Rowdy Crowd’s Enthusiasm Carries Otherwise Detached Punk Performance


Effie Kline-Salamon

From left, Parquet Courts members Andrew Savage on guitar, Max Savage on drums, Sean Yea- ton on bass and Austin Brown on guitar bring their breed of loud, punchy post-punk to the ‘Sco last Saturday night. Energy from the crowd was high during the mosh-heavy show, but the band’s surprisingly rigid personae ultimately detracted from their performance.

Olivia Menzer

A warning to future audiences of Parquet Courts: Prepare for sweat, bruises and at least one split lip in the inevitable mosh pit. Despite the fact that all three were present when the band stopped at the ’Sco Saturday night, the lively, aggressive atmosphere still felt ultimately more like a pillow fight than a knife fight. The Brooklyn quartet has already released two LPs since forming in 2010 and are hot off the release of their first EP, Tally All The Things That You Broke. Their second full-length album, Light Up Gold, garnered enough praise to raise Obies’ expectations for Parquet Courts’s March 1 show, although they didn’t quite live up to the hype.

Following the calculated apathy of postpunk opener Protomartyr, a timely sound check let the crowd build excitement. When Parquet Courts took the stage, the wall of music they created made a few things immediately clear. Loud and punchy with a hint of grungy twang, the music virtually commanded the audience to mosh. While a conscientious listener could pick out separate vocal, bass, guitar and drum lines, for the most part, the elements melded together as a force to compel the audience’s kicking legs, thrashing elbows and expectant hearts. While the energy became subtler on quieter songs, the band’s music always remained forceful.

The audience quickly learned that it would need patience to fully enjoy the show. Parquet Courts’s riffs and steady, driving drumbeats came only when the band wanted, and the musicians wouldn’t be moved by their audience’s response. This internal focus was beneficial when the band moved swiftly from crowd favorite “Master Of My Craft” into “Borrowed Time,” sounding elated and purposeful. On the flip side, Parquet Courts lowered the show’s intensity with a song like “Yr No Stoner” or “N Dakota” regardless of the crowd’s hyperactivity. While these unexpected low-key moments can be a highlight from a DIY punk and garage rock band, from Parquet Courts they seemed almost calculated.

Considering the headliner’s genuine, almost innocent lyrics and straightforward, energetic music, it was strange how the audience seemed more excited than the ’Sco’s performers. This show was less an interaction between writhing, sweaty college students and responsive indie-punk-rock warriors than a resolved and deliberate showcase of a group that knew exactly what they were going to do ahead of time. The wall of music was there, and it was loud, but there was no negotiating. The members of Parquet Courts are serious musicians who know how to craft a particular product, and on Saturday it seemed like they stifled their creativity to hang out in the lo-fi, undemanding sector of we-don’t-give-a-hoot punk rock, with just enough deliberation to seem disingenuous. While the show sounded and felt like post-punk, it was missing rage, tumultuous happiness or abandon. The overall effect was like getting a vegan brownie when all you want is dark chocolate and a joyride in a stolen police car.

Parquet Courts’s song “Light Up Gold II” exemplifies the good aspects of the band: whiplash-worthy head banging, a reason to get mad on a Saturday night and shove that guy from math class. Ultimately, however, the audience was left panting and wanting more when the band left without an encore — and not in a good way. To a point, these gaps between what the audience wanted and what they got made sense. The band is on a long tour traveling all over the world, and Oberlin College isn’t necessarily a hot locale. But while Parquet Courts could deliver the music expected, they couldn’t bring the energy. The show was exhilarating, to be sure — but when your genre is post-punk, the majority of your concert’s excitement should not be coming from the crowd, as it was during this concert.