By Tony Inglis
The Art School, Glasgow, 28 August 2017
I have a couple of questions for the white, maybe bald, definitely dude(s) making their presence felt at the front of The Art School during Parquet Courts’ Glasgow show shouting “play a banger” and “play a song”: Have you ever listened to Parquet Courts? Have you ever been to a gig?
The second of those pointless heckles, growled in a manner barely understandable while the band tuned up and overcame some technical gremlins after arriving onstage, is such a total miscomprehension of why watching Parquet Courts, both on this particular night and generally as a live act, is so thrilling.
They rattle through songs with such gleeful abandon, sometimes it’s hard to even catch your breath. The way they transition between ‘Master of My Craft’ and ‘Borrowed Time’, the opening double salvo of their breakthrough record Light Up Gold, is still utterly intoxicating and impressive five years removed from their release. After the opening half of their set was heavy on numbers from their most recent album, Human Performance, fans still on the comedown from what had just come and gone in a flash were pulled right back into it again.
The former of those pointless heckles is perhaps even more baffling, as it comes hot on the heels of that aforementioned 2016 record, where Parquet Courts released perhaps the most human and emotive songs of their short but prolific career so far. Songs such as ‘Human Performance’ and ‘Outside’, as well as slow burner ‘Instant Disassembly’ from Sunbathing Animal, may not be absolute screamers, but they represent Austin Brown and Andrew Savage, the band’s two principal songwriters, at their most skilful and immediate.
And when the band lock into these tracks, or when they play about on genre-messing songs like ‘Captive of the Sun’ and ‘One Man No City’, the latter of which’s slow motion beat disappears into a cacophony of noise before the band bring it effortlessly back into place, that’s when it is so plainly obvious that we are witnessing a band at the peak of their powers, and yet somehow still seeming a little underrated. Not when they are playing the “bangers”. Though, yes of course, they do have songs on which they can really let rip.
For a band in which intelligent lyrics take the forefront on record, in this live setting it is easy enough to simply marvel at the wall of noise emitting from the stage. It is obvious they are full of confidence, whether it is Savage owning those hecklers into a stunned silence with his wit, or Brown goading them with out of tune renditions of The Beatles’ ‘Day Tripper’ between songs.
It is a doubly impressive night for guitar music when the support act is London’s Ultimate Painting, a more harmonious mirror image of the night’s headliners. When an audience member is screaming their name, they take it as a show of affection. Actually, it turns out they want them to play their self-titled song, from their self-titled album. Which they opened their support slot with. Let that be a lesson to gig goers: if the support act is promising, make sure you turn up early and don’t embarrass yourself.
As the evening comes to an end, Savage, decked out in a tie-dye polo shirt, denim jacket and jeans, and Brown, smarter in white shirt and chinos, backed by Sean Yeaton on bass and Max Savage on drums, close out the set, encore-less, with ‘Berlin Got Blurry’, a song which applies Parquet Courts’ lyrical prowess to a night out in a cool city. No doubt those hecklers had a blurry journey home.
Featured image credit: Ben Rayner