The pandemic has not been kind to anyone. We are all tired, antisocial, and depressed, just waiting for this uncertainty to end, uncertain if it ever will.
The luckiest few, however, were able to benefit from the amount of free time in the empty spaces of their homes. There is someone in our lives who either started making art, opened their home business, or learned new skills. Dwight Abell (aka dwi), known as a bassist of Vancouver’s favorite alternative band The Zolas, is one of those select few. Being stuck at home, and isolated from his bandmates, dwi has finally found time and energy to get his creativity out and to work on his solo project. After putting up a few singles, first independently, then through Light Organ Records, dwi released his debut album Mild Fantasy Violence on October 1st, 2021. I can’t tell you how many charts it topped and how many Grammys it won, since this is not the reality of being an independent artist. But let me speak from my heart – because it has topped my personal charts and has given me, a depressed millennial who is forever obsessed with the 80’s post-punk, a safe space and a reminder of how important it is to befriend your vulnerabilities and stay true to yourself.
dwi’s performance has been a special treat to the Zolas’ fans during their recent cross-country tour, including one of the final shows in Vancouver (Vogue Theatre on November 27th). The gig had a minimalistic setup with only two people – dwi and his old colleague and friend, Bronson Izzard on guitar. The rest of the instruments were provided by a backup track, which did not take away from the performance: on contrary, it has enhanced the intimacy and the heart-wrenching emotions shown by dwi in every song.
Right off the bat, you get blown away by dwi’s artistry: something you cannot express the same way if you’re only playing bass. The fact that his creative energy had to be bottled for so long, almost makes you feel grateful that the pandemic has in fact happened. dwi has a strong stage presence, and his mannerisms remind me of the brightest British rock legends, such as David Bowie and Robert Smith. dwi plays a character, yet he stays true to himself and his music.
During his set at the Vogue Theatre, I was tuned in emotionally rather than verbally; I was feeling, instead of thinking or analyzing. That said, I was absolutely impressed by the live reimagining of the title track MFV; its concert version sounds quite different and very disturbing, even more Radiohead-y, accompanied by altered vocal, and his incredible stage performance.
I’m not saying I’m happy we are going through the pandemic – but I am incredibly grateful for the folks like dwi, who were able to squeeze the lemons so hard that they became fan favorites.