conversations with fans, was the final piece of the puzzle for me. The Zolas have not let fame go to their heads, and I respect the hell out of them for it. Here’s hoping they’ve got a new record out soon so we can see more of these humble boys.