Concert review: Parquet Courts at The Orange Peel
Parquet Courts’ Wide Awake! is one of the best albums of the year. The New York City rockers’ unlikely pairing with producer Danger Mouse resulted in an expansion of the quartet’s indie/punk sound, adding exciting instrumental layers to the ever-improving songwriting of Austin Brown (guitar/keys/vocals) and Andrew Savage (guitar/vocals) without compromising the band’s raw edges.
While more upbeat tracks, namely album and show opener “Total Football,” translated well to The Orange Peel stage on June 5, the less raucous ones took a more rickety form, missing whatever production glue that holds them together in their recorded versions.
Listeners curious of the device behind the chill electronic grooves of “Before the Water Gets Too High” were treated to Savage busting out a torso-sized Omnichord, which he cooly played like a futuristic harp, but there and with fellow album standout “Freebird II,” Parquet Courts’ traditional guitars, bass, keys and drums set-up delivered decent yet largely skeletal renderings of these well-rounded compositions.
Similarly, the full sonic qualities of the slower-paced “Mardi Gras Beads” fit nicely on Wide Awake! before the battle cries of “Almost Had To Start A Fight/In And Out of Patience” — which indeed sparked a brief mosh session for attendees front and center — but positioned late in the set, it sucked the energy from the room, as did other laid-back selections throughout the night.
Whether the band is still figuring how to bring out the magic of the album’s more nuanced songs in a live setting or if their allure is simply best represented in studio form remains to be seen, though outside of these threadbare adaptations, Parquet Courts still put on a quality show.
Hitting his distinctive sweet spot between singing and shouting, Savage frequently kept the room’s energy high and bounced around his section of the stage — a significant local size upgrade for the Grey Eagle and Mothlight vets — while Brown imbued established non-thrashers “Dear Ramona” and “One Man No City” with faux-slacker quirk.
Savage playfully chastising an audience member for requesting “Total Football” at the evening’s halfway point also went over well, but his decision to set the mic stand off the stage and let a few audience members cry out the chorus to “Wide Awake” quickly wore out its welcome.
Likewise overlong was an improvised jam in the penultimate song slot, which featured impressive bass line endurance from Sean Yeaton, yet only gelled near the end when Savage and Brown started harmonizing upper-register guitar solos.
Missing from the set was Wide Awake!’s “Violence,” whose furious, rapid-fire lyrics seemingly would have brought down the house, and also, at least in studio form, unites the band vocally on the chorus — a quality largely missing from the predominately isolationist show. Upbeat bopper and album-closer “Tenderness” also didn’t make the cut, but considering how other instances of artistic growth manifested live, perhaps it’s best that its jangly piano remained absent.
(Photo by Ebru Yildiz)