I was lucky enough to sit in on soundcheck and spend some time with the band prior to the show (including an interview with keyboardist Adam Bock that you can hear below). Their excitement over the new record and love of playing live clearly comes across. Hollis Brown is a band that excels on the stage. You cannot help but get caught up in their enjoyment while watching them play. The entire band, Mike Montali (vocals/guitar), Jonathan Bonilla (guitar), Adam Bock (keys), Andrew Zehnal (drums), and Chris Urriola (bass) are top musicians, but more than anything they look like they love every minute of playing live. The energy is contagious to the point where many in the crowd began looking for open areas where they could dance along.
Listening to the pre-show crowd chatter, it was evident not many in attendance were familiar with Hollis Brown. The band’s sound can be described as a mix of its influences (bands like Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers) and its touring partners from years on the road (such as Jesse Malin and Counting Crows). Only a few seconds into the opening song, the 2016 non-album single “Run Right To You”, the crowd became engaged. They cheered on all of Bonilla’s stellar guitar work and hung on each of Montali’s words. Four of the remaining tracks were from Ozone Park with two coming from 2015’s 3 Shots, including “Rain Dance”, a song based on an unfinished Bo Diddly track that was found in Diddly’s home studio after his death. Bock pointed out in our conversation that most of the Ozone Park tracks have been in the live set for a year or so and evolved on the road prior to being recorded.