As a singer, songwriter, producer and self-taught multi-instrumentalist, Brittney Parks, better known as Sudan Archives, has created an expansive and distinctive sound, a world that spans geographies and centers itself in authentic lyricism and signature musicality. Parks’ sophomore LP Natural Brown Prom Queen, released Sept. 9, recontextualizes the idea of home, and on the night of Sept. 27, she offered audience members at The Independent a glimpse into the home she is building.
The night began with opener Dirty Bird, who kept introductions to a minimum by simply saying, “I’m going to play some house music for you” and inviting the audience to dance. His set inspired movement to various levels of commitment ranging from light head bobbing to full-out dancing beneath the central disco ball, setting a tone for audience engagement that continued throughout the evening.
The stage of The Independent was adorned with balloon columns reminiscent of the sort one might pose in front of at a school dance. Armed with black platform boots, Parks entered the stage to the seductive beat of “Home Maker” with a pink sash reading, “Natural Brown Prom Queen” and her violin in hand. She expressed excitement about the show being the first sold-out night of her tour, saying “Y’all really f—ing with me.”
As a performer, Sudan Archives put forth all dynamic energy, making full use of every corner of the stage as she danced, shredded on the violin, rapped and sang. She even indulged photographers and people recording on their phones by performing into the camera. While her performance was deliberate, it also felt fluid and inclusive, like the confident host of the best party of the year.
Keeping up with the prom theme, Parks lended her sash to a lucky audience member to be her “prom date” for the night. The set list spanned her discography, with plenty of tracks from her newest release such as “Loyal (EDD)” and “Ciara.” But, she also spent ample time on older projects, notably “Confessions” and “Iceland Moss” from her 2019 album Athena.
Parks explained that her love for the violin evolved from an interest in fiddling, and she asked the crowd to clap along as she played some “fiddle sh—.” The violin was a centerpiece of her stage presence, acting as an extension of her body whether she plucked or bowed. Under Parks’ direction, the violin, which in many western contexts can be seen as a stiff instrument, behaved as a performer itself, dynamic and joyful.
A highlight of the set was “Freakalizer,” before which Parks took off her platform shoes, saying, “It’s time to get comfortable now.” Toward the end of the track, she disappeared from the stage and reappeared in the audience, clearing out a dance circle for her and her “prom date.”
The show felt intimate as Parks introduced each song, even stopping and restarting “ChevyS10” to make a toast to her personal favorite song from the new album. Towards the end of the set, Oakland-based rapper Queens D. Light joined Parks to help perform “NBPQ (Topless),” which she helped write, inviting audience participation as the crowd screamed to Parks’ call and response during the infectious hook: “I’m not average.” It was a room filled to the brim with people who believed that statement.
Considering Parks’ level of energy, her set’s length was impressive. Alongside a booming and perhaps ear drum-damaging bassline, Parks brought just as much energy to “Selfish Soul” toward the end of the set as she did to earlier tracks of the night. After leaving the stage following “Homesick (Gorgeous & Arrogant),” the crowd cheered for more. Parks returned for two final songs, ending with one of her earliest releases, “Come Meh Weh.” She ended the night by passing out roses to the crowd and thanking the venue.
Watching Parks perform feels like a celebration of the culmination of work and artistry that has brought her to this moment — as well as an exciting preview for all that is to come. As she steps off the stage, one gets the sense that Sudan Archives is only just getting started.