[ATTENDED: January 31, 2017] Parquet Courts
I was under the impression that Parquet Courts had been around for a while (they have 4 LPs and 3 EPS out), but they formed in 2010 and their first album to gain notice was released in 2012. They’re just really prolific.
When I heard they were playing Philly I grabbed tickets right away assuming it would sell out. I don’t think it did, but that didn’t stop it from being a really enjoyable, if brief, first concert of 2017.
I thought of Parquet Courts as a pretty punky band–some of their songs are quite noisy and fast (and short). But just the other night I watched them play, “Human Performance” on TV and I was quite surprised to see how kinda dorky they all looked–Oxford shirts and sweaters and the like–not stereotypical punks at all. Which was cool.
I had arrived plenty early and was only one person from the stage when they started (not always great for sound but great for pictures).
I was standing right by lead singer/guitarist Adam Savage (whose mannerisms and delivery reminded me of Napoleon Dynamite, but you know, melodic). Center stage was bassist Sean Yeaton–the “wild” man of the band–shaking his hair and making jokes and wearing a long-sleeved T-shirt.
On the right side was the other guitarist/singer and occasional keyboard player Austin Brown (who looked an awful lot like Beck, especially in the beginning when he was wearing a suit and fedora. And then in back was drummer Max Savage whose drum head was awesome.
They started out by playing three of the four first songs on their current album Human Performance. (They skipped the weirdo track “I Was Just Here” a song that I rather like (and, come on it’s only 90 seconds long), but I can see that it didn’t fit the flow). These songs are kind of slow and the crowd was intently watching.
The end of “Dust” was fun because Austin played the keyboards while playing the guitar–all of the weird car horn sounds from the song were on his keyboard. I particularly enjoyed the end of the song where he was playing keyboard notes with the head of his guitar while also playing chords on the guitar. “Human Performance” was great to see up close, because I hadn’t notice that Adam strums slowly throughout the song while the rest of the band plays a different pace.
“Outside” was fun for the backing sing along (and less than 2 minutes long). And then they jumped to “Paraphrased” the first noisy song on the record. This song has quiet moments and loud moments. And during the few fast heavy moments, some of the more excitable fans started slam dancing a bit.–I’m always right on the edge of the pit, it seems.
And then they played Content Nausea from their Parkay Quarts EP. This is a faster song (with a military drum beat) although the lengthy middle part is slow with Savage reciting a lengthy spoken word section. Again, the crowd tried to get a pit going but this song wasn’t going to do it.
Austin said that the last time he was here (2015) he was in a cast, but he was better now.
They moved back to Sunbathing Animal for “What Color is Blood?” This song got the crowd going. But the dancing was really furious for the one-two fast and heavy punch of the first two songs from Light Up Gold “Master of My Craft” and “Borrowed Time “(and the way the segue into each other on the record was how they segued them live too). By the end of these songs I was several people back from the stage and a blonde girl landed on her ass right in front of me. I helped her up–which was a harder than I imagined. She nodded to me, checked her glasses and then jumped right back out there.
They slowed things down a lot with the mellow song “Dear Ramona” (sung by Austin). And then they jumped back to Animal with “Bodies Made Of” another song sung by Austin with a lot of backing vocals from everyone else. By this time Austin had removed his hat and jacket and was in a shirt and very loose tie (he said he didn’t know how to tie it).
Someone had shouted for “Black & White” and they played it–another fast and furious song that the dancing was pretty wild for.
Although it clearly wasn’t a “request” performance.
Around this time someone shouted something and Adam acknowledged him–thanking him for the mail. He said they got the song requests but they weren’t going to play any of those songs, sorry. He said one of those songs they’d only played five times–and only finished it three of those times. Although, he said that the fan’s knowledge of their back catalog was quite impressive. He asked if the guy’s dad was there and he was–and Adam commented on how nice it was that a father and son were at a show together. He said his first show was Smashing Pumpkins and The Rolling Stones (and Matchbox 20–which got some applause, I guess they are from Philly, and Dave Matthew Band–which got some boos). He laughed at the boos and apologized that his first show wasn’t cool and hip like The Toadies (that was his second show).
They played “Vienna II” from Light Up Gold (another 1 minute song) and then “Captive of the Sun”–two songs in which all three of them sing pretty deadpan.
At some point a girl with very big hair got in front of me (which was pretty annoying). But when Adam thanked us for letting them play a lot of songs from their new album, she shouted “Do It!” And he looked at us and said “We will!”
They played “Steady on My Mind,” another really slow song. The guys next to me started talking through this one, which was pretty rude. But my friends Liz and Eleanor gave me really good ear plugs for Christmas and while I could tell there were people talking I couldn’t really hear them at all, so I wasn’t bothered by them.
“You’ve Got Me Wonderin’ Now” from the other Parkay Quarts EP, and “Light Up Gold II” were slam dance songs–although really not fast enough for the kind of slamming that went on.
Perhaps the most interesting song was “One Man No City.” On record the songs sounds very Talking Heads. But live they extended out the song int a noisy feedback jam. It started with Austin talking to us about all kinds of things, including Resisting the shit’s that going on. The whole band got in to this jam–I enjoyed watching the metronomic precision of the drummer for this whole song while both guitars were hunched by their amps squalling feedback and solos while Sean and Max held the groove down.
Adam said that this was the first show on their short tour. They were heading down to Washington DC in a few days and he invited us to come down and say some things to the guy in the White House. Because that’s sure what he planned to do.
Then Sean stepped to the mic. I thought he was going to say an interesting politic comment. He began “As a great Philadelphian said…. this is our last song.”
They played “Berlin Got Blurry” which has recently become one of my favorite songs. I didn’t quite love the live version as much as the studio for some reason. But that didn’t matter because it was fun hearing it. And I wondered what they’d do for an encore.
Well, I needn’t have wondered because there wasn’t one. I don’t recall the last show I went to when there wasn’t an encore. (I gather the band just doesn’t do them).
The abrupt ending was quite a surprise and I looked at the time and saw that they’d played for about 75 minutes. Granted they played 18 songs, and it didn’t feel like a particularly short show, but wow–I guess that’s punk.
The internet has allowed me to check other shows to see if they always keep their shows so short. The night after ours they played one more song–“Pictures of Health,” which was a live debut (why didn’t we get a live debut?, but more importantly, why was it the first time they’d played a song from their 2012 album?).
I was intrigued to see that they’d played 8 of the first 9 songs on Human Performance, the first five songs on Sunbathing Animal, the first 2 songs off of Light Up Gold (and one later song) and the first song on the Tally EP. No deep cuts for this band!
Overall, the show was a lot of fun–they played every song I could have hoped for (well, I would have liked to hear “Stoned and Starving” as well, but…). And really, 18 songs is a pretty great show. And, yup I’ll admit it, it was nice getting home not too late as well.
What Color Is Blood
Master of My Craft
Bodies Made Of
Black and White
Captive of the Sun
Steady on My Mind
You’ve Got Me Wonderin’ Now
Light Up Gold II
One Man No City
Berlin Got Blurry