LIVE: Dummy Live by On Air presents Arlo Parks
2020 has been a breakout year for Arlo Parks. It makes sense – the year we’ve all spent the majority of confined to our bedrooms is also the year that her brand of lo-fi storytelling through the medium of bedroom pop has risen to the forefront of the indie scene. Beginning with the release ‘Eugene’ and ‘Black Dog’ in May, Arlo has gone from peak to peak, appearing on the covers of NME and Music Week, snagging the AIM Independent Music Award for 'One to Watch' in 2020, and receiving a host of industry support including radio play and even a Times Square billboard placement courtesy of Amazon Music. Now, she has the chance to show her newer fans what an Arlo Parks live set looks like as she rounds out Dummy Live by On Air following Friday and Saturday night shows from Skepta and Octavian.
Whilst one can’t help but pang for an intimate, dimly lit swing/jazz bar setting, Parks, On Air and The Steelyard in London have made quite the effort to create an atmosphere as close as possible. Amidst metal frames, glass panes, and projections of kaleidoscopic shapes and colours, Arlo Parks has perhaps never felt quite as at home. As the band ease into opener ‘Paperbacks’, the excellent, recording studio-level sound quality becomes apparent. The bass, drums and guitar are all clear, prominent and expertly played as Parks wanders into the forefront and begins crooning in her signature effortless tones. As the group move through serene favourites such as ‘Cola’ and ‘George’ into newer songs like ‘Punk Rock Eyes’ and ‘Black Dog’, you almost wonder whether this is a better setting than a larger venue with a crowd. It’s raw, intimate, and feels like a band and singer playing music they love to play, rather than simply performing.
The best kept secret about Arlo Parks may well be the backing band she plays with. All 3 members get their moments to shine with soaring guitar solos in ‘Black Dog’ and closer ‘Sophie’; standout bass moments in ‘Hurt’ and ‘Eugene’ and competent and thumping drums and beats in ‘Romantic Garbage’ and ‘Second Guessing’. At times it feels like the band, with their technical proficiency on full display, are overshadowing their breezy leader as she bops along as if carried by the music. Arlo does indeed have her standout vocal moments though – the middle of the set marks a change in pace as she takes out a little black book of poems she has written. With a lone spotlight on her and her microphone, she holds her book with one hand as she reads her poems ‘2 Mint Teas’ and ‘Salt Tears’ either side of a stripped back version of ‘Angel’s Song’. It really demonstrates her ability to capture a room, and one can’t help but imagine an audience quietly captivated by this.
There is no other way to describe this set as quietly confident. There are few frills, with the focus entirely on the performance. As Parks closes “I always feel super special when I’m singing this (‘Super Sad Generation’) song”, it truly feels that those who tuned in to this stream witnessed a passionate, powerful and special performance.
To hear more from Arlo Parks, click here.