Saturday, October 2, 2009
By: Vandal Truong
Fasten your seat belts. Grab hold of something locked down to the floor. Get ready to dance around and have a blast. That's the basic message of the fast rising New York ska/punk band known as Hollis. However, with a set time of 11:30 pm and the night's bill going late, the band didn't actually play until closer to 12:30, which was a bit of a momentum killer. But their legion of fans was a devoted bunch and it seemed they would have waited with anticipation until the break of dawn to see Hollis play.
When Hollis finally went on, the room's energy quickly shifted. The casual conversations stopped as everyone became aware of the anticipation in the air of something big. The delay nuisance was quickly dismissed as the band immediately launched into "Not Even Close," a frenetic flame-thrower of a song that got lead vocalist Holly Mahady jumping, dancing, and twirling all over the stage. Another stand out was the fist-pumping anthem "Ordinary Life," a tune where the narrator sings, "I think it's time you and I should say goodbye to this ordinary life." The song is a journey of self-actualization that a once promising relationship has diminished into a predictable malaise. Hollis's songs, while they clearly kick out the jams, are actually thinly disguised stories of emotion and angst, not partying. For their seven song set, the band went full tilt and never let up. They went from one face melting song straight into the next. It was like an aerobics class on crack with slashing guitars and heavy drums.
Holly Mahady has been quoted as referring to herself as, "I'm good at what I do... and I know it. If you don't like me you can fuck off. It's your loss." This badass "riot grrl" is part of a persona she embraces. In person, she is happy to talk with anyone from the crowd. The comparisons to Gwen Stefani and Paramore are obvious but somewhat inaccurate; she has a stage presence and a vocal intensity that matches the young Iggy Pop. One should be impressed by her introspection, ear for melody, and eclectic taste in beats. But Hollis is not about one person. It's a full band that prides itself on unselfish play and theatrics: drummer Roland wore skull face paint and bassist Hash resembles a cast member of The Warriors. There's an overwhelming notion of camaraderie among the band members (high fives and hugs after the set!) and an honest, endearing appreciation for their fans. Hollis is an energetic upstart who really does represent a promising new phase in ska’s evolution. With themes of sin and forgiveness, regret and acceptance, loss and grown-up love, Hollis does create a portrait of a band but more so of real artists who move your ass as well as your heart. They are clearly on their way to becoming one of the best live acts in New York City. Catch their next show on Thursday, November 5th at Trash Bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.