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Column: LA/LA LAND – LA’s Parlor Social brings the Canadian side to a threatened “NAFTA of Music”

Patrick O’Heffernan

(Bel Air, CA)  This week the LA Times added an insert in its morning edition entitled MXLA: Knocking Down Walls about “a NAFTA for culture.” The insert focused on cultural trade between LA and Mexico, which is huge, especially in music. I cover this ongoing exchange on my weekly radio show MusicaFusionLA, interviewing Latino artists, bands, producers and record execs from both sides of the border. But there is another side to the “NAFTA of culture” in LA — Canada. The Canadian side was in full force Wednesday night at Herb Alpert’s legendary Vibrato club when Parlor Social let loose on stage to a bi-national room of Canadians and Americans.

Parlor Social founders Dessy Di Lauro and Ric’key Pageot met while working in Canada’s  number one cultural export, Cirque du Soleil, where Dessy learned to sing swinging from a harness 60 feet up (she was afraid of heights at the time) and Ric’key played the piano and keyboards (he now tours with Madonna). The pair developed a musical style they describe as “Cab Calloway, Lauryn Hill, and Outkast had a love child, it would sound like Parlor Social.” They also got married, assembled a seven-piece band (often with a floor show and dancers,) and decamped to LA.

But Dessy and Ric’key are by no means outliers; many other Canadian artists are sprinkled throughout the Hollywood hills and LA neighborhoods. Canadian Alanis Morissette moved to LA in the 90’s after her career exploded when LA radio station KRQR-FM began nonstop play of Jagged Little Pill. Maggie Szabo, the fast-rising pop singer from Hamilton, Canada, settled in LA after a stint studying songwriting in Nashville. The Manitoba band Twin was famously cited twice for canoeing down the LA River (yes, there is one and it has water and fish in it). The Canadian presence also extends to music promoters and agents like Sera Roadnight from Sherbrooke, Canada, whose Magic Tree Productions is the go-to place in LA to boost the careers of emerging bands both American and Canadian. And of course there is no shortage of Canadian actors who grace the City of Angels, like Jim Carrey.

Parlor Social’s gig at the Vibrato Grill and Jazz club in the hills overlooking the multimillion dollar homes of basketball stars and movie producers was evidence of the Canadian audience for music in LA and that audiences wide tastes. Parlor Social had just returned from a tour of Canada and New York where they packed Ginny’s Supper Club for multiple shows featuring jazz, rock, and some pretty wild urban music. And then they flew home to LA where Canadian and American fans filled Vibrato’s plush seats for back-to-back shows. Conversations in Canadian French buzzed across the tables as Dessy and Ric’key greeted fellow north-of-the- border transplants who were as at home with Parlor Social’s hot jazz there as they were at the band’s rollicking urban “hep hep” music at The Mint rock club back in June.

Social Parlor

A quick look at the gig lists in LA’s many showcase clubs reveals a constant flow through of bands and artists from Canada, bringing creative juice with them. This artistic mixing is now in danger. US border authorities have started charging thousands of dollars in permit fees to Canadian bands and forcing them to wait months for visas. But US bands pay only $250 (or in some cases, nothing) and cross quickly. The Canadian Independent Music Association (CIMA) just published Over The Border And Into The Clubs, a 75-page report detailing how the threat to the “NAFTA for culture” is causing music companies in both countries to miss out on revenues.  This is nowhere more apparent than in LA where clubs, producers, promoters and studios benefit hugely from the talent coming down from the North. Creative Canadians like Dessy Di Lauro and Ric’key Pageot and Parlor Social who moved here long ago are a huge asset to the music industry in LA and the nation and an example of why the NAFTA of culture should go both ways.

Next week: The underground parking garage concert happens this weekend

Previous – La/La: Intro A pool party press conference for an Argentine trio (#1) |  A New York African Bee playing guitar in the backseat of my car in LA? (#2)


Patrick O’Heffernan, PhD., is a music journalist and radio broadcaster based in Los Angeles, California, with a global following. His two weekly radio programs, MusicFridayLive! and MusicaFusionLA are heard nationwide and in the UK. He focuses on two music specialties: emerging bands in all genres, and the growing LA-based ALM genre (American Latino Music) that combines rock and rap, blues and jazz and pop with music from Latin America like cumbia, banda, jarocho and mariachi. He also likes to watch his friend drag race.

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