Tuesday, April 15, 2014

PREVIEW: Caravan Palace w/ Bombino - 4/16 @ Roseland Theatre

Caravan Palace
with Bombino
Roseland Theater - 8 NW 6th Ave
Wed, April 16, 2014 - 8pm / 21+
$20 Door

Posted by Matt 
Host of "Subterranea"
Tue 10-11pm / Thu 11pm-Midnight
facebook/SubterraneaPDX  |  @subterranea 


“Electro Swing” is characterized by the heavy reliance on classic samples from people like Ella Fitzgerald, the Mills Brothers, Duke Ellington, and the whole range of music released mostly on 78s from the 1920s, 30s, 40s.  Add to that an electronic beat, and often, live instruments and the result is the hyper-addictive hybrid known as “Electro Swing."  It has exploded the past dozen years, emerging from the contemporary dance clubs of London and Paris, spreading worldwide through the internet. 

The broadest definition of Electro Swing is the combination of classic sounds with whatever modern style, sonic tricks and emerging technology of the present moment.  It’s a search for greater elegance and perhaps a steadying connection to the past.  And it compliments highly the versatility and limitless energy of those original swing, pop and jump blues shellac records.

In taking a loose, evolutionary look at Electro Swing, one might point to the 1980s as the prehistoric birth of the genre, beginning with the 7-minute long super-medley, “Hooked on Swing,” which in 1982 made it to #31 on the Billboard Pop chart.  It was followed up in 1983 with the mega-hit remake of Irving Berlin’s “Puttin’ on the Ritz” by German artist Taco who blended the gracefulness of the original song with a hugely catchy early post-disco beat.  Taco’s full-length album, “After Eight,” expanded on his retro-modern sound and some tracks even include scratchy samples much like the current Electro Swing trend.  

Taco - "Puttin' on the Ritz"

While the 1990s were filled with a number of neo-swing and retro bands like the Cherry Poppin' Daddies (from Eugene, OR), the Squirrel Nut Zippers and the Ditty Bops, these groups stayed essentially true to the original sound, without crossing into the hybridization of Electro Swing.  There were occasional one-offs, like Lucas With The Lid Off” (1994) by UK artist Lucas Secon, an interesting blend of classic samples and rap.

But it was 2003’s breakthrough of the UK's Real Tuesday Weld that saw the aesthetics of Electro Swing coalescing into an actual genre.  The Real Tuesday Weld (aka the Clerkenwell Kid, aka Stephen Coates) started to make his distinctive music after being visited in a dream by Al Bowlly, the 1930s British dance band star.  His work essentially founded the structure for what is now broadly known as Electro Swing with its repetitive vintage loops and driving beat.   

The Real Tuesday Weld - "Bathtime in Clerkenwell"

In 2005 Austrian DJ Parov Stelar, released the first of a series of Electro Swing records on his own Etage Noir label.  YouTube is populated with dozens of videos with people dancing frantically and infectiously to his high-energy mixes.  

And then in 2008 came the French group Caravan Palace, whose self-titled album exploded on the charts in Switzerland, Belgium and France and online, their sound igniting worldwide interest in Electro Swing.  (They have a total of three albums - 2008’s “Caravan Palace,” 2011’s “Clash” and 2012’s “Panic”).  The three key members of Caravan Palace actually met in 2005 when they were hired to perform swing music for vintage silent pornographic films (which could have potential as a hybrid genre itself).  They’ve managed to move Electro Swing from the domain of solitary DJs with a computer into a live band experience, replete with vintage samples of course.  

Caravan Palace - "Rock it for Me"

Bringing it back to the “Music Where You Live”… the Electro Swing scene has been expanding here in Portland.  The key group being Sepiatonic, founded by Eric Stern (Vagabond Opera) and belly dancer Karolina Lux.  Also roving around the Northwest is Seattle’s Good Company ("Good Co."), an amazing 6-piece group of young jazzheads who have become big in the Steampunk scene.  They appear regularly at Portland’s biggest Steampunk event, GEAR Con, which takes place every year over the July 4th weekend.  And which, due to the recent demise of Seattle’s venerated Steam Con, makes it the biggest Steampunk event in the entire Northwest. 

Good Co. – “Chinatown Strut”


  1. Great article! Adding to "music where you live" theme, local DJ, GlobalRuckus, has been bringing electro-swing artists, the likes of Dunkelbunt and Max Pashm to Portland for the last 5 years and has had his hand in one way or another in majority of the electro-swing events happening in Portland, including opening for Caravan Palace last summer. He's now teaming up with electro-swing DJ, TheBrund, to put on semi-regular electro-swing events, the next of which will be at the Alhambra Theater on May 18th, when they bring the Italian based Sweet Life Society (whom GlobalRuckus played with at London's Electro-Swing Club back in 2011) to Portland. Currently a subsequent event in June bringing the SwingRowers also from Italy is also being worked on with more to come. A facebook page for all things electro/ghetto-swing in Portland has been started at https://www.facebook.com/electroghettoswingpdx . See you all on the dance floor.

  2. Kurt - thank you!!! For the FB page for future info, and for the Alhambra show...