Review by Gillian Daniels
(Boston, MA) Caravan Palace came out strong the other night when it started its engagement at House of Blues with, “Comics.” The song, simultaneously upbeat and chilling, is a rhythmic single off of their latest album, <|°_°|> [Robot Face]. The energy brought the room up to a high that stayed there through the entirety of the show and two encores.
It’s not a surprise the band would be a hit with a certain population of Boston. Their sound seamlessly blends swing, hip-hop, and dance. I saw more than a few swing dance veterans test out foot work to the hyper-active “Suzy” or the breezy, robotic vocals of “Star Scat.” Others were there simply for the electronica-esque, deeply satisfying build and drop of each song. The friend I brought with me reported even security got into the dancing.
Caravan Palace has a geekiness to it, an unbridled enthusiasm for its idol Django Reinhardt. That love has an edge of mania, though, a frightening kinetic core. They want you to dance, damn it. On Sunday, May 22nd, that’s exactly what the attendees of this concert did. I’ve never been so happy for my feet to hurt as much as they did at the end of the night.
The band manufactures their sound with what feels like a very personal, sincere thumbprint. Zoé Colotis doesn’t stop at providing effortless, smooth vocals. She swing dances across the stage in multiple, gorgeous costumes. She led the audience in a rousing cover of “Black Betty.” She sweats and pushes with the best of them, probably the hardest working singer I’ve seen yet. Near the end of the performance, she thanked Boston for its fervor and its enjoyment of French music.
In my mind, though, Caravan Palace performs with the trappings of some very American, perhaps very African American, pastimes: big band, swing dance, blues, and cello solos. Even the lyrics are often in English or else sample other, blue-sy songs. Yet this is unarguably a European band. Its attitude is so happily cool, its retro-futuristic concept so encompassing in vision and attitude.
The promo piece I wrote for the concert described them as “science fictional.” I stand by this. Caravan Palace is a product of a future where the divisions between genres are all but melted together. They can be a little bit Skrillex and a little bit of Benny Goodman. The important part is the sound, the fury of their style, the easiness of their substance. They are pedaling a drug of pure pleasure.
WORLD MUSIC/CRASHarts should be commended for continually giving us such exposure to international music. It enriches the passions of the city, certainly for swing dancers, geeks, and concert goers. It is my hope that, as Caravan Palace continues its US tour, they are greeted with the same ardor their fans in Boston gave them. It is also my hope that they come back very soon so I can see them again.