Celebrating its eighteenth year in style, on Thursday night Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival welcomed Spanish garage rockers The Parrots to the city for the first time. Formed at university in Madrid, Diego García, Alex de Lucas and Larry Balboa brought their scuzzy rock ‘n’ roll to an unusually sunny Ireland, playing – ironically – one of Belfast’s most gothic venues, Voodoo on Fountain Street.
Warming up the admittedly small crowd in the stage area above the bar is local act The Penny Dreadfuls. From the beginning of their set, the 70s influence is undeniable; clad in suede tassels and sporting impressive sideburns, the quintet’s sound is characterised by groove-heavy bass and loud reverb. Their brand of boisterous blues rock would give Ozzy Osbourne a run for his money, accentuated by kickass drumming which melds tracks seamlessly into one another. Raspy vocals recall a Led Zeppelin-style of nostalgic rock, coupled with catchy riffs and a tireless lead singer who culminates his performance by jumping into the audience wielding his guitar. Although The Penny Dreadfuls boast a more than slight vintage flavour which may not be for everyone, they’re an indisputably tight outfit who play a very enjoyable set.
Renowned for birthing some of Europe’s most popular indie rock bands, from Hinds to Los Nastys, The Parrots may just be Madrid’s coolest export. Their garage-cum-surf rock and quirky aesthetic – think dodgy moustaches and football jerseys – have earned them a small cult following, some of whom have now crammed into Voodoo’s tiny second floor. The trio bounce about the stage, howling their almost indistinguishable vocals from their catalogue of short and snappy songs, the majority of which are from their debut LP Los Niños Sin Miedo. The band’s relaxed rapport with fans is obvious; half-empty boxes of Coors Light are visible behind the stage and the crowd is invited to come closer. In response, García yells, “We are The Parrots from Madrid, hope you like this song!” and launches into their infectious, muddy, very DIY brand of garage rock. Whilst the madrileños often hark back to the surf-infused sound of decades past, their influences are unmistakably modern and their delightfully scuzzy noise is a summery taste of the mid 00s.
The Spaniards slow things down with ‘The Road That Brings You Home’ before picking up the pace again with ‘A Thousand Ways’, its bass and thudding drums vibrating the now sweaty venue. The Parrots’ inter-band chemistry is electric, even when García quits lead guitar duties to sprawl about between the amps for Hinds collab ‘All My Loving’. Declaring themselves “los mejores de Madrid” (Madrid’s finest), an almighty and eagerly anticipated ‘No Me Gustas Te Quiero’ gets underway with every word of the chorus chanted back at them (albeit with a lovely Belfast twang). García shares the mike with his arms around fans for the fiery final number, ending perched on the edge of the stage, glistening with sweat under the lights, for a climactic ‘Somebody to Love’.
After such a dynamic set, you’re left with the impression that The Parrots are pretty underrated and deserve a bigger audience, especially going by the humble crowd at tonight’s gig. Although perhaps not bringing anything groundbreaking to the table musically, they put a unique spin on a genre often dominated by the likes of The Hives or Tokyo Police Club. Regardless, the vigour of their live shows can’t be faulted and they’re riding at the crest of the current wave of Spanish indie rock that the world could use more of.