Photos by Terrance Doyle
On a Monday night, the last day of their two-week tour, Parquet Courts squeezed out the remaining bit of energy they had left for their 9:30 Club show.
Guitarist and vocalist Austin Brown told the crowd, “It’s going to be a while until someone sees us play a live show again.”
Before they took the stage, Mary Lattimore opened the night, playing a black and gold harp with effect pedals and knobs sitting in her lap. Her fingers flowed over the strings, music box-like sounds sent out to the crowd with glistening melodies dancing over dense, supporting chords. The entrancing mixture of modern tones and harmonics were novel, Lattimore looping, rewinding and distorting her harp’s natural tone.
She told the crowd about her connection to Astronaut Scott Kelly, breaking her jaw at the same time Kelly was sent into space and healing towards the time of his landing. She felt this connection in learning to be social again and subsequently wrote “For Scott Kelly, Returned to Earth.” While performing the song, the rhythms in her verses were fluid underneath staccato melody.
Afterwards, Parquet Courts took the stage and began playing “Dust” with sharp guitar riffs interlaced with Andrew Savage’s deep vocals. The build-up of instrumentation at the end of the track offered transcendental, euphonious noise that led into the title track on Parquet Courts’ latest LP, Human Performance.
Max Savage’s drumbeat in choruses carried the track as resonating guitar chords were overlaid onto the piece. Palatable melodies satisfied the senses as Austin Brown played keyboard over the rhythm and strumming. Lyrics, full of disillusionment, despair and heartbreak, were served up by vocalists Andrew and Brown, poetry providing an introspective look at life.
“Thanks for staying up past your bedtimes, D.C.,” Andrew told the crowd.
Andrew told the crowd he just got back from the Grammys, after Human Performance was nominated for Best Recording Package. The nomination, and honorable loss to the art director of David Bowie’s Blackstar, was another instance when appreciation of Parquet Courts’ garage rock, art-punk music bled into the popular music world.
Andrew let out a growl, loud against the vibration of Sean Yeaton’s bass in “Outside,” guitars turning out a feel-good vibe. With slacks on, pristine mono-colored guitars rattling and a royal red curtain hanging behind, Parquet Courts was polished and collected, even through the energetic and powerful performance.
As Andrew sang manically on “Content Nausea,” his spit was illuminated by the spotlight as the crowd moshed around. The lights changed to a deep blue for “Dear Ramona” and Brown took over lead vocals. The light and jazzy groove was a direct contrast from the callus energy of the previous track. The crowd sang along at the end of verses, shouting “no” and “Ramona” along with Brown.
In between songs, Andrew jokingly asked, “Is the guy who punched Richard Spencer in the face in the crowd?”
Max brought classic rock ‘n’ roll instrumentation to “Master of My Craft” to add a harsh rhythm while Brown sang. The drums provided a constant under the mixture of instrumental improvisation that the other bandmates engaged in. The piece went straight into “Borrowed Time” with Max’s count off.
Cheers came as the band paused for a few seconds after each verse, inviting fans’ praise. Andrew yelled into the mic, singing so fast it seemed he could barely keep up. But when the chorus came about, he belted it with all of the fire he had left.
Raw and worn out guitar riffs came through in a continuous stream on “Bodies Made Of.” After a calm bridge, a harsher ending came with screeching instrumentation and the band’s energy clear from their jittery movements. The hokey hip-hop song, “Captive of the Sun” killed the vibe of the set a bit, but the last few songs, with commanding drum beats and quivering bass, brought hope.
Yeaton perpetually moved with “You’ve Got Me Wonderin’ Now.” Though the track turned into a cacophony of noise for a bit, the organized sound and melodies could still be heard through it all. Max brought in some cymbal hits for “Light Up Gold II” and everyone followed, clamorous and strumming restlessly. The very loud track, “Sunbathing Animal,” closed out the rush of a night.