What's a Caravan Palace?

Submitted by Josh Grossman on Thu Jun 8 4:31pm

In a word, Caravan Palace is fun. An integral part of the worldwide Electro Swing movement, Caravan Palace, based in Paris, France, takes traditional 1920's jazz sounds and mashes them up with electronic pop beats - think Django Reinhardt meets Daft Punk; picture flappers flitting to funk. The result is upbeat, high-energy, danceable music which is sure to get the Phoenix moving when they stop in on June 26.

I recognize a group like Caravan Palace might pose a bit of a conundrum for some concertgoers. Is it electronica? Is it jazz? However you choose to categorize their music, it is clear they put on one heck of a live show. They don't simply perform; they put on an immersive sound and light extravaganza, as if they want to transport their audience to a different time - simultaneously backwards to the 1920's and forwards to some unnamed future. Check out this performance from the Trianon in Paris:

I'm impressed here by the sheer energy on stage, and the musicianship on display. Yes, there are backing tracks, but the Caravan Palace sound would not be complete without the live instruments. If fact, the mix of live (vocals, guitar, trombone, clarinet, bass, violin, percussion) and electronics creates for me a level of intrigue: what's being played on the spot, and what's pre-recorded? How will they recreate the sounds recorded in studio? That they pull it off so convincingly adds to the appeal of the show. Here's a great example: the beginning of the tune is obviously recorded; but then we can clearly hear the acoustic sounds of the guitar, vibes, bass and snare drum. Later, the live clarinet mashes seamlessly with the recorded track. Once the groove starts going, it almost doesn't matter anymore which is which (with bonus dancing at 2:15):

Caravan Palace is, at its root, dance music - a characteristic which, fundamentally, it shares with jazz. And they're clearly on to something. Given the rise of steampunk both as a genre in science fiction and a general aesthetic (Darcy James Argue at one point called his Secret Society a "steampunk" big band), Caravan Palace is tapping into the nostalgia for a bygone era - albeit a slightly fictionalized version of that bygone era, where electronic beats go hand-in-hand with charleston rhythms. In Toronto, ElectroSwing TO's monthly event regularly fills Revival to capacity. In fact, we've got DJ Medicineman - founder of the ElectroSwing TO movement - opening up for Caravan Palace.

So - what can you expect from a Caravan Palace show? Compelling music, undeniable grooves, and a compelling live show. One thing is for sure: it's going to be unlike anything you've ever seen. For one last taste, here's the official music video for their first smash single, "Jolie Coquine":

Caravan Palace takes over the Phoenix Concert Theatre on Monday June 26. Doors open at 8 pm. Buy tickets now or, for more information go to their concert page.

Josh