This was a good year for Parcels — and myself: they released their first album last month and I saw them perform twice. The first time was last summer in Rock en Seine, a Paris-based music festival, and it was awesome: that took place before the album release (for those who have a hard time understanding how calendars work), so I didn’t quite know all the tracks being played, but the show was nevertheless amazing.
What was especially striking about the performance was the band’s remarkable technical ability, playing incredibly accurately in less than ideal conditions: at an outdoors live show, during a festival no less. That is not usually where you get the “cleanest” sound, yet they truly blew our minds with their intricate little electro-funk pieces. Not bad for a bunch of 20-something Australians. Or anyone of any age from anywhere, really.
Then, yesterday, I saw them play again, only this time it was at the Olympia, Paris’ most celebrated venue where everyone who’s ever been anyone in music has performed, Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan included (plus a bunch of French artists that you may not have heard about). It’s a rather small concert hall that can contain up to 2000 people (standing) and its U shape provides a rather intimate setting, along with ensuring that the sound is properly disseminated across all sections. I’ve seen shows there before and I’ve never been disappointed by sound quality — and almost never by the performers themselves.
Naturally, seeing Parcels there turned out to be a glorious idea. First of all, as expected, the sound was superb: with two keyboards, a guitar, a bass and a furiously steady drummer, the 5 guys (no pun intended) were able to seamlessly recreate the musical textures of their studio tracks, with the same perfect funky catchiness in the guitar riff and the same overall warm vibe that has been coming out of their productions ever since they started sharing them with the world.
That warmth is what made the show truly stand out, though: in that classic venue, surrounded by an excited audience that only came to see them, they were able to infuse a degree of joy, fun and lightheartedness that hasn’t been experienced much in music — or in anything — as of late. At points, both keyboardists could be seen jumping from one end of the stage to the other, clapping their hands in the hair, equally encouraging their bandmates and the audience in the process. Then, towards the end of the show, two of the guys, including the lead guitarist, started performing a fun little choreography on top of the stage, next to the drummer who didn’t drop one beat in all of this. He was the last one to leave the stage, too: as the “Credits” were playing (the aptly named last song of their album), members left one by one until all that was left was this rock steady beat that even the teacher in Whiplash couldn’t have objected to.
Quite my tempo.