For those of you who don’t already know Parquet Courts or Parkay Courts as the band is credited on their 2014 release ‘Content Nausea’, they are a rock band based in Brooklyn, NY that formed in late 2010. The website Drunken Werewolf describe the band as “indie rock, post-punk grunge.” – just to point you in the general direction of their genre.
I acquired tickets to see the band at the Trinity Centre in Lawrence Hill, Bristol, from a friend who unfortunately fell ill with suspected appendicitis at the last minute (Poor Dave!). Having never been to the Trinity Centre in Bristol I was really impressed with the venue. Formerly the Holy Trinity Church, it is a beautiful grade II listed building decreed by English Heritage.
Entering the venue, I was impressed by the large stage. As a failed musician I always loved playing a big stage, but doesn’t everyone?! The lighting was beautiful and serene; pink and purple beams bathing the stage and dance floor from the rigs above. The effect gave the feeling that I might be beamed up by Scotty at any moment.
The band Housewives were the night’s supporting act and, after imbibing a few sips of my cider, my whole body began absorbing a sustained humming sound that could only have come from a didgeridoo. As it rang out into the darkness of the room I could just make out silhouetted figures moving in front of an almost blinding white light emanating from the back of the stage as members of the band crept stealthily into position one by one. It was a sight to behold.
The air filled with a cloud of fog from a smoke machine adding a sense of mystery bordering on a feeling of angst, and then sound kicked in like the adrenaline shot given to Mia Wallace in Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. Its forceful impact broke the silence like a detonator, the music igniting as the drummer pounded his floor-tom in a tribal beat. I thought the drum head might break at any point; the guitar, bass and keyboards played hard in tight unison.
Housewives received a good reaction from the audience whose numbers had increased as they naturally do towards the end of a supporting act’s set. As for the headliners fans, they knew exactly what to expect from Parquet Courts and had a thirst that could only be quenched by, arguably, NYC’s greatest musical export of the last five years.
I met an avid fan who had the band’s entire back catalogue. He had been to see them over the weekend at London’s Field Day Festival and raved about the performance they gave. When some of the band members started to tune up we made a bee-line to the front of the stage finding ourselves in prime position; centre-stage and about 12 feet from bass player and backing singer, Sean Yeaton.
An air of excitement built up within the hall; the buzz seemingly spreading from the back of the venue to the front of the stage like a domino rally in slow motion as late-comers casually waltzed in. When the rest of the band strolled onto the stage they were greeted by rapturous applause and, after a few last minute tweaks, Austin Brown (who shares lead vocals with Andrew Savage) asked, “Everyone good? Alright, we’ll start now” – his voice reminiscent of the laid back nature of Kurt Cobain when he addressed the audience for the recording of the MTV Unplugged session.
The sets opener, ‘One Man No City,’ from the new album, Human Performance, was a mellow yet catchy song uncharacteristic of the hard rock that was to follow. I was immediately impressed by the band’s sound and was drawn to their riff-based rhythm and I remember them strumming their guitars very little, if not at all. The solos played by the two lead guitarists Andrew Savage and Austin Brown reminded me of Buffalo Springfield guitarists; Neil Young and Stephen Stills and the interplay between the two was mesmerising.
The final half hour was some of the most incredible and energetic live music I have ever heard, no matter what genre. In terms of their sound, it was relentlessly powerful stuff which was matched equally by the bands stamina and physical domination of the stage. I couldn’t believe how tight they were and was really surprised by the quality and intricacy of the song arrangements; all the more amazing because of the high tempo pace. The sweat saturated their clothes and the elongated songs, seemingly ad-libbed, were truly inspiring.
Personally, I don’t really want to see this band make it so big that they start packing out stadiums and riding a sea of commercialism; perhaps that’s a selfish thing for me to say. Regardless of what their future holds, I do hope they enjoy their ride because, well, what a band!!!