Future Perfect Radio correspondent Patrick Fitzell brings us a review of The Parlotones live in Chicago. Enjoy!
Chicago, IL - Breaking into a new market can be difficult in any industry. It takes a committed, positive-thinking, motivated individual or group to gain even the slightest amount of recognition for their artistic abilities. When the Parlotones outgrew their South African musical habitat, they began a worldwide tour that has now brought them to the land of opportunity, the final test to attain rock stardom. Last night at the Bottom Lounge, the Parlotones explained backstage why they are prepared for the challenge, then proceeded to shake the high warehouse brick walls with their unique brand of intellectual dance music.
Kahn Morbee, the statesman and lead singer of the group joined drummer Neil Pauw and guitarist Paul Hodgson over 12 years ago in Johannesburg, ZA. Soon after they began jamming, Paul's brother Glenn added his ivory tickling and bass slapping skills to round out the band's sound. Through many late nights and long journeys sometimes totaling 8 hours to play one show, the Parlotones persevered and became national phenoms.
South Africa is a culturally diverse country still figuring out a way to organize and present the multitude of artistic styles based there to the population. The lack of quality mid-level venues in the country does not make it easy to cultivate musical talent such as the Parlotones. "There isn't enough infrastructure to actually provide for [local rock bands]," Morbee said with slight disappointment in his voice. Also, for better or worse, "there's not a big enough audience for one style of music to feed it, to sustain it." That reality, however, presented the band with an ultimatum: stay in South Africa or take a leap of faith and bring the stories and hopeful messages of South Africans to the world.
Dressed in black from head to toe, save for scarlet neck ties, the Parlotones opened the set with the single "Life Design." The recently released album Stardust Galaxies has already reached Platinum status back home. Much is due to the aforementioned lead single that pays homage to dedicated people who have overcome obstacles and adversity to attain their goals. It may serve as the band's mantra as they continue to be well-received at each stop across North America, Chicago included.
With South African flags waving and vuvuzelas trumpeting (thought you'd never hear that hum ever again, eh?) the Parlotones felt right at home on the Near West Side. Morbee's sweeping vocals on "Giant Mistake" sent the crowd into an uproar. Then Glenn grabbed the spotlight for a delicate piano solo to begin the romantically tragic "I'll Be There." Female audience members could not contain glass-shattering screams of enjoyment.
Don't assume the adoration causes amnesia among the band members. "It wasn't a quick or easy path to success," Morbee explained. "There were a lot of obstacles in the early days. You start to cherish the good moments...and not take them for granted." Their humility shines through in the countless ways the Parlotones give back their time and social status to champion worthy causes in Africa such as United Against Malaria and POSI+IVE Rocks.
From carting around a P.A. system in their van to playing at the 2009 South Africa Presidential Inauguration, the Parlotones' journey to stardom at home has not been the most direct. Though their tour across America winds along from the West Coast to the Northeast, the Parlotones are on a direct path to achieving great success.