This may very well have been one of, if not the best, double bill of the year so far. You may not have thought to put these two bands together, but with the hometown heroes The Zolas, and rising stars The Strumbellas together, it was no wonder the first show sold out and they had to add a second.
Playing their first Vancouver show since the release of their latest album Swooner, The Zolas took the stage to massive cheers, Zach Gray taking a moment to soak it in before launching into the fiery "Molotov Girls". The crowd was clearly there as much to see them as they were the headliner, singing along to songs like "Ancient Mars" and "Strange Girl".
Other highlights included the socially-conscious "Frida on the Mountain" and "Escape Artist" which included a funny moment where Zach's mic stand just did not want to stay at singing height. After the huge, bombastic synth pop jam "Invisible" they closing out the set with the title track "Swooner", a ridiculously catchy rocker that was perfect to end the set.
No doubt they'll be gracing the stage once more at the Commodore soon enough, headlining their own show.
It wasn't long after that when the six members of Toronto's The Strumbellas took the stage, in front of a large banner of the latest album's cover, a funeral procession of mythical proportions. They started off with the swelling song "Wars" off the new album Hope, going seamlessly into "Young & Wild", a song that sounds exactly like its name.
With their “Folk popgrass” sound and spot-on harmonies, songs like the raucous "Sheriff" and the anthemic "Shovels & Dirt" tore through the Commodore, as well as slower ones, like then they stepped off mic for a completely acoustic "The Fire" getting the crowd as quiet as they could -- mostly, anyway, except for the two girls directly in front of me, but they didn't shut up for the whole set. But I digress.
It was also very clear that the band was flat out having fun on stage. They joked around with each other (clearly good friends, especially with the teasing between Simon and Dave) as well engaging the crowd. A few times Simon even talked to people in the front giving them a mic; one girl had the chance to win merch by guessing the average age of the band (she didn’t) and at one point Simon asked a particular guy if he liked the last song (he didn’t). That enthusiasm and energy was definitely infectious, as the band got the sold out ballroom to clap and sing along, even splitting the room by gender for two parts of “Sailing”.
They drew the set to a close with their massive single "Spirits", which was such a good finale I would have been satisfied with it ending there, but they were back for a couple more. As per previous jokes, Simon came out shirtless for the final two, "Home Sweet Home" to commemorate the bands return to their home country for the start of their Canadian tour, and "Sailing" to cap off the night.
Seeing either one of these bands alone at the Commodore would have made for a good show, but the pairing of them together made for one (well, two) special night(s).
The Zolas setlist
Fell In Love With New York,
Frida On The Mountain,
The Strumbellas setlist
Young & Wild,
End of an Era,
We Don’t Know,
The Long Road,
Shovels & Dirt,
The Hired Band,
In This Life,
Home Sweet Home,