All right, so I don’t normally pay much attention to this genre of music, but evidently, electro-swing is pretty popular, because despite me never knowing about Parov Stelar before a friend of mine complained that there was only a Vancouver date in Canada (she lives in Ontario), this show was ultra sold out and he’s obviously stupendously popular with a stupendously-dedicated group of people. The seats were taken out of the Vogue’s orchestra area to make way for a dance floor, and it was already jam-packed. Making my way to the front was a challenge even before the band hit the stage. As I wove my way among the patrons, I noticed a few distinct groups of people. Near the back and middle of the orchestra area and in the seat behind, a lot of folks were dressed up in swingin’ costume – flapper dresses, suspenders, newsboy caps, bow ties, strappy, sensibly-heeled shoes. At the very front of the room was the jeans and t-shirt crowd, punctuated with the occasional flamboyant party costume (a few bad curly costume wigs with headbands and Hulk hands around). Then scattered around and seemingly in great numbers on the balcony level were the folks more on the ‘electro’ side of things, people who were decked out in raver-style neon, short-shorts, spangly bracelets and light-stick necklaces. This crowd was here to party!
Parov Stelar is the stage name of Marcus Füreder, an Austrian musician and DJ known for being a groundbreaker of the genre. He was hardly even noticeable most of the set, however, taking the backseat as it were on a huge black-sheeted podium that seemed to also double as the breakroom for some of his band. Up there behind a set of laptops and DJ gear, he created the ‘electro’, while the band, who appeared one by one, created the swing. First, out came a three-piece horn section, a drummer, and a bass player, followed by the clear and obvious star of the show, the female vocalist and bringer of sass, Cleo Panther. They all started off wearing jackets, but as the first song progressed, layers were shed, a Cleo Panther’s classy cabaret jacket was turfed in favour of fishnets and shiny red shorts to show off those gams and pearl-bedecked bustier. Along with a slicked-back ponytail and a brimmed black hat, she looked like a cross between a flamenco dancer and a bull fighter. “Vancouver, we are very curious about you. So tell me, are you ready to have fun?,” she asked, addressing the room. She has a wonderful saucy way of swiveling just her hips while her upper body stays put, and her voice is strong and powerful. She summoned the balcony, to this point seated, to get up as they had come all the way from Austria, so it was the least they could do. She sashays around, cavorting with the band members, doing routines with a hand fan, and occasionally disappearing off stage to let the boys have the spotlight. I kept expecting a costume change from her, but that was never the case. Behind the band, a huge screen projected visuals of all sorts, but lots of hand-drawn birds.
The horn section was also super cheeky and animated and a delight to watch. They hobnobbed with one another, and only one of them actually spoke, Marc Osterer, the trumpet player – he was from New York, not Austria, but explained it was everyone’s first time in Canada, and they were quite impressed with the beautiful people and place. “I was going to ask how you all were feeling but I think you just told me,” he said, as the crowd cheered so loud that he couldn’t speak for a while. He played a superb minxy muted trumpet solo during one tune (*wolf whistle*). The beats this all rested on were super punchy, definitely driving you to dance and move. People were utterly ballistic. From my perch on the front row of the balcony, I witnessed those glowing necklaces being flung all over the room, hands int he air, and crowd just alive with undulating energy. The balcony level was much the same – at one point it dawned on me just how much the balcony level was shaking under all the dancing people and I got to wondering if that was supposed to happen or if we were in danger of collapsing it. while I began with space on either side of me, before long a trio of girls had shoehorned their way into the two empty spots beside the guys who were beside me, and two other girls had climbed over the backs of the seats down the middle of the section and shared the space of one seat. They had their shirts rolled up under their bras and hair up to get as cool as they could but they thrashed and danced like mad up there, yelling how much they loved the band down off the balcony between tunes. The best quote of the night to sum that place up was overheard from a woman behind me addressing her friend: “The air in here is sweaty.”