New York's post-punk outfit, Parquet Courts, took to the The Novo Los Angeles on Jan. 23 to a youthful crowd, bringing out a crude sense of enjoyment on stage. Matched with crowd surfing and bursts of moshing, the posh venue saw blistering rushes of defiance swings - which strayed away from its normal commercial booking - and hailed more so to the likes of a dim lit dive bar with better acoustics. Hitting the road in support of their latest album, Wide Awake!, the quartet presented more than their DIY ethos, but of a growing ensemble who have polished their craft since their early catalogue.
Promptly kicking the night off at 8 p.m., Snail Mail, the solo project of Lindsey Jordan, slowly emerged beneath guitar distortions and warm drums. The atmospheric sincerity and indie ballads conceived by Jordan tugged on the crowd's heart strings and mesmerized just the same. Cut from a similar cloth of an alternative, classic from the '90s, Jordan's riff-heavy lead and thick vocals almost conjured up the chemical aftermath if D'arcy Wretzky and Billy Corgan would return together on stage. Performing with her full band, the Baltimore singer-songwriter ended with several solo performances such as "Stick," and a cover of "The 2nd Most Beautiful Girl in the World" by Courtney Love.
The night continued to appease the charismatic mood swings of adolescents, and simultaneously, the dormant traits of a seasoned spectator who unraveled in the pit. Almost an hour later, the Texas transplants hit the ground running on stage with "Total Football." Immediate responses were received from the crowd and stomps were in full motion as the band swarmed through recent tracks from Wide Awake! and Human Performance during the first half of the night. Transitioning from a turbulent filter to a more lo-fi, melodic drift, guitarist Andy Savage took to the omnichord for "Before the Water Gets Too High," as vocal duties were smoothly passed over to co-frontman, Austin Brown, on "Dear Ramona."
Barred with quick wit and an unapologetic assertiveness, Brown's interaction with the crowd playfully skidded from track to track. Shouts to "turn it up" made its way to Brown's ears as he sarcastically responded that he must've had the knob to zero. Continuing the conversation with bassist Sean Yeaton's lighthearted mockery, the two eased into a dumfounded conclusion as they examined their instruments. Breaking the levity, A. Savage bluntly interjected, "Listen lady, we turned it up now you turn it down," as he unintentionally gathered cheers from the crowd.
I traveled in the belly of the pit and instantly became transfixed on Yeaton's singular sways and energetic, dulcet bass lines, which were as hypnotic as drummer Max Savage's impeccable timing. Pushing through a mass of sweaty bodies from "Borrowed Time" onwards for the quick classic, "Donuts Only," Parquet Courts skillfully continued to present ambience and garage rock. While A. Savage's shouts punched each line of social commentary, the humor and funky soundscape separated the outfit from similar garage rock bands. The early aggression that consumed the band's existence met an agile evolvement, as lyrics juxtaposed sound into refined art rock.
An expansive and spacey quality was felt on "Back to Earth" as the instant crowd pleaser "Wide Awake" extracted a magnitude of dancing fans. Once again breaking into a lighthearted humor, Brown noted that this was the moment they went into the "encore portion" of the set and plunged into the final two tracks, returning on lead vocals for "Bodies Made Of" and an extended version of "One Man No City." The instrumental break of the track led a feeling of an impromptu jam amongst the band and focused on technique and longing, experimental chords. Last minute crowd surfers melted and swayed alongside flashing lights.
Bouncing through their discography, the quartet rode an eternal adrenaline that kept the crowd engaged without excessive visual fluff, but rather an acquired conscious of stage control. The Novo's stage was minimally dressed in a white backdrop which played with the member's shadows and movements, further fueling their experimental sound. They gathered moshes on their political commentary tracks, dances from their vivacious melodies, and somber head nods on their complicated croons about love. Parquet Courts reached a different and exciting plateau of their careers with a performance and sound of immense versatility. The crowd came to be whisked away in the throes of angst and Parquet Courts delivered more with ease.
Finishing in Los Angeles for their North America leg of tour, Parquet Courts continue in New Zealand and Australia