All was calm. The bunting had come down from the Jubilee celebrations and I was on my way to my book club when I felt a pulse in my pocket. My friend had messaged to ask if I was going to watch Parquet Courts tonight. I wasn’t. I had forgotten all about it. The train kept rolling and that same pulse ran up my leg again. This time it was Paul from Joyzine HQ asking if anyone could cover the Parquet Courts show tonight. Two messages about one show in five minutes and the south Western railway WiFi actually working; these weren’t coincidences, these were signals from above, saying: a hangover won’t kill you tomorrow. I leapt out of my seat and told the driver to turn the train around. “That’s not how it works mate” he said, “and I’m not the driver”.
After rerouting myself without conversing with any train drivers, I made it to Brixton. Marched straight to what I thought was the right venue and told them my name. “You’re not on the list.” Two different members of staff reiterated this to me. In front of queues of people. How embarrassing! I had missed book club for nothing. I walked off defeated and as I turned to face the gatekeepers one final time before picking up a bottle of wine for the sofa – and partially the train – I saw Jawbox written above the entrance. Not a million miles away, still a punk band, but I’d gone to the wrong venue. Into McDonald’s I scampered for some WiFi and onto the correct venue: O2 Brixton.
Inside the sloped space was filling. Los Bitchos had begun their rhythmic guitar pop. The hooks came through, winding and reaching and punctuating every turn with sharp guitar melodies. When it came time for their We Will Rock You style kick drum galore anthem they asked the audience to clap along, but only if they felt like it. That’s five stars for me right there; measured, unassuming crowd interaction that understands everyone wants to have fun and join in but sometimes you empathise with the plight of the battered kick drum more than you do with any particular songwriter. Everything about their opening set was crisp, sonically it was knitted together perfectly, the synths and keytar only moved where the guitars left frequency voids to be filled.
Next came Warmduscher, dressed in matching white boiler suits and tracksuits. Clams Baker (frontman) began darting around the stage like a naughty child on Christmas eve, only the tangled wires from the microphone anchored him to the stage and his bandmates. The band bombastically steamrolled through the hits from their four records. Disco Peanuts, from their third lit the fuse for the night time, as the ascending disco hook turned anticipation into a high in and as of itself. “Thank you Parquet Courts” he bellowed, “I’m gonna say it again I don’t care it feels good Thank you Parquet Courts.” Clearly in the mood for partying, he went on to apologise for being slow because he just got back from Mexico. Quite what he would have been like if he hadn’t just gotten back from Mexico is something to imagine when seeking to overcome fatigue. Finishing on I Got Friends, the heady feeling of coming up, created only through one riff and a vocal with a lot of delay on it was, well, it was what’s it all about really. I mean this life and the short time we have breathing.
The cinema darkness came before Parquet Courts appeared. Four ordinary men walked out but behind their shadows loomed large, Dracula style. Into Application/Apparatus they went, a collection of malfunctioning electronics made tuneful, an adept choice for a band that wants their audience to pay attention. Each button pressed and syllable mouthed was visible on the shadowed backdrop as the average Joe New York slackers turned themselves into industrial specters. Thanking the audience, the drums came in for Human Performance. Surprisingly the band went on to play three from older records, including a lively rendition of Dust – the audience really related to the futility of dusting and generally tidying. And from their Wide Awake record Almost Had To Start A Fight into Freebird 2, imitating the order of the record.
The band were caught off guard when the audience broke out into chanting their names, as if they had only recently discovered they were popular in England. I was myself surprised again at how enthusiastically people threw their bodies into one and other. Something about the band’s domesticated songwriting suggested a thoughtful and poised audience, but no sure enough, here they were smashing into one another with big grins. I’d have joined in but I’m too pathetic.
The band kept driving, shooting for the ecstasy points through the prism of art rock. They succeeded. It’s a fine thing to see a band play enthusiastically through nearly a decade’s worth of material, or at least it is when the songs are good and Parquet Courts have good songs. Does it mean that the songs they wrote way back when were and are so good that they are still poignant now? Or does it show that the band are still in the same place they were back then and that’s why they’re happy to reach back into their back catalogue? Bit of both is the answer.
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Article by Patrick Malone
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