Love and confetti: Hollerado’s final show

Love and confetti. If I had to summarize Hollerado’s final show at the Danforth Music Hall in Toronto in two words, that is what I’d have to say.  Love and confetti.

Back in February Hollerado, stalwarts of the Canadian indie music scene since 2006, made an announcement that shocked their fans.  They were releasing their fourth album, Retaliation Vacation, and at the end of the ensuing tour they’d be hanging up their instruments and head their separate ways.  Shortly afterwards, tickets went on sale for their final show on December 13.  In order to meet the demand for tickets, two additional shows were added on December 11 and 12.

The band designed and printed custom shirts for each of the final three shows.  By the time I showed up (about an hour after doors) they were already sold out, and in speaking to Hollerado’s drummer Jake Boyd, they sold so quickly he didn’t even have a chance to get one for himself.

I missed most of the first opener, Cartel Madras, a hip-hop group but caught the next one.  Little Junior, signed to Hollerado’s label Royal Mountain Records, has toured extensively with them over the past couple years.  They were wearing matching “RIP Hollerado” t-shirts.

As soon as Little Junior finished their set a slide show of pictures of Hollerado through the years was shown on the screen at the back of the stage.  Finally, at around 9:30 the houselights went off and the song “Dogs Are Better Than Cats” off their 111 Songs project played over the PA.

The show opened with Sam Myers, a long time friend of the band who let them stay at his apartment when they first started out and wrote and sang the opening track of their debut album, Record In A Bag, introduced himself and told the story behind the song “Hollerado Land.”  He then invited the crowd to sing along as the band made their way to the stage.

Dressed in Adidas track-suits (because that’s what retired people wear), the band made up of singer/guitarist Menno Versteeg, Dean Baxter on bass and brothers Nixon and Jake Boyd on guitar and drums, along with keyboardist Everett Bird and keyboardist/guitarist Anne Douris came out to thunderous applause from the sold-out crowd.

Opening with “Grief Money” off their third album Born Yesterday, the band showed fans they were there to have fun, playing tight and giving it their all.  Nixon was all over the stage and jumping off Jake’s drums.  Moving into “Americanarama,” the crowd drowned out Menno’s singing as everyone was waving their hands, then towards the end of the song the first confetti cannons were fired into the crowd.  This set the tone for the rest of the night with streamers and confetti filling the air over the band and crowd on a regular basis.

Over the course of about 12 years and 2,000 shows, Menno has perfected the art of stage banter and is a great storyteller.  He told the crowd about the band’s first trip to New York when an 18-year-old Jake ended up crashing on a stranger’s couch before realizing the promoter’s upstairs neighbor was not actually his roommate.

Before playing “Time On Earth,” the only song they perform from their latest album, Menno talked about the band’s time in Russia and the handlers they were assigned, Flo and Theo, who went on to be tour managers in Canada for a time. The song was dedicated to Theo’s memory as Flo joined the band on stage to play guitar.

As the evening progressed the confetti flew, the music continued and the connection between the band and fans grew.  Emotions ran high as the crowd sang and danced their hearts out.  At one point Menno started thanking their management and crew.  He made a special point of thanking the band’s spouses for their support over the years.

They finished their main set with “So It Goes,” a song Menno wrote about his grandfather who was a POW during World War II.  When he performs the song live, he usually sings the opening lines acapella; as he did so on Friday, he was completely drowned out by the audience and you could see the tears starting to well up in his eyes.  After the song was done, instead of going off stage before the encore, the band hid on stage under the drum riser or behind amps and monitors, emulating what they had to do at a small venue in Boise, Idaho and they found to be fun.

Traditionally Hollerado finished their shows with “Juliette,” arguably their biggest hit, and a fan is brought on stage to play guitar while Menno sings.  This time was no different; however, what made it extra special was the fan they brought on stage was dressed in a chicken-suit and held a sign asking to play.

Once the song ended amid massive blasts from the onstage confetti cannons, the band stood at the front looking a bit lost; they realized they still had about 5 minutes before they had to get off stage and broke into a cover of Neil Young’s “Rockin In the Free World.”  They were soon joined on stage by their spouses, crew and members of other Toronto indie bands.

The venue has a strict 11:00 curfew but the audience wasn’t about to let the band just stand at the edge of the stage waving and bowing.  With clapping, cheering and chants of “One more song! One more song!,” the band took up their instruments and started playing Blink-182’s “Dammit.”  Even though the PA was shut off and all the music came through the band’s amps on stage.  That didn’t stop the band or the audience from singing at the top of their voices.

Photo: Elliott Spagat

People stood facing the stage showing their appreciation for the band that meant so much to so many while they disappeared back stage, the backdrop was taken down and the crew started dismantling the rest of the gear.  Eventually, security herded the crowd out of the doors into the foyer and the night air.

Hollerado Land (Sam Myers)
Grief Money
I Got You
Time on Earth (with Flo on Guitar)
Pick Me Up
Good Day At The Races
Born Yesterday (with Rane Elliott-Armstrong of Little Junior on guitar)
On My Own
Fake Drugs
So It Goes

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TAGS: Hollerado | Cartel Madras | Little Junior | Royal Mountain Records

Elliott Spagat


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