There’s a strange magic in creating an interesting 90-minute set from songs that for all intents and purposes possess a fair amount of homogeneity. When that set, in the end, turns out to be visceral, vital, and overflowing with verisimilitude in the face of any number of drawbacks threatening to sink it is a trick worthy of David Blaine — minus the inherent bro factor.
Brooklyn’s Parquet Courts turned in a set on Thursday at the Triple Rock that served as a shot across the bow among other things. Other bands take note: Parquet Courts might be out to steal your lunch.
Beginning with “No, No, No!” from their ill-received Monastic Living EP from last year, the band got the ball rolling quickly, singer-guitarist Austin Brown quipping, “From 30 Rock to the Triple Rock!” a reference to their New York roots. From there, they quickly moved into “Dust,” the lead single from their just-announced Human Performance album, due later this year.
There was a lot of Class of ’77 punk in their bone marrow, but an equal amount of lo-fi charm was in the mix as well. The end result is a sound that is reminiscent of all the best parts of Sebadoh's Bakesale, Talking Heads' Remain in Light, and Pavement's Slanted and Enchanted.
“Paraphrased,” another new one, and “Bodies Made of” from 2014’s Sunbathing Animal set the night into high gear, and they pretty much stayed there for the remainder. The quirky, lo-fi, garage-rock gems flew fast and furious, the crowd bobbing their heads — the ultimate Minnesota seal of approval — and spraying beer in the general vicinity every so often. This was technically a punk show, after all, even if the punks on stage more resembled bookstore employees than punk-rock lifers.
“One Man No City” stood out as a particular highlight, along with the fantastic “Borrowed Time” from 2012’s Light Up Gold, a song that still stands as likely their best effort in a sea of best efforts. They slowed down for just a brief minute with “Dear Ramona” and then proceeded to try to blow the doors off the place with “Stoned and Starving,” “Berlin Got Blurry” (another new one), and “Pretty Machines.”
The band had that general “let’s light the place up” look on their faces all night and when they finally did, it was a quite a revelation. In building a band, then songs, then a tight set and so forth, the part where the band has fun sometimes slips through the cracks. But this never seemed to be the case for even a second on Thursday night with Parquet Courts.
They easily and humorously bantered with the crowd, at one point betting a man they could get him to stop dancing by the end of the set and shook on it — “I don’t know what we just to agreed to, really, or who it will benefit,” guitarist/vocalist Andrew Savage deadpanned. At another point, when a woman’s glasses broke from all the jostling/moshing up front, they mock-blamed her then made a bespectacled man nearby give her his glasses.
They were, above all else — even in the midst of melting the paint off of the walls — having fun, and that infected the crowd in the best way possible. Everyone was smiling while bobbing along as the night started to get on — a decidedly un-Minnesotan reaction, but it happened nonetheless.
They wrapped the set up nicely with the blistering title track from Human Performance, a sparkling rendition of “Light Up Gold II” and the disaffected, slow-rolling, “Uncast Shadow of a Southern Myth” from 2014’s Content Nausea, an album which they recorded as “Parkay Quarts.”
“Uncast Shadow” was nearly as perfect a set closer as there is. The story unfolded like Walking Tall on acid, while building to a bombastic release that didn’t actually fully form. It just burst a few times and then it was done. With a simple, polite, “Thanks for spending the night with us, everyone,” they finished the last third of the song and walked off.
No encore, not even a hint of one. There was no need, they’d said their piece and while it could be argued it was the same thing too many times, when it sounds that great, that sort of talk resonates as jaded no matter which angle you hit it from. Parquet Courts may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for the people who buy into it, it’s nothing short of a religious experience.
Critic’s bias: I love Pavement, Sebadoh, and lo-fi garage rock more than the average person. There was little doubt I was going to like this set, but I hadn’t anticipated absolutely falling in love with the band during it. It changed my approach from semi-passive to “I want all their stuff ASAP.”
The crowd: A ton of hipsters and one guy in a drug rug.
Overheard in the crowd: A man and woman comparing notes about their respective last doctor’s visits. I won’t go into detail as I wish I could scrub most of the conversation from my brain.
Notebook dump: This guitar solo [during “Stoned and Starving”] is almost enough to make Lou Reed sit back up and take note.
No, No, No!
Bodies Made of
Black and White
One Man, No City
Master of My Craft
Stoned and Starving
Berlin Got Blurry
Light Up Gold II
Uncast Shadow of a Southern Myth