Parquet Courts

by Rory Boyle

_Photo credit: _Getintothis

In May of this year the New York-based Art Punk outfit, Parquet Courts released their sixth studio album, Wide Awake, to universal acclaim. The record combines invigorating guitar and basslines with excellently-crafted indictments of the social climate in America of late. Angry and sardonic but quietly optimistic, it’s been my favourite release of the year to date. Unsurprisingly I was excited to catch their performance at the 02 Ritz Manchester last Sunday.

Doors opened at 7pm with support act, Music City, slated to take to the stage at 8. What struck me was the diversity of the crowd at the 02, ranging from older Mancs adorned in Fred Perry and Pretty Green and younger fans in Demarco-esque windbreakers and dad caps, to severe punks in torn-up clothes coming together to thoroughly pack the venue. The stage design was sparse, with the most eye-catching aspect being the blank canvas curtain hanging behind the instruments.  Music City had joined Parquet Courts on tour following their Dublin show, though frontman Conor Lumsden has worked with Courts’ A. Savage previously. When the Irishmen set up for their slot, they received a cautiously warm welcome. Their set was accompanied by a display of blue and violet lights which was compatible with their sound, 90s pop-rock style songs which were simple and straightforward but enjoyable. Lumsden drew some chuckles and groans from the crowd with some cheeky quips about Brexit and the city’s footballing partisanship. The highlights of their set were when they played their as-of-yet only released tunes Do I? and Pretty Feelings. Overall, they did a sufficient job of warming up the spectators for the headliners and will most likely see their streaming numbers increase healthily, leaving the stage to a more genial response than when they arrived.

Just before Parquet Courts came up the lights cut out, save for some bright white lights illuminating the back canvas. The crowd livened up and energised as they saw the band walk out, and clamorous cheers bounced off the walls. As the band stood perfectly still, silhouetted against the canvas a calmness took hold. A single wailing guitar note rang throughout the venue, building until suddenly the band the lights and, the crowd all came alive. They launched into their opening track, Total Football, and the backdrop became emblazoned with bright colours in an excellent light show. Only a few of the lighting fixtures faced out into the crowd with the rest put to work bouncing vibrant colour and the outlines of the bandmembers against the back canvas in an impressive shadow play. The song ended to rapturous applause and calls of “Fuck Tom Brady”, but they wasted no time to soak it in or catch breath before going straight into their next track, Dust off of their previous album.

If the lights were active, then the crowd was zealous. When the band stormed into their vitriolic outburst on the frustrations with “morbid modern life”, Almost had to start a fight/In and out of patience, those in attendance seemed to embody that spirit and take it out on each other. I’ve heard it said that Parquet Courts can’t be called punk, to which I would say get yourself down to one of their gigs. After they had played their anthemic Freebird II some of the crowd decided to get in on the joke, calling out requests for the same songs between each track, to which co-lead vocalist A. Savage responded curtly that they knew what songs were on the setlist and that those making the joke should calm down and was immediately mocked by Austin Brown (the other co-lead vocalist) sarcastically yelling “Woo! Everyone calm the FUCK down!”.

About mid-way through the set Courts played the title track from their May release Wide Awake, a track drenched with the influence of Talking Heads. The track has groovy samba-style percussion with which the band were assisted by a mysterious figure, Diego. A few songs later was, as A. Savage informed us, a treat which was revealed to be the live debut of the recent record’s closing track, Tenderness. They finished as strong if not stronger than they had opened, playing one of the much-requested tracks, One Man No City with a five-minute-long instrumental outro which bled into fan favourite, Light up Gold II. All throughout the atmosphere was electric and during these farewell songs the floor felt like a trampoline. If you have the chance to see Parquet Courts on this tour, I can’t recommend it enough.

Parquet Courts will be playing in Bristol at SWX on the 10th November.