Concert Review: Hollerado at Glasslands: October 12, 2013
There is a school of thought that success – measured by wealth, fame, and/or popular appeal – is far more a function of randomness (i.e. luck) than people are generally willing to acknowledge. Success is generally thought of as earned through a combination of hard work and skill. This holds true whether we are considering successes in professional or creative endeavors, sports, investing, politics, or just about any field in which someone would reasonably desire to attain any of those measures of success. It certainly holds true in music. When we talk of the greatest bands of all time (the Beatles? Rolling Stones?) we think of those bands as simply the most talented, not the luckiest to have been in the right place at the right time. Similarly, when we think of breakthrough new artists we assume that those we hear on the radio, those that graduate quickly through the ranks from pub shows to clubs to sold out areas, are those that are better musicians (or somewhat more cynically, better entertainers) than those that don’t make it.
The idea that randomness plays a significantly greater role in success is one that has been popularized by writers like Malcolm Gladwell, and thus far seems to be the most prominent theme in a book I’m currently reading, “Fooled by Randomness” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Taleb’s contention is that hard work and skill are necessary but not sufficient. Once a person has put in the requisite amount of work, and meets a minimum standard of skill in the relevant field (remember, this applies across the board in any endeavor), success is entirely a function of randomness. By way of support of Taleb’s claim, I bring you the Canadian indie band, Hollerado.
I first became aware of Hollerado when I saw them open for Tokyo Police Club at Bowery Ballroom in mid-2012. At the time they had just one record out, 2009’s Record in a Bag, and not a single one of their songs was familiar to me. The set was lively, the music was catchy and as far as opening bands go they did exactly what one is supposed to do – they got me interested. Even better, they gave out free CD copies of Record in a Bag, a bold move but one that I think many just-starting-out bands should emulate. I took the music home, dropped it onto my iPhone and listened to it over and over that summer. I liked it enough that I set out to go see them last November at Mercury Lounge in the ill-fated adventure I described here. This past Saturday night at Glasslands was the first time I’d actually get a chance to see them since becoming more familiar with their music, and from what I’d read about their super-fun live shows (pogo party on stage!), I was pretty excited.
Sure enough, Hollerado really knows how to entertain its audience. Despite playing in front of a room that only had about 40 people when the show started (Hollerado was opening for The Features) the band acted like the happiest people in the world to be playing in the newly renovated spot in Brooklyn. At least three different times confetti shot from the ceilings down on the crowd below. Lead singer Menno Versteeg fancies himself a bit of a stand-up comedian, telling stories between songs about living with his Eastern European grandparents and other life adventures, something you don’t normally get from a rock band. As the crowd filled in, Menno was uncomfortable with the 5 foot gulf between the band and the front-most audience members and so he just said so – “Guys, this is weird, come closer.” As for the music – though I still didn’t recognize most of it, as the majority of the set was from Hollerado’s new album White Paint, it was just as lively, energetic and catchy as I remembered it. Even though I left the show before main act The Features took the stage, seeing Hollerado was $12 very well spent.
What then separates Hollerado from other similar indie bands that have seen more mainstream success, bands like Matt & Kim or Atlas Genius? The answer can only be randomness. Those little things outside of a band’s control that propels one up while leaving the other behind. I can easily picture Hollerado headlining a tour that includes large clubs such as Webster Hall or Terminal 5. The same crowd that dances to the quirky silliness of Matt & Kim or sings along to the radio-friendly tunes of Atlas Genius would love songs like “Juliette” and “So It Goes” and would go back to see Hollerado over and over again, just for the live experience. The talent is there. So is the hard work, as evidenced by the labor of love that is their album. I’m talking about the tangible physical piece that includes the artwork and packaging of the vinyl. The album cover for White Paint – which I purchased after the show – is hand painted in, well, white paint, and as a result the record sleeve left falling paint chips on me each of the two times I’ve taken out the album so far. It’s a weird touch, but a fun and thoughtful one, the kind that makes you root for this band.
A fan that called Hollerado “one of my favourite bands to see live” did a good write-up of one of their recent shows here.
Here is a link to a bunch of their videos, which give you a flavor as to how fun they are.
Here is a recent interview with the band.
There’s so much to like here … I hope that luck catches up with them, if for no other reason than a broader audience deserves to enjoy Hollerado.