Review — Parcels Reach for Immortality at Red Rocks

Parcels played an absolutely packed Red Rocks on Monday. From the moment of the show’s announcement, there was this feeling of it being something special surrounding it. The Australian-born, Berlin-based band rarely comes to the States, so it feels like a true occasion when they do. Besides a much-lauded stop at Bonnaroo over the weekend, this show would be Parcels’ only stop in North America. As a result, the show was one of the most hyped of the early summer, a fact reflected by the overflowing crowd who bore witness to a dance party that transcended this earthly realm and became something that will live on etched into the rocks as well as the hearts of those in attendance until the end of time. The show was beautiful, nearly perfect if such a thing exists, the kind you remember and smile about for years to come, its warmth nestled gently in your chest for the rest of your life.

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Opener Molly Lewis hit the stage promptly at 7:15. The very picture of elegance in her blue ball gown shining like a clear sky, Lewis is an artist quite unlike any other. She’s not a singer but a whistler. Her band plays soft backing music reminiscent of bossa nova as she whistles melodies on top. It made for pretty wonderful music to settle in during as people clamored for spots, grabbed drinks, etc. After some palpable skepticism, the crowd really seemed to get into it once settled. It was rather hypnotic music, ethereal and spellbinding, and many there had never seen anything like it before. Still, 45 minutes was about the perfect amount of time for such a set and it came to an end at 8 as promptly as it began.

As soon as Lewis and her band left the stage, electricity began to pervade the crowd. The mostly seated audience began to stand, laughing and making friends with those around them as this crazy anticipation hung in the air like some deity watching over the proceedings. It didn’t have to hang there long as Parcels hit the stage right at 8:30 to overwhelming applause.

They started slow, each member coming out one by one, starting with keys and guitar player Patrick Hetherington, who waved to the crowd briefly before playing the first notes of their set. He was followed by keys player Louie Swain, who added another layer, then guitar player Jules Crommelin. The three of them built this bright crescendo that was then accentuated when bass player Noah Hill came out to join. Finally, drummer Anatole “Toto” Serret came out, and the show got underway.

Parcels stayed in this intro jam for a minute, letting it build organically until it evolved into “IknowhowIfeel” and the dance party began, the crowd’s arms raised as if in worship. From this point on, the show moved fast as the song then became “Myenemy” before eventually ending up as “Lightenup,” one of their biggest hits. They moved through these seamlessly, each member making the most of their time on that stage. Throughout the night, they’d move to the front of the stage and sit or kneel or lie down, looking at each other with their backs to the audience, their smiles shining as bright as the slowly emerging stars. The fun they were having was contagious and emanated out through the oversold venue, creating a true feeling of love that each audience member felt as they moved to the music almost against their will as if they had no choice but to groove.

This willingness to use the space also denotes a confidence not always seen when a band plays a venue as storied and revered as Red Rocks for the first time. Watching Parcels play, one would think they lived on that stage, their home there on display in the shadow of the rocks. It was genuinely inspiring how comfortable they were in their talent and each other, making those who bore witness to it stand a little taller and feel a little more at home in their own skin. That’s a hallmark of a great band: seeing them allows one to understand themselves a little better and feel a bit more at peace in this wild world.

The band spoke to the crowd for the first time around this point, asking them if they were cool for a long set before moving into “Theworstthing,” a slightly slower tune that has this big, Pink Floyd-esque chorus that threatens to entrance. It evolved into “Closetowhy,” and eventually arrived at the fan-favorite “Somethinggreater.” The crowd was all in at this point, singing each lyric to the point of ripping vocal chords and they got the fuck down through the young night.

They followed this up with a bit of a deeper cut, “LordHenry,” an absolute funk masterclass that opens with this huge cinematic orchestral piece before dropping into groovy madness. Parcels are known to encourage remixes of their songs, often doing it themselves. This was on display as they pushed the song into its more house-y interpretation dubbed “LordHennessey.”

Parcels then followed this up with a block of absolute bangers played into each other without missing a beat, starting with “Shadow.” It then became the song that got many interested in Parcels in the first place — this writer included — “Gamesofluck.” It’s such a joyful tune, so bright and powerful with this moment in the chorus where the band goes “HUH” that just feels primal coming from the depths of the soul. They followed this up with yet another of their biggest and most beloved songs, “Tieduprightnow,” the song that arguably brought them into international conversation.

Next came something totally unexpected: a stripped-down bluegrass section of the show that saw the band switch to acoustic and reunite at the front of the stage, Serrett bringing a snare and brushes along with him. They said, “Colorado loves bluegrass, right?” and kicked the section off with a twangy interpretation of Wheatus’s “Teenage Dirtbag.” That Parcels would play this song at all is rather mind-boggling, but for them to do it as a bluegrass tune was the last thing anyone expected. The song came out in 2000 but recently had something of a viral moment over the last couple of years, and the crowd sang every word. The section then lasted for three more songs, the traditional “Jailhouse Blues,” “Fox on the Run” by Manfred Mann, and finally, an acoustic version of their own “Comingback.” It was a fascinating part of the show that proved how versatile Parcels truly is.

The set began to wane as they moved back to the electric instruments, starting another block off with “Overnight” which then led into “Hideout,” “Stumble,” and “Ascend.” Another band might take an encore right around this time, but Parcels apparently didn’t see the point as they launched into “Free,” another beloved tune and potentially one of the best songs written in the last decade. It evolved into “BeMyself,” and their set came to an end. They returned to the front of the stage to bow — which many in the crowd reciprocated — and said goodnight. The music seemed to hang in the air for a while after they left the stage, contorting itself into memory as the audience basked in the feeling of having witnessed a truly historic show that will live on in the ongoing story of Red Rocks forever.

All Photography Courtesy of David Cohn

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