April 12, 2014

If you like concerts, swing music, and tap dancing, then Caravan Palace is for you. This seven-member electro swing/gypsy jazz outfit, based in Paris, played at the Regency Ballroom on April 12. Not only did everyone in the venue feel the inevitable pride associated with listening to obscure genres like this, but they also enjoyed an action-packed and energy-filled performance.

The evening began with a single opener: Rosin Coven. If any genre could rival electro swing and gypsy jazz, it would be Rosin Coven’s self-proclaimed “pagan lounge music,” which made them a perfect fit for the show. The seven-piece band was dressed up in outfits reminiscent of a 19th century circus and had both a string and a horn section, as well as two vocalists (one of whom doubled as the violinist). Rosin Coven has an eerie sound. It's the kind of music worthy of being played in a pagan lounge, even if you don’t frequent pagan lounges. Yet as odd and obscure as it is, it’s fantastically catchy, quirky, and energetic. It makes you want to frequent pagan lounges. By the time Rosin Coven had finished their set, it was clear the rest of show was going to be a good one.

Caravan Palace took the stage around 10 p.m. and quickly gave the audience solid evidence that the night could get even better after Rosin Coven. Electro swing is exactly what it sounds like: swing dancing music with an electronic twist. Both swing and electronic music are upbeat and encourage dancing, so the combination of the two inspired the crowd to swing dance quickly and a little bit erratically. The audience loved it.

Not only did Caravan Palace earn an A+ for musical taste and talent, but they also deserve high marks for showmanship. Lead vocalist Zoé Colotis and violinist/vocalist Hugues Payen were the most animated members of the outfit, with frontwoman Colotis taking advantage of all the space available to her by dancing at the front of the stage. The tap training she clearly has helped with the crowd interaction; she was even generous enough at the end to share some of her water with the 50 or so people closest to the stage. It made for a fantastic picture, which can be found on Caravan Palace’s Facebook page. When Colotis and Payen shared the stage as vocalists, their interaction as bandmates was quite fun to watch. They seemed to be both musicians performing for the enjoyment of an audience as well as friends jamming. The entire band was phenomenal to watch: it appears that to play something as fun sounding as electro swing, you have to be having fun yourself.

The crowd loved the performance and called the band back out for a three-song encore after the hour-and-a-half set. Most people in the audience were jumping up and down and all around during the show, while some attempted to swing dance in the crowded venue. Others stood back and smoked weed while others still simply enjoyed the music, bobbing their heads up and down. The most interesting element of this particular crowd was the significant number of people were dressed up in some semblance of steampunk or Victorian English attire. The diversity in the audience was stunning, and it just goes to show that Caravan Palace is universally awesome. Anyone can rock out to electro swing. I highly suggest it.

Photos by Ramsey Karim / Staff