I walked into the Caledonia Lounge Tuesday night to see a band I didn’t know, The Black Hollies, fully expecting a typical show from what could be any number of indie rockers trying to hit it big in a sea of sameness. Instead, I walked away revived, refreshed and with a renewed belief in my generation’s ability to successfully carry the rock n’ roll torch into the 21st century. I only wish the entire night could have been that good.
Oh, Nuclear Spring. I don’t know you, and I assume you’re a bunch of locals. For that, I really hate to dis you. But it must be done. This band is what I was expecting from the evening’s festivities. They had a couple of semi-catchy tunes, but ultimately nothing memorable. (Although they did have a bass player with an ear-piercing, scratchy falsetto that was featured prominently in the chorus of one song. I will unfortunately remember that for a while.)
Up next was Benjy Ferree, a Paul Giamatti lookalike who sang a few poppy rockers along with some sweet tunes that might have been at home at every 1950s prom that ever occurred. While worlds better than the opener, he still had no spark. There was nothing in his performance that led me to believe he wouldn’t rather be crunching numbers in some cubicle. If he could put a little more heart into it, he might really have something worth hearing.
And then there were The Black Hollies. I’d heard some good things, but nothing prepared for the shock of what might as well have been a stage set ablaze. This is one ferocious four-piece. As their name suggests, they bare hints of The Hollies but with darker, more intense undertones, and they do it well. These boys know how to rock the daylights out of a joint with few theatrics, which seems like quite a feat these days. It was live rock n’ roll as it should be – dirty, gritty, fun and fierce. In other words, passionate as hell. This is music that begs to be, well, let’s say danced to.
The quality of musicianship here is also stunning. Watching them play their instruments is like peering into another dimension. I was awe-struck by how quickly and easily their hands were able to be in the right place at the right time for each song, and even more so by the fact that they never strayed from that. This is an incredibly tight band.
I will say, though, that if anyone had to be singled out, the drummer is the man for it. How he performs those splendid extended drum solos I’ll never know, but I do know I’ll never crack a drummer joke again. (That’s probably not true, but it will be done with the utmost respect for the craft.)
The Black Hollies deserve some kind of recognition. They certainly deserve more people to attend their shows. It’s a shame Caledonia can hold 112 people, yet only 20 or so were there for the soulful, rhythmic rock these guys served up. But when The Black Hollies strike it rich and get too big for small clubs – and they will – the following will really hit home: see every show you can, because you never know.
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