By Jennie Orton
VANCOUVER — In the newly minted roads of Nashville, as it enjoys it’s evolution from honky tonk heaven to the heartbeat of hipster-approved Americana as we know it, Opry style live shows have enjoyed a much deserved return to the fold. In a time when authenticity seems to be becoming more fetishized, when Lady Gaga puts out country albums and Miley Cyrus starts recording backyard jams, tight but loose seems to be a flavor people didn’t know they wanted until it was in front of them. The Holy Roller Revue, Vancouver’s premiere roots/country/folk/gospel showcase, has become the city’s best way to get a dose of how that really should look.
Hosted by Vancouver band The Wayward Hearts, the Revue, named after the “unsung co-founders of rock ‘n’ roll” the Pentecostal Holy Rollers, has given a stage to acts who are part of the struggling roots scene and for audiences who want to discover local talent within it. The results have been enthusiastic.
“It’s the honesty. Sincere people will always be attracted to that,” posits Wayward Hearts’ vocalist/guitar player Bradley Damsgaard. “You get three, five, nine people up there on stage that are really playing their instruments and giving you something that is human, heartfelt and raw.”
The scene is richer than you might think.
“I’ve seen a lot of great weekly, monthly nights spring up at places like the Cobalt, The Heatley, The Wise Hall, and amazing annual events like The East Van Opry and Keithmas that showcase the fabulous talents any Vancouver roots bands have to offer,” says Damsgaard.
The key to the success of the roots scene in Vancouver seems to be the mutual support, which lends itself well to the communal atmosphere of the live shows.
“It’s hard as hell to carve out any kind of niche these days – you have to be good, you have to be unique, and you have to be relentless to even register on the roots musical radar, especially on the West Coast,” muses Damsgaard. “When the scene struggles, bands need to support each other more, get out to the shows of your friend’s bands and build a stronger community.”
So who is doing it best?
“Rich Hope is top of the heap, love that man. Ben Rogers, Just A Season, Wooden Horsemen, Real Ponchos, Skye Wallace, Jasper Sloan Yip, Blue Moon Marquee, these bands take no prisoners and are some of the hardest working people in the scene.”
Thursday, November 24th marks the last Holy Roller Revue gig of the year at the Fox Cabaret and features Wayward Hearts as well as Jasper Sloan Yip, The Burying Ground, and the Blue Moon Marquee.
In times of a struggle to unite and a longing for community, Opry style showcases are a fittingly warm way to enjoy music with a group of people looking for the same outlet. Watching a group of musicians who are friends and supporters of each others’ art enjoying being on stage together can be quite the load off from the adversarial atmosphere for our current every day. It’s a movement that is gaining steam in the city, something that excited Damsgaard to no end.
“We have a new generation of people stepping up to support the scene by creating new nights and booking shows in new venues. I look forward to a bigger, stronger roots music community in this city and I’m going to continue doing everything I can to help with building that.”
The Holy Roller Revue at the Fox Cabaret on Thursday, November 24th at 8 p.m. Tickets on Eventbrite.BC, British Columbia, Fox Cabaret, Holy Roller Revue, Opry, roots music showcase, The Holy Roller Revue, Wayward Hearts