Artists: Hotel Mira, The Zolas, Molly Moore
Venue: The Troubadour
Date: July 29, 2022
Last Friday, two of Canada’s rising indie rock darlings graced the Troubadour stage and gave performances that, while different in energy, were both overflowing with charisma and incredible stage presence. Paired with their individual styles of danceable rock songwriting, they gave a good argument for why U.S. music fans should be looking up north for their next favorite band.
Colorful opener Molly Moore felt like the embodiment of the Gen-Z artist. Her connection with the audience felt personal, with endearing interactions with them, as she asked tongue-in-cheek questions as teasers to her songs (“Have any of you ever gotten out of a relationship and then stalked your ex 24-7?” – paraphrasing a bit). Her musical style for the most part was in the alt pop/dance pop realm (such as the track she wrote with friend and stage guest Maty Noyes “Handsomer”), and not entirely my taste, but it was easy to tell why songs like “I love you but I don’t like you” have amassed over 2m streams with their memorable hooks. I also liked that she showed off a sense of humor, breaking out in an impeccable New York accent at times, and poking fun at her own emotional growing pains that have inspired her songs. This openness and vulnerability definitely spoke to the audience, with one girl in the front announcing she had recently blocked her ex on socials, which Molly congratulated her on. She previewed some new tracks that were decidedly more rock/pop-punk (and she dropped a bit of The Verve‘s “Bittersweet Symphony” into “Miserably Sublime”), hinting at the direction she may be going in. And closer “Jameson” gave off “underground hit” vibes.
The Zolas have an interesting stage presence from the get-go. The bassist Tom Dobrzanski, in a fishnet shirt, had clear rock aura around him, while frontman Zachary Gray, tall with a guitar that looked too small for him, at first appeared to have an awkward introverted quality to his presence. That soon changed. The band began with creeping “Violence on This Planet”, and then transitioned into the jangly Britpop sound of “Yung Dicaprio”. As the tracks became more lively, Gray showed off his dance moves, feeding off the audience’s lively grooving (it should be noted there was a small group of awesome young fans in the front throughout the night who were singing along and dancing to all three acts with equal energy. Rock shows need more fans like them).
The excellent “Molotov Girls” was next, with it’s jubilant 80’s-inspired guitar lines. Showing the other side of their spectrum, the band then went into “Ancient Mars”, a spacier and slower track that still managed to inspire a chanting singalong. “Miles Away” and “Energy Czar” were both high-energy bangers, while the vibey “Strange Girl” seems destined to soundtrack a teen drama on Netflix. One of the coolest parts of their set was when Gray went into the audience, had them circle him and illuminate him with their phone flashlights. It created an intriguing sense of intimacy not usually felt at shows these days. What was probably my favorite song of their set was the super-upbeat “Swooner”, that easily had the room bouncing. The group closed out with “Escape Artist” and then one by one left the stage to prepare for Hotel Mira.
During The Zolas‘ set, I noticed a young woman acting irregularly, making her way onto the upper side balcony, dancing dangerously close to the edge of the railing and holding onto one of the ceiling lamps. It was clear she was on something, but who could guess what. Following The Zolas‘ set, she wandered onto the stage while crew were clearing it. Security shuffled her off, and then tried to remove her from the venue. The woman fled into the crowd, beginning a minor chase, with more and more security trying to and eventually surrounding her. Despite her clear protests and desire to stay in the venue, the group of security guards managed to push her towards the back exit and eventually force her out. They managed to clear the troubled woman from the venue just as Hotel Mira came down to take the stage.
The thing to know about Hotel Mira is that it’s basically the Charlie Kerr show. Frontman Kerr is a bombastic, dynamic performer clearly made for the stage, and you can’t take your eyes off him. The rest of the band provide the necessary musicality to bring their exuberant, alt rock bops to life, but it’s Kerr’s endlessly watchable performance that elevates them into a must-see show.
The band began with four cuts from their 2020 album Perfectionism; “You Know Best”, “Better On Your Own”, “This Could Be It For Me” and the title track. Each one could be used to represent the overall sound of the band; upbeat, well-produced, danceable alternative rock with lyrics that cut with a snark blade and impress with a vast verbiage (“Shrinking violet, so-called nihilist”). The hooks keep coming with the anthemic choruses (“Now that you’ve patched me up, I want to strut my stuff. Man, it would feel so good to be intimate”). And Kerr knows how to engage the crowd with each one, getting them to sing with him for the “forever, and ever, and ever” lines of “You Know Best”, or breaking out gender-bending dance moves for the strutting second track.
The personal highlight of the night was the inclusion of the break-neck rocker “Son-in-Law” (#49 in our Top 50 of 2020). And the track clearly resonated with the audience, who were enthusiastically jumping and fist pumping with the caustic chorus (“Rock stars aging in the Walmarts. They all want their neighbors singing their song”). Instead of trying to match that energy, the band threw a curveball and played a brand new, unreleased song next, “Alone in America”, which managed to still connect with the unfamiliar fans of the band.
The show continued on like this, with Kerr moving, shaking and making direct eye-contact with exciting fans, providing a true performance to the songs. Drummer Cole George provided some solid support on backing vocals, and guitarist Clark Grieve was able get a brief but nimble solo in, but Kerr was the owner of the stage. He got the crowd riled up again with their hit “Southern Comforting”, and then went into their latest song “Fever Pitch” (another solid addition to their catalogue). With nary a word, the group then left the stage.
Hotel Mira first came on my radar in 2019, when I first heard the insanely good “Jungle”, and we made that one of our Check This features. Cut to three years later, and that song has over 2m streams and is their choice for closing out their encore. Following the quietest song of their set, the stripped-back “Daisy”, “Jungle” was a full-room blast and the perfect song for the venue, with its lines about not moving to Hollywood. By the end, Kerr was on his back on the stage, likely exhausted but still grateful for the audience’s love.
Next time these bands come to your town, be sure to check them out. Until then, you can find more pictures and videos from the show on our socials (@TheIndyReview) and listen to their most recent albums below!