The Franklin, TN favorites were opening for Switchfoot on their ‘Native Tongue’ US tour.
The muted sounds of a band tearing into an instrumental break heard through venue walls is something of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, such music can be the best way to get you excited for an event. On the other hand, that same music is a sign you are running late.
The chaos of downtown Grand Rapids did its best to delay a good time on Saturday night, March 2, when Switchfoot rolled into 20 Monroe Live with direct support from Franklin, Tennessee band Colony House. A performance of Disney’s Frozen on Ice was taking place at the nearby Van Andel Arena, and the streets were filled with minivans and SUVs containing small children, many dressed as their favorite character from the film. It was the kind of sight you might stop and cherish under any other circumstances, but not that night. No, that night it was a hurdle to be overcome, and I must admit I fell short of my ideal outcome.
Rushing into the doors of the venue just minutes after Colony House’s 7:50 set time I could hear the familiar sounds of a room coming to life while a tidal wave of positivity-laced pop rock crashed over them. The exact song being played wasn’t clear, but the energy in the room was undeniable. The winter chill that resides in the bones of every Midwesterner by early March was melting away as the band ripped through tracks from their catalog with the kind of reckless abandon that threatens to fall apart at any moment. They were loose, yet so in the pocket that the confidence oozed from every pore like the beads of sweat that fell down the brows of many in that crowded space.
It’s a sin to base any artist’s sound on recorded material alone. The albums Colony House has released are shimmering, methodically produced bundles of heartache and romance refined to be as close to perfect as possible without losing their sense of humanity. In a live setting that high-gloss polish is removed only to be replaced with twice as much heart and soul. The songs, even the fan favorites that are no doubt well known by those who subscribe to alternative rock playlists, carry a rawness no software or reel-to-reel recorder could capture.
As I made my way through the crowd, it was clear new fans were being made. Colony House is no stranger to the road or even Grand Rapids for that matter but in many ways, the band still flies below the radar of mainstream audiences. The secret to the group’s successful conversion rate with concert goers, aside from great music, is the sense of relatability that emits from their every action on stage. The four-piece is so clearly happy to be doing what they’re doing that one cannot help wanting to root for them. To hear their story of life on the bottom of America’s rust belt is to feel as though you’re meeting an old friend for the first time. You may have grown up somewhere else and have different views, but the struggles Colony House has overcome and the events captured through their music are universal.
As the band closed their forty-five-minute performance with thundering drums and a final refrain the crowd clung to every beat and rejoiced with every strum. People danced, threw their hands in the air, and cheered with all the force their lungs would allow. A woman beside me asked if the song being played was really theirs, and when she learned that it was she exclaimed “I guess I have something to listen to on the way home!”
There was another band still to come, one that the majority of the room had paid specifically to see, but at that moment it was clear to me and probably many others that every penny spent on tickets had been worth the price paid. What Colony House did during their stage time would be remembered long after the room cleared and the nearby parking garages earned their money for housing the crowd’s vehicles. They had done what every artist hopes to do and so few ever pull off — they had made a lasting impression that would live on in the hearts and minds of those watching them perform. Maybe that will lead to albums sales or future concert attendance, but even if it didn’t, their art would not soon be forgotten.