Review: Arlo Parks and Her Hazy Back-to-Back Stop at The 9:30 Club

On March 23rd, Arlo Parks played a show at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C. in support of her recent album My Soft Machine. Since it opened in 1980, the 9:30 Club stage has been graced with performances by legends that range from Nirvana and the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Tony Bennett. On Saturday, Arlo Parks joined these ranks of music’s biggest names as a performer at the venue with two back-to-back shows. 

Parks was accompanied on stage by Sam Harding on bass, Dani Diodato on guitar, and drummer James Fernandez. The group has been performing together for over five years, and their chemistry is palpable! Parks’ striking soft, mellow, and airy vocals were met with a strong, shining performance by her bandmates. Parks’ accompaniment rocked out on solos and really shined through on ‘Devotion, ‘Too Good’, and ‘Softly’. The band gave an electric live performance which can’t be heard on the record. 

In addition to making space to highlight her band, Parks put an emphasis on the stories behind her songs. Parks took time between each to connect with the audience – sharing stories and excerpts for almost every track. Notably, Parks reflected on the origins of ‘Eugene’ and her emotional connection to ‘Blackdog’. Before ‘Eugene’, Parks referenced a relationship that left a damaging residue on her. The song speaks to Parks’ experience of being hurt in the past. This experience stunted Parks’ ability to be vulnerable with a new partner. With ‘Eugene’, Parks explores what it’s like to come out of a smothering, damaging relationship and move into a connection with someone who is patient and gives you the space to be open. 

As an intro to ‘Blackdog’, Parks mentioned that it was a very emotional song for her to sing. The track centers depression and offers comfort to people seeking help. Because of its tender-hearted message, she knows it resonates with a lot of people. In honor of the song’s discussion of mental health, she dedicated ‘Blackdog’ to anyone who was having a difficult day. Before starting the song, Parks invited the crowd to “sing this out as a reminder that things do get better and that you deserve help.” 

Parks’ lyricism transcends music, as she has taken up poetry. In 2023, in addition to her album, Parks released a book titled “The Magic Border: Poetry and Fragments from My Soft Machine.” For a peak into the world behind Parks’ lyrics, check out her book which can be found here.

For even more Arlo Parks, catch her performing again in the fall as a supporting act on Mitski’s tour!

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