It had been a hot March day, but unlike the possibilities of summer by late afternoon it was clear that the heat wave was not setting in. As clouds darkened and swirling gusts grew so too did my apprehension for my friend Claire who was hosting Parlour’s next installment of Voix D’or that night. I arrived to find Claire, an incredible spread of food and the backyard set up with chairs, cushions, lamps and even a plush rug atop the brick pavers to create a cosy environment befitting of the intimate show we were about to enjoy.
The only thing missing was wet weather shelter. With the clouds peering down eager to partake in the festivities and BOM confirming their 80% chance of doing so at the 8pm set time, things weren’t looking good. Nay found a beach umbrella somewhere in the garden. This was subsequently concocted into a Tower of Babel rising from uneven paving to a stool to a pot plant- to the umbrella perched comically aloft. The comedic joy was enhanced by the fact that the night was to feature an audience of mostly architects. Fortunately someone had a tarp.
Unfortunately it wasn’t just the clouds that were threatening our enjoyment of Voix D’or’s smooth sound. The 21-year-old neighbours were gearing up next-door pumping techno with vocal overdubbings that sounded like chipmunks. The apprehension grew. Luckily they too must have realised how bad their chipmunk music was because it was turned off without confrontation before the gig started.
So when Voix D’or kicked off their sound check with a sultry rendition of Chris Isaac’s ‘Wicked Game’ we all flooded around relieved and ready to enjoy the music. Lena stood poised under the tarp with her head occasionally scraping its underside and her beauty lit up by the lamps. Her songs revealed stories of love, loss, whimsy and invention. My favourite was about the life she had created for a man that she would watch from her apartment. I enjoyed the invented life she described in the song like a good book, like it was mine. I also felt a little less strange myself that there was someone else walking around imagining the lives of the strangers about them. In between songs Leena chatted to us about the stories behind them, she included us and it served to enhance the connection between us not as performer and audience, but as people.
BOM’s reputation remained intact as after a few songs the rain joined us, and umbrellas quietly popped up respectfully maintaining sight lines. The rain got heavier and then eased off, but aside from the deft raising of umbrellas and hoods we remained transfixed.
After the show there was a relaxed and happy rapport about the backyard and a collective feeling that we had been privileged to share in the experience. At a gig that would normally be the end of your connection with the artist, and like Leena, you would be left to invent the life that she leads. But the house concert turned into a gathering of friends in a home. Amidst the warm mingling I had a fantastic conversation with Leena, we discussed surface things like what we study and deep things like our vulnerabilities. It destroyed the invented life I had made up for her, but the reality was far more enriching and meaningful. Thanks to Voix D’or for sharing your music. Thanks to Parlour for bringing us this concept. Thanks to Claire for being an incredible host and as always creating an atmosphere that promotes everyone to relax and enjoy the company of others.
Review by Hannah Robertson.
Photography by Sarah-Jane Hollow.
Video by Glenn Luck.