Roll up! Roll up! Picture Parlour invite you to enter their rock circus, a spectacle of melodrama, cartwheeling riffs and genuine, delicious swagger. Just after the clock strikes 12.30pm, Brighton’s Zahara club descends into complete darkness, while an unnerving fairground tune plays from the PA. The energy in the room starts to crackle with feverish anticipation. You can only surrender to the idea that this feels like the start of something very special.
Led by vocalist Katherine Parlour, the London-based four-piece are relishing the lore that has built up around their band over the past few months. Having played their first-ever live show at The Windmill in Brixton last December – a mightily influential venue that has been pivotal to the careers of Shame, Goat Girl and Black Midi – the exhilarating musicianship that has come to define Picture Parlour’s gigs has resulted in bookings at festivals across the country, and won them a fan in Courtney Love. On paper, the band are yet to officially release a single piece of music.
“Wow, it’s busier here than we anticipated,” says Parlour, ruffling her two-tone hair in mild embarrassment. You can say that again. Underneath twinkling rainbow lights, the sardine-packed venue – which is housing the Vocal Girls stage this afternoon – vibrates with the unmet demand for space, resorting to a one in, one out policy. The feeling is bolstered by the band’s seesawing, lightly psychedelic songs, which grow in intensity rather than walloping you in the face repeatedly. Throughout ‘Judgement Day’, each yelped howl and spindly solo feels like another spin on a wind-up toy that’s waiting to be stirred to life.
A suave ringleader holding court in a primary coloured suit, Parlour creeps along the stage, flitting between playing the jester as she gently pushes her bandmates, and looking away from the audience completely. Her distinctive vocal timbre adds depth to ‘Gala Day’, a track that sizzles with the brooding, sinister sexuality of Arctic Monkeys’ ‘Humbug’ era, while the goosebumps come out for the ‘Sawmill Sinkhole’, a blast of raw feeling.
‘Norwegian Wood’ – not a Beatles cover – is equally captivating; “Not sure I know my body,” Parlour roars as the track gradually builds, the band working to emphasise the lyric before guitarist Ella Risi rips into a solo. It’s as if they’ve crafted an entire song around that line in order to muster up the courage to sing it – a genuinely moving moment.
Before they finish with ‘Moon Tonic’, stage chatter proves to be tricky, as repeated expressions of gratitude are met with near-silence. Though, at this point, it wouldn’t be wrong to suggest that the atmosphere is simply awed.
Picture Parlour played: