Parker Millsap brings old-soul Southern charm to The Chapel

Skylar De Paul/Staff

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With the raise of a fiddle and the slap of a bass, Parker Millsap graced The Chapel in San Francisco on Tuesday night with his Oklahoma soul and Tennessee blues. Yeehaw, Bay Area.

The 24-year-old singer was met onstage by the rowdy cheers of the crowd, to which he cheekily responded by imitating their high-pitched glee. Millsap had a pleasantly mischievous presence in front of the audience, responding to people trilling their tongues by calling them Cardi B and sending the noise back.   

If you closed your eyes during his performance of “Gotta Get to You,” the baby-faced blues singer transformed into a Southern-charm granddad who probably has a long beard and a house with a wraparound porch. Millsap has an aged-like-fine-wine voice that is shocking when faced with his youthful grin beaming from onstage.

Strings player Daniel Foulks officially started the night’s fiddle frenzy with “Your Water.” Foulks, with his long hair and Dumbledore-esque beard, exuded strong ZZ Top vibes. The groovy Americana tune sent Millsap bending back while lines of pure, soul-quenching blues left his bright red, semi-acoustic guitar.

Millsap let out a little more down-home sound with “Morning Blues,” a gritty song about getting rid of start-of-the-day angst. Millsap’s wild harmonica solos and Foulks’ fiddle explosion transported listeners to Nashville, adding a Southern energy that only those instruments fully succeeded at bringing to the table.

The entertainment wasn’t just led by music, however. Millsap’s passing comments at the audience, such as “sounds like there’s an Oakie in here — security?” made the older crowd roar.

The audience may have been older, but that stopped no one from dancing heartily throughout the show, especially during “Hades Pleads.” Millsap added a new level of percussion on this song, hitting the front and sides of his guitar for a hollow, knocking sound. There are few things as entertaining as being in a crowd of 50-somethings singing about becoming the queen of hell.

The show slowed down with Millsap’s hit sing “Singing to Me.” Drummer Andrew Bones brought a soft percussion section to this song, adding delicate beats, waves of cymbal sounds and subtle shaker action.  

“Other Arrangements,” the namesake for Millsap’s newest album, caused the singer to hold every emotion present in the song on his face, contorting with the moods that the lyrics served. With bass sounds slapping in the background, the instruments came together harmonically but maintained their own distinctiveness.

The beginning of “She” was performed intimately — just Millsap and his guitar. Soon, rim hits from Bones built up the song as it transitioned, a unique melody taking over the venue and showing Millsap’s vocal range.

“Jealous Sun” led to another toned-down performance from the singer and his strings. With a smooth growl and indie vibrato, Millsap sounded comparable to the likes of Vance Joy, singer of the popular song “Riptide.” Foulks joined Millsap with muted plucks of the fiddle strings, giving a hollow sound to the slow ballad.  

Millsap prefaced the song “Come Back When You Can’t Stay” by saying it was “written from the perspective of an asshole.” He quickly clarified that it was not his perspective, but the sentiment and comedic lyrics still raised laughter from the crowd.

Millsap’s voice was perfectly sustained through “Good Night,” an upbeat saloon tune in which he sings, “It was a good day to have a good night.” The powerful notes suited his folk-based vocals, with stylistic breaks and strains.  

A jazz twang flooded the room as Millsap covered “Hesitation Blues,” a traditional song popularized by San Francisco blues band Hot Tuna. The fiddle sang, reflecting the tone of the “Toy Story” soundtrack with quick-fingered notes. The fiddle and the guitar battled for dominance through traded solos — and both of them won.

Millsap put on an energetic performance filled with rootsy tones and given nuance through classic Memphis spirit. Millsap may be young, but his youthful face was filled with heart and soul.

Skylar De Paul covers music. Contact her at [email protected]. Tweet her at @skylardepaul.