Hollie Cook at the Nectar Lounge, Seattle | 21 October 2014
I wasn’t sure what to expect seeing Hollie Cook at the Nectar Lounge earlier this week. Would anyone show up considering none of Cook’s albums have been released in the US? I shouldn’t have worried, people turned out for the show, obviously aware how good her records are, especially her newest one Twice which is string drenched tropical bliss. The basic sound is reggae, but with the help of collaborator Prince Fatty her records transcend that genre’s narrow confines. Cook’s father Paul plays drums for Edwyn Collins and Vic Godard, he also played in a punk rock band back in the 70’s. Her mom sang in Culture Club for a while and Hollie herself did a brief spell in the reformed Slits. Even though she comes from a performing family, Cook has a shy onstage demeanor that she occasionally bursts out of with infectious smiles, sincere dialog and serene dance moves.
The strings that are so prevalent on Twice were missed on some of the songs, but it was understandable since touring with a string section is economically unrealistic. Cook more than made up for any of the missing studio flourishes. Her band was all top shelf and Cook’s sweet voice glided gently over everything with ease. She played all the best stuff from her two albums, opening the set with Ari Up, her ode to the Slit’s front woman. She also did a cover of the Slit’s Newtown, emphasizing how influential this seminal band is to her. Shadow Kissing and 99 were the clear highlights for me. The only one I wished she would have played was Desdemona, but it was likely left out because it features a significant string section.
I don’t go to many reggae shows, so it was refreshing to see and experience the positive vibrations. There was much dancing, bands interacting with the audience, lots of smiles and general cheerfulness and of course ganja. Near the end of the set a fellow lit up a spliff and brought it up to Cook, who graciously accepted it and hung onto it while she sang. For most of the evening it felt so un-Seattle, almost tropical.