Christian Holden, bassist and lead singer of the Worcester, Mass., trio the Hotelier, stood at a microphone at the center of the Ottobar stage in Remington, unsure of what to say. He smirked, realizing he was out of stage banter halfway through Thursday's headlining set.

"We make the setlist so I don't have too talk much," Holden said as the guitarists tuned.


And then — ah-ha! — a local tidbit to share: Before the show, the band had a successful day at the Horseshoe Casino.

"I'm up $600 on the day!" the singer said. "Blackjack?" a crowd member shouted, but Holden's winnings had come from poker. Some clapping followed.

Such a humdrum scene, and a fleeting one, too.

It was part of the trick the Hotelier so nonchalantly pulled off time and again here: The band morphed from nondescript 20-somethings into a muscular and compelling force of emo-tinged rock — and back again — with precision and ease. The crowd responded by singing back most songs verbatim with a fervor so intense, it felt like the sweaty room's collective forehead vein could pop at any moment.

The weepy, angsty emo-rock of the early aughts is still hot at the Taking Back Tuesday club night in L.A.

That is the point of the Hotelier, whose 2014 sophomore album "Home, Like Noplace is There," garnered the act rave reviews from critics and a growing fanbase for its pensive lyrics and impressive dynamics. They make deeply cathartic music filled with sing-along choruses and satisfying breakdowns.

The sound is not new, but it is well done. And while the Hotelier's songs vary in sound and influences more than many of their contemporaries, therapeutic release remains the goal.

Before the night's opening notes (and after a quick sound-check that included Holden singing along to Lee Ann Womack's "I Hope You Dance"), the singer informed the crowd the band had recently completed two months of touring before taking a two-week break at home.

"I feel really rejuvenated right now," he said, before kicking into "Goodness Pt. 2."

The band backed up Holden's declaration, ripping through songs familiar to the crowd, including "Your Deep Rest" and "Sun," a standout from the band's latest album, May's "Goodness" (Tiny Engines). Holden's vocals were crisp, again proving the time off helped, while guitarist Chris Hoffman added spot-on singing and shouting in the background. (Ben Gauthier, who played guitar on "Goodness" but left the band shortly after, was replaced by fill-in Jade DiMitri.)

After a few years filled of hectic tour runs, the band appeared engaged and well prepared.

While "Home" crowd-favorites like "Life in Drag" and "The Scope of All of This Rebuilding" stirred the crowd most — polite rocking-out gave way to full-on moshing early on — cuts from "Goodness" showed the group's maturation as songwriters. Highlights like "Piano Player" and "Two Deliverances" showed the band doesn't need to rely on emo's melodramatic soft-to-loud dynamics to make an impact.

"Goodness" is a very strong rock album by an emerging act, in a climate where that seems more novel than ever. That doesn't mean the band has reached its potential; the heart-on-the-sleeve approach can feel mawkish, like on the lullaby-esque "N 43° 33' 55.676" W 72° 45' 11.914." (Even the title induces cringes.)

In January 2015 Evan Weiss of Into It. Over It. set up in a snow-bound Vermont cabin to write songs.

Still, in a time when emo's fourth wave is producing excellent work (check out Pinegrove's "Cardinal" and Into It. Over It.'s "Standards," both from this year, for more), the Hotelier operates at the top tier.

During the night's climax, "An Introduction to the Album," a vocal-cord-bursting exercise between crowd and band, young fans seemed truly lost in the sound.


"Open! The Curtains! Singing birds! Tell me, 'Tear the buildings down'!" Holden and the room sang in unison, no amplification necessary. A woman in the balcony gripped and leaned over the rail, yelling the lyrics at Holden. Two young men in the front row placed their foreheads to the stage, screaming each line with an enthralled look of agony and ecstasy. One pounded the monitor with his fists to mimic drummer Sam Frederick, and when the band came in at once, the fans grinned from ear to ear at each other.

The release was complete. The Hotelier had done their job.