PAROV STELAR TREATS BOSTON TO A NIGHT OF ELECTRO SWING
Written and Captured By | Sam Hwang
When I first arrived at the House of Blues Boston to cover Austrian DJ Parov Stelar, who was back in the United States for the first time in five years for his 2023 North American tour, I was nervous—the line had been worryingly short, and the floor was all but empty. Curious, I learned from staff members that the venue, with a capacity of over two thousand people, was expected to be around half full, and that the entire second level was closed. While this would ordinarily be a cause for concern, the extra space ended up being absolutely necessary; Stelar’s audience had come to dance, and he and his band put on a rip-roaring performance that did not disappoint. Had the venue been any fuller, the crowd’s energy may have torn it apart.
It took a while for the crowd to build up their energy, of course—the task of loosening them up was allotted to DJ El Siciliano, whose throbbing techno beats proved intoxicating. Awash in deep indigo lights, his moody build-ups and drops crashed like ocean waves, with audience members bobbing their heads as though adrift in the sultry sea he created. Though he never said a word, his subtle grins and the flourish of his hands over his DJ deck conveyed an abundance of personality, and made it clear just how much fun El Siciliano was having as he primed the crowd.
See more photos of DJ El Siciliano HERE
Speaking of personality, the audience certainly had it as well. Stelar is well-known for his contributions to the electro swing genre, which combines the jazzy, vintage sounds of swing music with EDM accents to create a dizzyingly energetic retro-futuristic hybrid genre. Both halves of the genre’s origins could be seen as I looked out across the dance floor. I saw light-up shoes and light-up suspenders, but also flapper costumes and suit jackets—a bit of electro here, a bit of swing there, all in the same space and eagerly awaiting Stelar’s arrival.
Or rather, the arrival of Parov Stelar and his friends—while he is regarded as the maestro behind the mixing and production of his electro swing works, the show was really brought to life by the host of talented musicians he brought with him—Willie Larsson Jr. on the drums, Michael Wittner on the guitar and bass, Sebastian Grimus on the saxophone, Jakob Mayr on the trombone, Marc Osterer on the trumpet, and Anduze and Elena Karafizi on vocals. The swing to Stelar’s electro, they put on a dazzling performance, criss-crossing the stage and adding a healthy dose of movement to the set while Stelar remained humbly behind his DJ deck like an anchor, the heart of it all, grounding things visually, sonically, and metaphorically.
As the evening went on, audience members had the chance to boogie to favorites such as “All Night” and “Catgroove,” and boogie they did—as I explored the venue, I moved carefully so as not to bump into fans busting out impressive moves one might have seen in the fabled nightclubs of the roaring twenties.
See more photos of Parov Stelar HERE
Parov Stelar only spoke once during the show—a whispered exchange with vocalist Anduze near the end of the set, just out of earshot of the audience. He gave a good-natured smile from his deck as Anduze waltzed to the front of the stage and said, with mock sheepishness, “Parov said that if we don’t play one more song, the Celtics [who were, at that very moment, playing just a few miles away] are going to lose.” The audience roared with enthusiasm, and with that, the band launched into an explosive multi-song encore, thoughtfully easing the crowd back into the present by remixing Stelar’s “Mambo Rap” with pop hits like Justin Timberlake’s “SexyBack” and Eurythmics’s “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).”
By the end of the show, the crowd was exhausted from having danced the night away, but a sense of satisfaction was present on every face. Indeed, Bostonians had a lot to thank Parov Stelar and his band for that evening—for treating the city to a phenomenal night of electro swing, but also, as I learned on the train ride home, for helping the Celtics secure a victory against the Cleveland Cavaliers, 117–113.