Review – Backseat Lovers at the Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver, Aug 10 2022
Something felt different. The energy that filled the Commodore Ballroom for Backseat Lovers, an alt-rock band from Salt Lake City, felt different. The bustling crowd and excited anticipation felt different. Before the show even began, the crowd of Vancouverites were screaming along to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” like it was a tipsy karaoke night at the 12 Kings Pub —another subtle hint of what was to come.
Perhaps it was the premature crowd singalongs or the fans preemptively cramming their way to the front in order to press their bodies against the stage, I was certain of two things. My combat boots would be feeling the classic Commodore-carpeted stickiness for the next few hours, and tonight was going to be a sweaty-haired, blood-pumping, incredible night of live music.
Backseat Lovers welcomed two bands to share the stage this Wednesday night and get the party started. The first was Sleepy Gonzales, a BC-based indie rock group that Light Organ Records describes as “Musical ADHD.” Followed by Mercury, an indie psychedelic rock band from Nashville that blends atmospheric female vocals with rough instrumentals. Both bands created a unique presence for themselves on stage, one that successfully influenced the collective energy of the night.
The lights slowly dimmed as 10 pm inched closer and you could feel the energy build. By 9:58 pm fans were starting to cheer, tables were abandoned, and the floor was filled. The stage lights began to bleed red with a stained glass backdrop. It was a dark and heavy start with the kind of kick drum-driven intro that you can feel in your chest, filling your body with vibrations as the cheers of the crowd got progressively amped up. The energy was high from riff one.
“Take a piece of me, I know you want a piece of me”
Fans wanted more than just a piece of Backseat Lovers as they kicked off the show with “Just a Boy,” their much adored 2019 single, which is a blend of mellow vibes and prominent drums. The crowd sang along to every word as lead singer Joshua Harmon belted the lines. Eyes were locked on his charismatic movement, with his long surfer locks draped over his mic.
“And I’ll give you a second
To collect your thoughts
Can’t get any breath in”
This line from “Just a Boy” seems fitting, as the roars from the crowd continued to linger more than just a few moments after the final bassline. Harmon managed to utter two words, triggering another long wave of cheers, “Hello everybody,” he said with a smirk.
“Kilby Girl,” an obvious crowd favourite, was next. Every guitar strum was played with vibrant intensity and every note was celebrated by the crowd who continued to sing along verse by verse. “So we chase jack with love. And waste away the whole afternoon…” The band members paused at this moment together, before the chorus, creating the perfect dramatic pause that riled the Backseat admirers up yet again. The charisma and love on stage were felt by all and a select few captured free-falling sunflowers that were thrown from the stage.
“Maple Syrup” was another energetic crowd-pleaser from this impressive group of young musicians, who are definitely not stage shy. The shirtless, hair-bobbing Harmon confidently bounced to different band members, charismatically playing off of each one. I loved the clash of high and low tempo changes between songs, the thoughtful buildups, and their prominent dramatic pauses to keep the crowd wanting more. It truly proved their intuitive ability to put on a memorable show fuelled by an unmatched stage presence.
Leading up to the grand finale, every band member knew what was coming. There was clearly an unspoken agreement that they were leaving with a bang. KJ Ward, the bass guitarist, jumped onto the drum throne to vibe with Juice Welsh, their fast-paced tempo guru of a drummer. At that same moment, the guitar duet of Jonas Swanson and Harmon instantaneously formed a connection, bound through guitar strings and strumming patterns. Everyone pulled out all the stops to give the showgoers what they wanted—a feeling of needing more. With a final crowd surfing send-off by Harmon, this was worth the hangover on a Thursday morning. What a way to end.
Naturally, the crowd pleaded in unison, “One more song!” After the two-hour experience we just went on, I knew Backseat Lovers wouldn’t turn down that request. They ended with 2019’s single, “Sinking Ship” which pleased all, as the crowd of Vancouverites brought their classic alt-rock loving energy to this final moment of a captivating night of live music. What a time to be alive.