There is a profound level of intimacy kindled at an Arlo Parks show — and given the sheer weight of the 20-year-old singer and poet’s songs, there’s more than enough tinder to fuel her ardently human recitals. Luminous and triumphant, Arlo Parks was a hearth of lucid compassion, one that the sold-out crowd at the Echoplex earnestly gathered around to find some peace and grace in the safe spaces her songs invoke. It’s a sentiment perfectly elucidated in the radiant verse of Collapsed In Sunbeams, the opening track and poem of her debut album. The night prior, Arlo Parks made her Los Angeles debut with a very intimate performance at the Moroccan Lounge.
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About halfway through her set Parks took a minute to read the poem from a small notebook (later tearing the page in threes to give to a trio of fans to share), jokingly calling the moment an excuse to catch her breath. But there in the dark, Parks lifted her words from that page with a fiery intent, capturing all the wonder and pain of life in all its lambent beauty. Ending it all that vivid examination inwards with an outpouring of outward affection in its final line: “You shouldn’t be afraid to cry in front of me. I promise.” Arlo fosters a tempting offer of openness, of safe passage through your own attempt to grow and navigate life’s discord.
New York six-piece Michelle opened the night at the Echoplex, a blazing vision of the future of pop. A genre-shifting collection of lush vocal harmonies and beatific pop soundscapes delivered via the band’s four singers (Sofia D’Angelo, Layla Ku, Emma Lee, and Jamee Lockhard) and two multi-instrumentalists (Julian Kaufman and Charlie Kilgore). Performing songs off their debut album HEATWAVE like the euphoric, hook-filled anthem “THE BOTTOM,” the collective dredge-up a vibrant nostalgia for the boy/girl bands of 90s pop, but one unrestricted to sequestered and antiquated notions of gender, sexuality, and identity in general. Leaving the feel-good antics of Michelle’s explosive live shows to bask solely in the gravity-defying limits of their deliriously optimistic and spirited sound.
Words: Steven Ward
Photos: Bryan Olinger & Steven Ward