Getting Back Into the Swing of Things

Electric-Swing Group Caravan Palace Brings Synthy Modern Swing to Jazz Fest

Zoé Colotis brought down the house with her jiving electric swing band Caravan Palace on Thursday night. Photo Alexander Perez
Caravan Palace’s Zoé Colotis. Photo ALexander Perez. Photo Alexander Perez

Paris based electro-swing ensemble Caravan Palace delivered an eclectic performance at this year’s International Jazz Festival on Thursday night.

The energy in the crowd at Metropolis was high as the band kicked off the show with the song “Comics” from their most recent album Robot Face. It was an upbeat show with little downtime, leaving plenty of opportunity for the spectators to dance to the toe-tapping swing rhythm and head-shaking synths as the two sounds blended to create a transgenerational music experience.

The seven musicians wore matching colors, a few donning dress shirts with ties or suspenders that gave them a look that was reminiscent of classic swing bands. They were a lively ensemble who danced freely to the music they played and demonstrated a great sense of showmanship.

Movements were choreographed to accompany some songs, and the show included a few crowd-pleasing antics such as a “scat-off,” where the singers bested each other at scat singing.

Main vocalist, Zoé Colotis, performed two sets of swing choreography with one of her bandmates that got the crowd cheering. One of the songs they danced to was “Rock It for Me” off their second album, Panic, and perhaps the most energetic of the songs performed.

Caravan Palace’s Zoé Colotis. Photo Alexander Perez.

The song began with a light, bouncy melody coming from a vibraphone, a double bass and a saxophone that got heads nodding. Colotis joined in with fast-paced lyrics sung in the style of a prohibition-era jazz club entertainer, accompanied by a modern beat that was looped as the music swelled into the chorus. The lilting melody progressed into a full blown swing, as her voice was distorted, giving it an instrumental quality.

Along with establishing the band’s performance skills, the set was also a testimony to their experienced musical abilities. The musicians all performed with at least two different instruments throughout the night, each having played impressive solos on all of them, ranging from clarinet to vibraphone to violin.

The setlist featured many songs from , but included numerous singles from their two previous albums, like their first single “Jolie Coquine” from their self-titled debut album.

“The room is humid—I want it to be dripping.” —Zoé Colotis

The band also played one cover of Ram Jam’s “Black Betty” that the crowd seemed to thoroughly enjoy, singing along and clapping to the beat. Colotis encouraged the crowd to sing and dance and jump around during the song as well as throughout the night, which was met with enthusiasm by the spectators.

A part of the show that was particularly enjoyable was the animated lighting that provided well-timed accompaniment to the music. A large white neon sign on the stage in the shape of their logo and title of would alternate to the beat with frequently changing colors from the stage lights, creating a visually interesting scene as set-up illuminated the musicians from different angles.

Caravan Palace had audience members dancing and swinging to their tunes. Photo Alexander Perez.

The band performed an encore, saving their most energetic beats for the end and encouraging the crowd to rock out.

“The room is humid—I want it to be dripping,” Colotis said in French to the crowd before the last song.

The end of their set was met with enthusiastic cheering and shouts from the spectators, so much so that the band came out once more to perform one last song. Afterwards, the musicians came together arm in arm for a series of bows as the crowd applauded a stellar performance, the vocalist brandishing a bra that had been thrown onstage.

Overall, Caravan Palace’s performance was as much a party as it was a show, and the crowd left buzzing with excitement, a little sweaty and definitely satisfied.

Caravan Palace // Metropolis (59 St. Catherine Street East) // Montreal International Jazz Festival // June 28 – July 8