The Zolas Rifflandia, Victoria BC, September 16
Published Sep 17, 2018The Zolas got bitten by the festival bug hard for this set. Pretty much everything that could break ended up breaking. Before they even started, singer-guitarist Zachary Gray said "fuck that Korg," referring to the piece near bassist Cody Hiles that wouldn't go for whatever reason.
Midway through the title track from their 2012 album Ancient Mars, what Gray referred to as one of the true blue Zolas songs, sound techs came onstage and carted off one of the keyboards, leaving the song's light melody to be played on a little digital piano. Between tracks, the sound guys brought him an emergency replacement Nord Electro.
Later, after their Naomi Klein-inspired track "This Changes Everything," Gray noticed that his Roland SPD sampling pad wasn't functioning. He plaintively asked the sound guy, "Is my SPD dead, Henry? It's gone? It's just forever gone? Okay, cool. Why don't we just play the hits? It's way easier."
Luckily, things did seem to get a little easier from then on, although by that point, there wasn't much time left. During the subsequent "Molotov Girls," a sound tech fixed the SPD. That allowed the guys to perform their latest single, "Bombs Away," a rather salient track about how hard it is to afford rent these days.
After that, they had to skip the first verse of "Escape Artist" just to allow enough time to give the set a proper conclusion, letting Gray come down to the front of the crowd and lead them in singing the refrain with him. To its credit, Rifflandia was super sharp about set times.
Technical difficulties aside, though they aren't quite psychedelic enough for my personal tastes, a little too Britpop or too synth-pop, the Zolas still produced some licks that really stuck home, particularly those on their opening track, which I gather is a new one for them ("I feel the transition coming").
Gray's vocals were consistently underwhelming, but he had a great personality, hammy and off-the-cuff despite dealing with constant gear hampering and Hiles made bass look like the coolest and most fun instrument to be blessed with. The festival gods owe them a big favour after this one.