Things aren’t the best right now. The news repeats the same things over and over again –– the oceans are rising, inequality runs rampant and most recently, we’ve been confronted with the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. It’s so clear that we’re all living in a deeply tumultuous time.
But luckily, Parquet Courts knows this too. The band understands this pain and feels exactly the same rage.
Parquet Courts is a New York-based rock band that has been releasing music regularly since 2011. Its music gives a breath of fresh air to indie rock music, which has had some anxiety within the contemporary music scene. As hip-hop continues to dominate the charts, rock music has seen its own role in society diminish. Indie music artists face the options of selling out in a new stadium-rock style or capitulating to a poppier sensibility. Last Thursday at The Fillmore, Parquet Courts stood out as a response to these easy ways to success, remaining faithful to its own craft.
Good music is determined by hard work, not by the best PR or the most tickets sold. Parquet Courts has a stripped-down integrity that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Yes, its performance was a concert, but at the same time, it was simply four guys who put in a lot of time and effort to make each song the best it could be.
The show was incredibly exhilarating and affirming. Opening the show was Gong Gong Gong, a relatively rock band from Beijing. Tom Ng and Joshua Frank strummed in unison, creating a sonic landscape that evoked both the gritty vibe of the West and the frantic and crowded world of urban China. Its stark sound is similar to Beach Fossils. And yet this starkness and Ng’s incantatory singing also remind one of Los Saicos or the Sonics, in that it makes up for the simplicity of the lyrics with the powerful energy of the band members’ own performance.
One remarkable aspect of Parquet Courts was the band members’ intense professionalism. They each knew exactly what they were doing at each moment, working methodically through each song and building the momentum up to higher and higher points of elation. Their solos were always interesting, but the complexity never muddied how fun and invigorating the music was. Instruments were replaced seamlessly if a new sound was needed, and guitarist Austin Brown would occasionally break out a whistle to keep up the frenzied noise.
An incredible line in the song “Total Football” captured the feeling of the audience: “collectivism and autonomy are not mutually exclusive.” The crowd was large but polite, exuberant but never abrasive.
After playing “Almost Had To Start a Fight/In and Out of Patience,” one of the most hyper and excited songs on Parquet Courts’ latest album, Wide Awake!, the band transitioned smoothly into the more mellow “Before the Water Gets Too High.” The audience seemed exhausted from dancing, yet the band continued to serve incredible song after incredible song. The members of the crowd got only a moment between each song before they were sent right back into fervent dancing and shouting with the band.
During that day, all news outlets had their full attention on the Kavanaugh case, one of the most frustrating and mind-numbing recent events; it certainly isn’t outside of the norms of our time, but more so symptomatic of them. Parquet Courts didn’t say anything about this overtly, but the music of Wide Awake! is resolutely political. Nothing’s going to change overnight — there’s a long and hard road that we’re going to have to go down together. Stay vigilant, stay safe and try to stay sane.