Words by Danielle Chelosky | Photo: Ebru Yildiz
Parquet Courts, the reinventors of punk rock, had remained elusive up until May of 2018, when they hit the spotlight with the release of their critically acclaimed album, Wide Awake! Shifting their sound from hard-hitting garage punk to a post-punk funk concoction, the quartet even found themselves on Ellen DeGeneres’s radar. This may have seemed surprising to some die-hard fans from their Parkay Quarts era, but the manifest destiny for all musicians is the same — reaching out to a wider demographic. They accomplished this by playing their funkiest song, “Wide Awake,” to Ellen’s dance-happy studio audience. Some of these middle-aged mothers found themselves weaving through the crowd at their last show of the year in Hammerstein Ballroom, New York City. The opening act, Sun Ra Orkestra, embellishes that frivolous, free-spirited part of Parquet Courts. The band of a dozen or so musicians swayed around the stage inviting the assembling crowd to dance.
Soon after their set, a nasally Timothy “Speed” Levitch, the poetic tour guide and conservationist of New York segued an introduction to the main act, Parquet Courts, from a history lesson of rock (the geologic kind — a sly metaphor). A. Savage and Quarts began their set with “Total Football,” screaming lyrics like, “Can an institution be dismantled?” to which Ellen fans quickly evaporated from the frenzied pit. As the energy grew to a somatic capacity, the band was visibly in their element amongst a few thousand onlookers. As I peered behind me from the barricade, a wave of cheers erupted from as so far back as the merch table and two balconies above. The first few songs were superlatives from their latest album, including “Almost Had To Start A Fight,” “Freebird II,” and “Before The Water Gets Too High.”
Between songs the electricity was too high for small talk, but Savage assured the audience that we were safe from Santa-Con within the venue. After those hits, Parquet Courts delved into older material from their album Light Up Gold — four sequential songs sung by Austin Brown, the looser and possibly more stoned vocalist/guitarist. Whether it be the nostalgia of that album or the aforementioned garage punk sound of it I’m unsure, but both the band and the crowd transitioned into forces of nature. Parquet Courts — atomic fission; Audience — bouncing photon particles. They continued playing the best songs from their discography, each better than the last, including “Berlin Got Blurry,” “Captive Of The Sun,” and the lesser-known “Bodies Made Of.”
Before researching the setlist, I thought Parquet Courts had outgrown their earlier works — moving onto another chapter of their sound, so I, along with hundreds of others, was out of my skin hearing such early pieces. I had the chance to reflect on that toward the end of “One Man No City,” while Savage, Brown, and Yeaton were jamming away for fifteen minutes or so alternating between heavy bass lines, ripping guitars, sporadic drum rolls, and, of course, the bell and whistle. After this Grateful Dead type session, they began playing “Light Up Gold II/ Sunbathing Animal” at which time I began swimming toward the back of the venue in an attempt to reach coat check before Parquet Courts finishes up. By the time I finally reached the back of the crowd, both songs came to an end with Savage indebtedly yelling – “We’re Parquet Courts —thank you, and goodnight!”
TheWaster.com | New York City