There was a lot of uncertainty in Southern Ontario on Wednesday evening. Is it spring? Is it winter? Is it snowing? Is it raining? Why does winter insist on trashing the place every year on its way out? We asked it nicely to leave, and it appeared compliant until then. I pondered all of this as I made my way through what was a slushy mess on the roads and sidewalks, whilst being pelted in the face with little beads of winter’s final middle finger. Amongst all the uncertainty thrust upon us by Mother Nature, one thing on Wednesday night was quite clear. Hamilton loves The Zolas.
On the heels of their newly released and highly anticipated album Swooner, The Zolas rolled into “The Hammer” to play to a sold-out crowd at The Casbah. Grounders helped everyone forget about the frigid mess outside by kicking the night off with their psychedelic, atmospheric indie-rock sound. Sending out the groovy vibes, the Toronto band had the crowd loosened up and moving early in the night. Vocal harmonies led by singer Andrew Davis, fused with funky bass lines, sailing synth and melodic guitar riffs blend together to curate a sound that any fans of Tame Impala or Mac DeMarco need to hear. This sound is showcased perfectly in their song Vyvanse, which is also used as the backing music for a very, very (seriously) bizarre game “Rinse and Repeat”. It’s dubbed as a “male shower simulator” in which a fellow shower-mate requests your assistance with a scrub down. Keyboard player Daniel Busheikin gave the best possible effort in attempting to explain what the game was, but no explanation can do the strange game justice. And that’s why you can find a video showcasing the game and Grounders’ sound here (very not safe for work). You try explaining that to a bunch of music fans.
Shortly after 10:30PM as The Casbah slowly filled with fog, the Vancouver based band fronted by Zachary Gray took the stage and kicked the set off with the explosive 2015 single “Molotov Girls”. The sold-out crowd welcomed the fuzzy synth with a burst of cheer as they kicked the set off with a bang. After playing another new track “Get Dark” The Zolas broke into another 2015 hit, their ode to the Big Apple “Fell in Love with New York”, which had the crowd singing along as the catchy chorus boomed through the venue. The crowd singing didn’t stop there, as Zach broke into the chorus of the title track off their 2012 album Ancient Mars. A smile appeared on his face as the crowd was singing loud and clear right along with him “Ohhh Ohhh Ohhh my ancient Mars”. He remarked “This is beautiful” between lines in response to the audiences’ perfectly harmonized backing vocals.
The crowd interaction was picking up as band and audience were warming up to each other nicely by that point. Next came a deep-cut Marlaina Kamikaze from their 2009 debut album Tic Toc Tic, which the fans voted to be played on this particular evening. Zach remarked, “We haven’t played this one in years” prior to laying down the opening lick of the song. It only got better from there as they played You’re Too Cool from the aforementioned album next. Again the crowd sang in perfect harmony, visibly stunning Zach by singing along with the falsetto chorus “I can tell we’ll never be safe ‘til the walls fall down… Every morning chipping away ‘til the walls fall down”. He stepped away from the microphone and sang in unison with the audience, as they were now leading the sing-a-long. It was one of the most beautiful and memorable moments of the entire evening. They followed this moment by breaking into the raw guitar riff that opens up the song Strange Girl. A song driven by a delectable guitar riff buried under Zachary Gray’s belting of the chorus “You’re a strange girl”.
Chauffeured in by more new songs off Swooner, Frieda On the Mountain and This Changes Everything, The Zolas played their 2013 stand-alone hit single Invisible before playing a very fun future dance floor anthem also appearing on the album, CV Dazzle. The fun dancey tune segued to the recently released single and title track of the album, Swooner. A great song driven by a solid bass line at the core, soaring synths and a tasty little guitar lick, the chorus is undeniably catchy and impossible not to sing along with. At this point Zach warns that they only have a few songs left, and that there won’t be any pretend encores where they “walk off and turn back a minute later”. “Let’s just play some songs” he quipped.
The Zolas capped off a fantastic evening with three more songs from Ancient Mars. The catchy chorused Observatory led the charge before giving way to another huge radio hit Knot in My Heart. A song that most can relate to, the gut wrenching feeling knowing that someone you love is gone from your life. Wondering what they’re doing, knowing that eventually the feeling will dissipate and that someone else will fill that void, yet still finding it hard to just let go of. Surrounding yourself with distractions and placeholders to ease the pain until it’s manageable. The final song of the evening began with the piano chords of Escape Artist but before Zach can even get the first word out the crowd starts belting out the first line of “my alter-ego, he’s an escape artist”. Zach nearly lost his footing he was so taken back by the overwhelming response. The final sing along of the night carried on a lot longer as Zach reprised the chorus “Hey boy, I’ve got your man he’s right here…putty in my hands, ice cream and sweets… coming in the sheets, he got no excuse to leave” multiple times. The crowd was in perfect falsetto harmony once again as they led the final sing along of the evening.
The Zolas are on a brief tour across Canada currently in support of their new album, if they’re coming through your town get out and see them. They put on a great live show and offer a solid mix from all over their catalogue, pleasing new fans and old.