Parallels at The Hotel Café

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Navigating the streets of Hollywood on a Saturday night is not easy, to ridiculously understate it. There are literally thousands of people clogging the streets, from all walks of life, heading to all manner of places. Most are headed to stand in long lines to pay to stand in longer lines to buy a drink, and to finally dance for maybe forty five minutes to a DJ who no one’s ever heard of but is someone who deserves to have his name on a marquee.

I was on my way elsewhere, to an alleyway on Cahuenga Boulevard. Down that alleyway, behind all the storefronts, was a door that led into the Hotel Café, where I’d be seeing one of my absolute favorite bands, Parallels.

Parallels is a synthpop trio from Toronto, Canada. Holly Dodson provides vocals and synths, her brother Nick is on drums, and on synths, guitar and backup vocals is Artem Galperine. They’ve seen their way through two albums and were featured on the soundtrack to an Oscar-winning short. I’ve personally been a fan for a year and change; their sound intoxicated me from the first verse and I consider them a gateway band to all things synth and retro. So it was with much excitement that I sat as close to the stage as possible and waited for the show to start.

The Hotel Café itself has a good reputation for seeing bands “up close” and is conducive to seeing folk artists. It makes sense; there are tables set up very close to the stage, and the lighting and stage layout is pretty much meant for people staying very still. Still, the band plugged in with relative ease and got the show started soon after I sat down. For those unfamiliar with the Parallels sound, I would say it’s a special blend of Madonna, Pat Benatar and Depeche Mode, with icy cool modern synth sensibilities to hold it all together.

Holly introduced the band in a sweet, polite, almost shy way before tearing into their first two songs. It was absolute synth heaven. I will compliment the Hotel Café for having great acoustics, even if they don’t really encourage dancing. Nick had an awesome moment toward the end of the third or fourth song where his drum solo completely eclipsed the tapestry of synth hanging in the room. After that, Parallels kicked into a primer of their music. Beginning with Electromotion, they played ‘Moonlight Desires’ (an amazing cover of a Gowan song; check out the video and thank me later), ‘City of Stars’, ‘Things Fall Apart’, ‘Ultralight’ and ‘Midnight Voices.’

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Holly reminds me of synthwave Stevie Nicks. Her vocal style is both tantalizing and soothing and she does well showing passion with restraint, fun and exuberance with a laser focus on providing a quality experience for the audience member. The set did feel a little brief, but I’ll chalk that up to this show being scheduled at the last moment.

My one gripe, and this is not with the band at all, is the lack of people in the venue. Holly and the band were affable and infinitely thankful to a fairly empty room. I was happy that I had finally gotten to see one of my favorite bands play live but I was a little frustrated for them because of the low turnout. I know that Los Angeles is a town full of live music, so no one room can expect to be packed, but I also know (I KNOW) that Parallels is a band well-overdue for some serious attention. They’ve already put in much more genuine work than a lot of acts out there and it’s clear that they love what they do. Success is a process, not an event, so I suppose they’ll get the love and attention they deserve soon enough. And I suppose I’ll fondly remember the night I saw them in an empty room, shook Holly’s hand, and thanked her for coming to LA.

I hope this will be just the first of many shows here, because Parallels is a hugely talented band comprised of genuinely cool and likable people, which is rare in this town. Diamonds in a city of hard rocks, if you will. I do have it on good authority that we’ll be able to witness the synth magic that is Parallels towards the fall season. Until then, I’ll be waiting on this bustling street, so full of people but yet so lacking in joy and music.

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