Just yesterday I was talking about a Vancouver venue I didn't much care for, so it's appropriate to swing the other way and celebrate one of the better new venues in the city. This weekend marks the first anniversary of The Imperial, and they celebrated with a whole weekend of goodness; Hey Ocean! on Thursday night, The Zolas on Friday, and The Dudes on Saturday.
I got to the venue part way through the first band of the night, Damn Fools, who were recently announced as one of the top twelve bands for this year's Peak Performance Project. The six-piece had a pretty straightforward classic rock sound, without much variety to the songs, and lots of random solos and jamming spread throughout.
Even though I came in mid-way through the set, they seemed to be playing for abnormally long (for the first of three bands) and while they were fine musicians, their music wasn't all that interesting; just a generic, Black Crowes-ish southern rock sound. They seem like they would be a great "house band" at a bar, or another place you're not really paying attention to the music. But nothing I would see again on purpose.
Next up was former Sun Wizard co-frontman, James Younger. I had seen him a couple months ago, opening for The Gay Nineties, and his set (and my opinion) didn't differ too much from that show. His 70s-influenced throwback rock sound got the crowd moving, but as I said last time:
There was nothing about the set that made me dislike it, but not much that made it particularly stand out either. Younger and his bandmates -- which included Andy Bishop, who plays in about 37% of all Vancouver bands -- were all unarguably strong musicians, but there wasn't much variety to the songs. It was Perfectly Acceptable Music, and a good opening act.
And after the weirdest between-set music (the thumping techno dance remixes were not really fitting) the emcee was out to announce a couple Peak DJs who were out to announce The Zolas.
They kicked it off with the first couple songs from their most recent album Ancient Mars, "In Heaven" and the insanely infectious "Knot In My Heart", before announcing that this would be the last time they play that album in full. Zach even joking that this was less a show and more a focus group to decide which songs to keep.
And so most of the set was dedicated to the album, with only a few exceptions; my favourite b-side "Cultured Man", the chaotic "Marlaina Kamikaze" where Tom really let loose on the keys, and their newest song, a one-off single "Invisible". Other highlights included the quirky "Observatory", and "Strange Girl", which got the crowd clapping along (or attempting to, anyway).
The band was in fine form, especially Zach with his usual barely-contained ball-of-energy self, jumping around the stage, trying to find his roommate a date between songs, and even going into the crowd to sing the last song of the main set, "Escape Artist".
And of course, after they finished the main set, they were back for a couple more, with Zach first taking stage alone for the soft and creepy "Cold Moon" before the band joined in, and ending on (of course) their breakout hit "You're Too Cool", the entire crowd singing along, some even in the appropriate falsetto.
Unsurprisingly, it was a great set from the band, as they fed off the energy of the sold-out hometown crowd, and while I am sad to see some of the songs from Ancient Mars go, I am definitely excited to what's next from Zach and Tom.
In Heaven, Knot in my Heart, Observatory, Ancient Mars, Local Swan, Cultured Man, Strange Girl, Euphrates and Tigris, Marlaina Kamikaze, Invisible, Escape Artist.
(encore) Cold Moon, You're Too Cool.
There is one thing that did bother me, though: I am getting more and more annoyed by Vancouver shows running late. It's by no means a new phenomenon and not limited to one venue, but The Zolas didn't hit the stage until quarter after midnight -- 45 minutes after the advertised set time. I understand that shows run late, set times are "subject to change", things happen and all that... but 45 minutes is ridiculous, even for a weekend.
But scheduling and strange house-music aside, I still really like The Imperial as a venue. It's got great sound and is a good room, size- and sight-line-wise, and I am looking forward to checking out more shows there in the years to come.