Ryan Lucas, Chaebin Jeon
Last Wednesday, Parquet Courts swung through Baltimore on an East Coast winter tour, still riding off the success of their 2016 album, Human Performance. WJHU was able to attend, with one of our very own radio DJs seeing the group for the third time live.
Parquet Courts are a Brooklyn-based band, originally out of Texas, who have been considered one of the most-hyped acts in the “indie-sphere.” They rose to national prominence and critical acclaim with the 2012 release of their first album, Light Up Gold. The combination of sharp guitars and witty lyrics led to early comparisons to Pavement and “slacker rock”, though the band insists none of them are huge fans of Stephen Malkmus’ group. Since their debut, they’ve released new music at a blistering pace, with three albums by the full band, an LP made by the two frontmen (Andrew Savage and Austin Brown under the name Parkay Quarts), and an EP. The quality has remained high while the band has refined their sound, all of it leading up to their latest work, Human Performance.
Back in 2015, the band played a sold-out Baltimore show at Ottobar. This time, they graced 2640 Space, an old church converted into a performance venue by the worker-owned coffee shop, Red Emma’s. The building itself is striking, with high ceilings and neo-Gothic architecture. There’s also plenty of wide open space, excellent for tame white-collar moshing without raising the temperature notches too high. While the former church was well worn, the renovations done by Red Emma’s make it tough to tell exactly how dated the space is. “So… is this church new, or old?” guitarist and vocalist Austin Brown mused, to the chuckling of the crowd. That wasn’t the first lighthearted jab at the church’s intentionally “worn down with time” aesthetic, or the church itself. Frontman Andrew Savage joined in- “How many of you are here for the exorcism?”
The new drum cover of Max Savage’s kit was also worth noting. It depicted a black figure and text bubble, loudly proclaiming: “Fight Back.” While their music has occasionally strayed to the political, it was hard not to wonder what exactly these four sarcastic, straight, white guys were fighting back against.
The band began with an almost meditative start, repeating the bass line of their song “Dust.” They launched straight into several songs off Human Performance, including the title track, “Outside” and a blistering rendition of “Paraphrased.” As Savage leaned into the mic, yelling the verses, the energy in the room didn’t exactly match the pace of the guitars. Many audience members stood silently bobbing their heads with their hands in their pockets. After thrumming the last chord of the song, Savage quipped that there was plenty of space up in the front.
Responding to the call to action, college students rushed to the stage to dance as the drum line of “Content Nausea” kicked in. The rest of the performance was rabid and enthusiastically received by those at the front. The night’s highlights included Parquet Courts digging into their back catalogue with the one-two punch of “Master of My Craft” and “Borrowed Time,” as well as the live debut of “Picture of Health”--a song that’s almost five years old.
The band played for over an hour, ending the set with last year’s hit “Berlin Got Blurry,” with a guitar riff reminiscent of the soundtrack to a Spaghetti Western. While the band left without an encore, the concert itself seemed to be a reprise, if not a revival, of the band’s past verve. Bringing high-energy to yet another live performance, the group put on a not-to-be-missed show. Here’s to hoping they make a quick return to Baltimore!
Photo Courtesy of David Andrako
By Ryan Lucas on Feb. 9, 2017, 12:18 p.m.