Parquet Courts turned the First Ave Mainroom into a giant mosh pit/rave hybrid on Thursday night. Punk is alive and well thanks to these guys. Yeah I called them punk. This is what I imagine the 70’s punk scene was like, that I missed because I was too busy trading Grateful Dead cassette bootlegs. And while I don’t know them, I’ll bet they give zero f*cks about labels. The band is out supporting their latest release Sympathy For Life. Recorded at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios, this release continues the danceable vibe of their previous album, Wide Awake.
Not since Frank Zappa has a band been able to convey social justice and politically charged themes with such an articulate yet jocular approach. With music that punches you right in the face, kind of a cross between Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Clash, Parquet Courts magically convert the angst of the current political climate with a call to unite in peace and love. Finding common ground in music, a sympathy for life. Full disclosure: I’ve been a big fan since American Specialties, and Thursday night I couldn’t help but feel I was in the presence of modern-day rock sages.
Opening the show Thursday were locals Pit Stop. Kind of a perfect pick to open for Parquet Courts, Pit Stop has a sound that while unique, there is a bit of déjà vu. You can’t really pigeon hole them, they are just a kick ass rock band at their core. The 5 piece played cuts off their 2021 release Pit Stop, and looked like they were having a blast on stage. The twangy “Blue To Grey” had the folks who arrived early two stepping away. But their closing tune rocked unbelievably hard.
Next up was Mdou Moctar. He had a little longer of a commute than Pit Stop. Hailing from northern Niger, Moctar is known as the “Hendrix of the Sahara” It didn’t take long to see why. It’s not that he plays a Strat left handed, he dominates the fretboard like Curry dominates 3’s. You watch, open mouthed, his fingers flying around the neck at hyper speed, as the man rocks back and forth. Notes fly by like magma ejected from a raging volcano. Tone like molten glass, with just the right amount of reverb. Mdou’s band had the Mainroom dancing. Whoever got these two openers is a booking genius.
Parquet Courts opened “Application/Apparatus” off their latest release. Just sit back and enjoy some easy listening music? Fuggeddaboutit, First Ave was rocking with the high energy sounds of disco punk with a sprinkle of Devo, just an amazing show opener. The boys keep the energy in the stratosphere with back to back deep cuts off of Human Performance. “Human Performance” and “Dust” hit hard live. Andrew Savage sang “Ashtray is crowded, bottle is empty, no music plays and nothing moves without drifting, into a memory”. Yeah, that’s punk AF. Keys and drums had a real B-52’s vibe. And that ending, how does Max Savage drum so fast? How do four people sound like 8? Some wack magic happening up there.
And with a bunch of funky bass for your face, the boys launched into the hard and heavy introspective “Freebird II”. Only complaint is that it was way too short. “Plant Life” was nothing short of overwhelming, Sean Yeaton’s dank bass line coming through the sound system, going directly into the hippocampus and taking control of all body movements. Keys and drums meshed together in a psychedelic union. (The video for this tune is a cinematic masterpiece, I think it has a message but…) Flavors of Talking Heads are never a bad thing. The highlight of the evening for me was “Walking At A Down Town Pace” The joy this song brought to the packed mainroom was palpable. Yeaton’s base drives this tune insanely hard, like a trucker with an eightball. The crowd was dancing, the band was jamming, the space time continuum stopped, the Mainroom was the center of the Universe at that moment. Every one of the new tunes they played, “Marathon Of Anger”, “Sympathy For Life”, “Homo Sapien” and “Pulcinella” kicked an incredible amount of ass live. Savage even threw a few lucky audience members flowers.
Parquet Courts show that you can still have fun ragin’ against the machine. These guys are truly a breath of fresh air and we can all have faith in the power of punk again.