Parquet Courts know what Parquet Courts want. They’re self aware, experimental and on track to become one of marque indie rock acts of the 2010s, the same way Spoon and the National were for the aughts.
Evidence? Their signing to Rough Trade brought two new releases in the “Monastic Living” EP and the “Human Performance” LP. The former will be remembered as a mostly lyricless manifesto who’s sole purpose seems to be an insult to the music biz, while the latter sees them reaching new heights of melody to match their already killer rhythm section.
Of course, I would not have to provide any evidence if you were at Union Transfer Jan. 31, when the quartet brought down the house with a murder’s row of a setlist of their best work.
Walking on stage after a cerebral set by local harpist Mary Lattimore, the Courts were dressed in casual garb, save for co-vocalist Austin Brown, who picked up his guitar in garb that made him look like a clean-shaven mennonite (more on that later). They kicked things off with a taste of “Human Performance” cuts including the title track they recently played on Fallon. During this opening, Andrew Savage made good work of his name, breaking two strings as he pounded away at his Fender between a laconic delivery of some of his best lyrical work, “Witness and know, fracture and hurt/Eyes in the fire, blink unrehearsed.”
After giving a taste of their most recent offering, the band went into what we could call the “mosh pit” portion of the set. The audience members inclined to tap their feet rather than slamdance kept watchful eyes on Sean Yeaton at the center of the stage.
If the locomotion of his riffs wasn’t enough to keep the beat, then his constant head bopping would more than do the trick. Thrashing his noggin side to side until his hair covered his face like a brunette Sia, Yeaton’s dancing was a constant source of entertainment, especially when Savage and Brown decided to go feedback heavy, as they did in the tailend of “Content Nausea.”
To bring the show to a close, the band returned to “Human Performance” with two of it’s best cuts. “One Man No City” began with a stream of consciousness verse from Brown, who took to explain his get-up, now lacking tie, jacket and hat.
“Well you’re probably wondering why I’m dressed like this. The truth is I woke up drunk today,” Brown mumbled into the microphone before going on a quasi-political tangent regarding walls and desires. This extended version, coupled with single “Berlin Got Blurry,” proved the band saved the best for last and left the fans with a near perfect set, no encore required.
I came in with relatively low expectations for the show, considering how this was the first time many of these tunes were played to a crowd. The confidence of the band in the new work clearly increased during the show, and was helped by a setlist that expertly weaved through the best pieces of their earlier years. Savage denied a fan request earlier in the show and while I’m sure he was disappointed, I can not help but think it was for the better. These four know how to keep the momentum going from open to close and to watch that execution was enthralling.