WRITTEN BY: PAUL BURKE
Parquet Courts kicked off its mini two week tour at the Union Transfer on Jan. 31. The tour, which hits just 13 east coast cities, promotes the group’s Grammy-nominated 2016 album, “Human Performance.” The Texas-based quartet has cranked out four solid albums since 2012, and has cemented itself as one of the most consistent acts in indie music. Every album features a wide variety of sounds, ranging from punchy punk tracks to more mellow, straightforward garage rock tunes.
Philadelphia’s own Mary Lattimore, a solo harpist, opened the night. Lattimore performed each night of the tour. She played three instrumental tracks, each clocking in at about ten minutes. Lattimore’s harp was plugged into a pedal board on her lap, equipped with reverb, delay, and a looping function. The basic format of each song was very similar: Lattimore would play a part, put it through the looping pedal, and continue to add layer upon layer until it sounded as if there was a 20-piece harp ensemble on stage. This was far from what I expected from a Parquet Courts opening act, but it turned out to be not only one of the most interesting openers I have ever seen, but one of the most impressive as well.
Following Lattimore’s performance, the main event took the stage. It wasn’t until after Parquet Courts had played four songs, all from the new record, that they would speak to the crowd.
“Four songs in and I’ve already broken two strings,” said frontman Andrew Savage as he set down his guitar. “We’re off to a great start Philly.”
The boys spent a good while talking to the crowd, before diving into five older, heavier-hitting songs, including fan favorites “Master of My Craft,” “Borrowed Time,” and “Content Nausea.” The juxtaposition of the vocal melodies and the instrumentals on these tracks is incredible. Never before have I seen a song with such monotonous, deadpan vocals delivered with so much energy.
The group followed this formula for the entire night, performing four or five songs, then taking a few minutes to talk and interact with the crowd, while re-tuning guitars and adjusting equipment. This structure, along with the overwhelming amount of older audience members, yielded a much more casual, relaxed concert experience. The breaks in the action offered time to both simmer down and build a connection between the crowd and the musicians. Topics of discussion included past experiences in Philly (when singer/guitarist Austin Brown performed with a broken leg), the new M. Night Shyamalan movie, and where to get more beer.
“The twist is they tell you what the ‘M’ stands for,” said bassist Sean Yeaton, in reference to Shyamalan’s latest film, “Split.”
The group was incredibly poised on stage, clearly showing that the members are very comfortable in front of crowds. Not only was it evident that they value their fans, but they truly care about interacting on a personal level and leaving a lasting impression on the audience each night.
Parquet Courts ended the night with two of the best songs from “Human Performance.” While the rest of the band began playing the intro of “One Man No City,” Brown delivered a two minute political rant in his signature deadpan style. Brown continuously told the crowd to “rise up” to challenges, oppression, and anything else that gets in your way.
Right before he started to sing, Brown said, “Our next show is in D.C., so you guys can come with us if you want, and we can go beat up the dumb [expletive] that lives in the White House.”
The crowd erupted, and Brown began what turned into a 10-minute rendition of “One Man No City.” This was followed by “Berlin Got Blurry,” a twangy western inspired cut. The group pulled no bells and whistles during this song, giving on a flawless performance before saying their goodbyes and walking off the stage.
Parquet Courts managed to put on an extremely passionate, energetic show while also remaining calm, cool, and collected. A more mature audience paired with extended crowd interaction gave the night a controlled and intimate feeling throughout. With a consistent stream of great albums, and what seems to be a highly devoted fan base ranging all ages, I can’t see Parquet Courts falling out of the spotlight anytime soon.