Review: Parquet Courts @ 9:30 Club
The only late night musical performance that I’ve watched in the last few years live on TV was Parquet Courts on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert last July. My tuning in was more random than anything, but it ended up being an exceptionally exciting performance, as Bun B (looking like a total dad) appeared out of nowhere for a guest verse on “Captive of the Sun.” It's surprising that any Brooklyn indie rock band could link up with a southern rap legend and a testament to the rapid rise of Parquet Courts in the last five years. The band recently stopped by DC’s 9:30 Club for the last show on a two-week East Coast tour, continuing to support their 2016 record, Human Performance. After harpist Mary Lattimore’s hypnotic opening set (and bravo to Parquet Courts for going against the common practice of white male rock bands touring with other white male rock bands), I scanned below and observed a crowd of mostly 20-somethings with some grey-haired fans sprinkled in. At exactly 9:30, Andrew and Max Savage, Austin Brown, and Sean Yeaton took the stage and rolled right into four Human Performance tracks. Guitarists Andrew (the elder of the Savage brothers) and Austin shared lead vocal duties throughout the night in approximately a 50/50 split. The first mosh started during the uptempo “Outside” and was a fixture for the rest of the night, mainly during the punk-leaning songs. Perched in the balcony, I experienced some secondhand mosh-induced stress (I’m not a fan) as bystanders got blindsided, but the participation appeared mostly voluntary.
In comparison to older material, the Human Performance songs show off the more mature and varied approach to songwriting the band has developed over five studio albums. The distinction between old and new songs was clear in concert, often from the first few notes. Many of the older numbers, such as “Light Up Gold II” and the fan favorite combination of “Master Of My Craft”/”Borrowed Time” saw drummer Max Savage dialed into a fast, no-frills beat compared to the more languid style with more attention paid to his floor toms seen on many of the Human Performance songs. Andrew has also toned down his deep rapid-fire vocal delivery in favor of more traditional singing. Stylistic differences between albums aside, the crowd reacted positively to the whole setlist and I saw kids screaming every word to lyrically dense sprints like “Sunbathing Animal” while simultaneously getting shoved around in the pit. It perfectly represented Parquet Courts’ intersection of intellect and rawness.
Parquet Courts aren’t a band that take themselves too seriously and they happily chatted a few times between songs with the crowd. Topics included punching Nazis, Andrew’s trip the day before to the Grammys (where he was nominated for Best Recording Package), TED Talks, and their muscular t-shirt mannequin in the merch area. They mocked an annoying jeer of “Do you listen to Pavement?” but ironically, the next song in the setlist was “Steady On My Mind,” perhaps the most Pavement-esque song in their discography. The showcase song of the night was “Captive Of The Sun,” which started with Austin doing his best David Byrne spoken word delivery (with some dancing mixed in) and transformed into a huge noisy jam sesh, complete with Andrew on his knees in front of his amplifier, absorbed in the weird pulses of the feedback.
The full performance showcased an evolving band that is equally confident with its past forms as its current one. It is always exciting to witness a band supporting their strongest record yet — you get the feeling you’re witnessing something you’ll brag about later. Parquet Courts are poised to continue their creative ascent, which hopefully means many more great shows at the 9:30 Club.
By Nick Adams (@nadamsnadams)