Someone just smashed a bottle on the ground in front of me. A girl (I think) keeps trying to include me in her dancing. It’s pitch black, except for the faint glow of a black light illuminating a huge tapestry hanging in the back. Stars, comets, and glowing signatures cover it, floor to ceiling. In the centre, a massive scrawl reads “Hollerado”.
I slip on spilled beer as I move forward with the crowd and the band breaks into “So It Goes”. It’s okay though, dancing girl catches me. We move forward like moths towards the light of the band, and I’m compelled to dance.
Hollerado aren’t from Colorado. They’re not even from America. The band hails from Ottawa, and if you can get past that small deception, you’ll find the rest of their act is honest pop-rock that will stay in your head forever. That’s the truth.
Lead singer Menno Versteeg told a story about the last time the band was in Vancouver. “I swear, nobody showed up!” He’s laughing. “I’m serious. Zero people!” Believe now, amidst a crowd of well over a hundred people in the packed Commodore Ballroom. When Versteeg pretends to count how many are here tonight, they erupt into cheers.
Their songs are tightly crafted pop-rock anthems, and The Commodore provides the perfect venue for the bouncing, pulsing crowd. For an opening band, the energy level is first bill.
By the time they get to their hit “Juliette” at the end of the set, the whole floor as well as the band is hopping in perfect time. It’s a fantastic thing to be a part of.
One trip to the bathroom later, the stage is already dark again and The Zolas are holding their instruments. They’re not playing anything, but the crowd has intensified in size. Lead singer Zach Grey plays the first few notes of a song, and then they quietly segue into a slow-burning opener. It’s a much different experience than Hollerado’s explosive opening, but it’s just as good.
The Zolas are a Vancouver band that formed four years ago and quickly outgrew their home city. Tonight is only one small stop on a long tour, but the show feels special.
Everything about The Zolas seems small, in the most comfortable way. Tight, minimal song structure, haunting vocals, and strange rhythms don’t sound like the ingredients of dance-rock songs, but I can’t stop moving. Neither can dancing girl. Or the rest of the room.
Near the end of their set they play their more high-energy songs. The intensity picks up. They close with a fantastic version of “Knot in My Heart”. Someone spills a beer right in front of me. Dancing girl is trying to include everyone around her in a dance. It’s pitch black, save for the swirling, dim lights on the faces of the band. We move forward like moths.