With Lee Ranaldo and Nots
Granada Theater, Dallas
Thursday, April 28, 2016
Granada Theater isn't the first place you'd think of for a Parquet Courts show. This is a quintessential DIY house show, basement band, with a sense of humor that can somehow make a total non sequitur into something sardonic. It’s the kind of attitude that works best when there’s no barrier to the stage. The Granada isn't a basement, but Parquet Courts know that, and on Thursday night they made it work.
In fact, Andrew Savage, erstwhile Dentonite and Parquet Courts' frontman, was not above giving the audience some good-natured ribbing for not doing its part to make the place feel small. “You guys be careful pushing each other around out there,” he said about midway through their set, chastising his staid audience.
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And yet, somehow their distinct personality as a band saved them from being boring. In fact, their willingness to poke fun at themselves and their fans only highlighted their most endearing qualities. Maybe you can chalk it up to their incredible self awareness — a venue like the Granada, after all, is commensurate with the level of hype following Parquet Courts around these days.
Recently signed to the U.K.'s legendary Rough Trade Records, they are a “cool” band — or worse, a “drugs” band. They know that they’re expected to be the new vanguard for Old New York Underground Guitar Rock. (Quite the task for a band whose leader, Andrew Savage, hails from Denton.) They even know how many times they’ve been referred to as “slackers” in the press: They have a blog post on their website that keeps track of every instance. So you know they have a sense of humor.
Every heckle was like a breath of fresh air for the band — they seemed to be transported back to Denton’s Rubber Gloves, and the size of the room contracted with each shout. Savage and guitarist Austin Brown responded to every single one with extended bantering among the two of them. Sean Yeaton, the bassist, was especially indulgent: “Note to self: Get a Big Mouth Billy Bass, so whenever someone requests a bass solo, I’ll have Big Mouth Billy Bass sing.”
They ramped up the energy in order to compensate for the room, too. In the studio, Parquet Courts often sound very dry, like scorched salon posters. They sound sunbaked — or just generally baked. Listening to their latest album, Human Performance, or especially 2012’s Light Up Gold, is immobilizing. It’s a lizard-on-the-rock kind of feeling. And it makes sense thematically, because their lyrics often deal with urban alienation and that excessive self-awareness.
Live, however, Parquet Courts become a noisy punk band through and through. Maybe it was because Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth fame had borrowed Brown’s guitar for his opening set; once it was back in Brown’s hands, it seemed to infect the rest of the band with Ranaldo’s feedback-sculpting acumen. Ranaldo, in fact, had a ghostly presence on the stage throughout the entire night; he cast a long shadow over Parquet Courts’ performance. Savage, in particular, was deeply reverent of him, all of which became especially clear when Ranaldo joined the band on stage for blistering encore renditions of “Mote” and “Eric’s Trip.”
It was a maneuver that completely embodied the Parquet Courts aesthetic: They loathe being compared to other bands, but they’ll close their show with Sonic Youth tunes. They don’t do encores, but they did one anyway. They’re from Texas, but they’re from New York. They're the world’s most punctual punk band. They are Parquet Courts.