THE GIG: ZOLA JESUS with CULT OF YOUTH opening
WHERE: Il Motore, Montréal, QC
WHEN: 21 April 2011
IN ONE WORD: Histrionic
If you blinked, you might’ve missed the set by Brooklyn’s Cult of Youth at Il Motore, opening for Zola Jesus. At what seemed like barely half a dozen songs, they could have been aiming for short ‘n sweet, if violin-backed angry folk, delivered with a holler that would suit the drunkest of sea shanties just fine, counts as ‘sweet’. It would be for me, but then, yeah. Labelmates with the headliners, CoY packed a lot of folk-metal into such a short set, but hopefully the crowd came away with a curious appreciation for the band.
Taking the stage clad in a melodramatic cowl, and solely illuminated by the scattered light of flashing scattered horizontal lines like the band was playing inside a TV’s snow storm, Zola Jesus frontwoman Nika Rosa Danilova put on the theatrics befitting her music, operatic synth-heavy gothic melodrama. Sounding at times like Bauhaus fronted by Cher, Danilova’s full-throated moaning call emerging from her diminutive (…she’s tiny!) form does her operatic background justice, her vocal range a sombre murmur one moment and then hitting you like a fist through a pane of glass the next.
My one complaint with their set is that while they’ve clearly found a formula that works for them, they rarely stray far from it: heavy, wraith-like synth + darkly over-emotive lyrics + palpitating drumbeat makes for a good, dark night of melancholic brooding to be sure, but it was difficult at times to tell where some songs differed from the next. Zola Jesus is far from a one-tone-wonder, though, and the sheer emotional reach shows enough promise to satisfy the curiosity that brought me to the show in first place.
Last song before the encore, Danilova plunged into the crowd, a happy phantom running about, nearly invisible by her height by anyone more than two bodies away, emerging to a gargoyle perch on the bar at the back of the room. It topped a sometimes overly-emotive evening, like a Valkyrie giving her final libretto before the crashing end.
© Liz Keith, Music Vice
Pictures of Cult of Youth and Zola Jesus at Il Motore, Montréal: