Published Dec 07, 2018Before Yukon Blonde head across Japan for the month of January, they treated Victoria to the last date of a tour across Canada with the Zolas. They'd all been on a bus together for three solid weeks, and from the sounds of it, they never wanted it to end.
It was a particularly triumphant return to British Columbia's capital for the Zolas. The last time they were in town was only a few months previous, at Rifflandia, and the festival gods were malevolent that day. Pretty much everything that could have gone wrong went wrong. This set was a completely different story.
The Zolas had their sound locked down from the moment they hit the stage. No one really stood out musically, since they were so tight as a unit, rewarding the capacity crowd for showing up early to see them.
Victoria gave them a warm welcome, enthusiastically sang the refrain to "Ancient Mars" without much encouragement, and even cheered when singer-guitarist Zachary Gray called Victoria the "sloppy original Vancouver," which is a complisult at best. For "Knot in My Heart," Gray split the crowd in two and had each half singing something different simultaneously, which is an impressive feat. Gray said the crowd was so loud, he had to keep his in-ear monitors in between songs.
Commendably, Gray used the attention to give a last minute hard sell for the BC crowd to submit their pro-representation referendum ballots, as the due date was the following day. He even gave the address for the local submission location — a mere few blocks away from Capital Ballroom. He believed all the positive things they sing about can be achieved with true democracy, and that's pro-rep. Good on him for using his platform to try to make the world a better place.
It wasn't all proselytizing, though. To cap off their set, Gray brought a mic and a micro Korg to the middle of the dance floor, and asked the crowd to light him up with the flashlights on their phones, to be in the moment with them as he sang "Escape Artist," their cover of Pixies' "Where is My Mind?" and lastly, as he was joined in the mob by animated bassist Dwight Abell, the title track from their 2016 album Swooner.
Judging from "Bombs Away," "Energy's Off," and a couple other new tracks they played (one of which featured a refrain about floating upstream, staccato piano, pounding breakbeat drums, and winning guitar hooks somewhere between T. Rex and Brian Jonestown Massacre), their impending followup to 2016's Swooner is going to take them to the next level. The next time they tour with Yukon Blonde, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Zolas get top billing.
That's not to say Yukon Blonde didn't pull their weight. They were everything their reputation would lead you to believe, a professional band in the studio and a road-tested party-rocking machine live.
Yukon Blonde hit the stage while the Village People's disco classic "YMCA" played, with frontman Jeff Innes and guitarist Brandon Scott doing a couple of the song's renowned choreography moves, beers for the set in hand. They did take a little while to get warmed up, but eventually showed that, even as a six-piece touring band, they were just as tight as the Zolas.
The sextet found their footing by the time they hit "Love the Way You Are" from their 2018 album Critical Hit, the synth-heavy breakup album from which the majority of their set was pulled. After that song, Innes declared this to be his favourite show on their tour. Later, he expressed his wish to keep playing this gig forever, and make everyone miss work the next day. Though they didn't push pro-rep, Innes did give a shout-out to their original bassist, Adam Newton, who was in the crowd that night (he inks people at Tiger Tattoo in Victoria these days).
When they launched into emotionally resonant slow jam "This is Spain," bassist/synth guy James Younger showed how much he was feeling it as he played air guitar to Scott's bass line. After that, Innes said he wanted to turn the ballroom into a club, and proceeded to do just that with "Rather Be With You." Even though the song was pulled from their self-titled 2010 debut, it created some of the best energy of their set, featuring serious punch to the rhythm and vivacious soloing from Scott on guitar.
It was a good thing Innes shed a couple layers of clothing before "The Bluffs," a dance-punk jive somewhere between Happy Mondays and the Rapture, as he ran in place, hopped back from the mic, and emoted for all his worth. They kept the sweat-earned momentum going for "Radio," which boasted more stylish soloing from Scott and a far-out synth breakdown, smoothly transitioning into "Saturday Night" to make it a full-on rock rave.