Concert Review: Parquet Courts @ Sugarhill Supper Club, June 11, 2014
Last Wednesday night Brooklyn-based band Parquet Courts (the last great New York band?) made their triumphant return to the borough when they headlined a show at a most unusual venue - the Sugarhill Supper Club in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn. In addition to this being a homecoming, it was also a chance for the band to show off some new music, as their second-full length album, Sunbathing Animal, was released last week. For a band that can seemingly do no wrong, why they picked the Sugarhill Supper Club – or Bed-Stuy at all – when there are so many great venues in Brooklyn is a bit of a mystery. Still, Parquet Courts overcame the conditions and put on a fantastic show.
Unfortunately I missed the three support acts, Protomartyr, Future Punx, and Xerox, before Parquet Courts took the stage near 11pm; they must have been good sets, because by the time I arrived the concert area of Sugarhill was hot and sweaty. It was nearly impossible to see the band from my vantage point (about halfway back) but I could hear the excitement in the crowd as PQ took the small stage. The band opened up with a heavy dose of songs off of Sunbathing, sort of easing the crowd in before hitting the better-known debut album, Light Up Gold. About halfway through the show they played the opening two tracks on that album – “Master of My Craft” and “Borrowed Time”, which really work as a medley – whereupon the hot and eager crowd took it up a notch. Not surprisingly, moshing was rampant and stage diving began. Security appeared overwhelmed (how many punk rock shows can Sugarhill have ever hosted?) as two large men joined the band on the already-cramped stage. Fortunately the crowd calmed down just enough for the show to plow on through on, though crowd surfers hit a couple of chandeliers and knocked a drop-ceiling off its grooves (pic below).
Everyone who hears Parquet Courts feels the need to compare them to indie rock bands from the ’80s and early ’90s, as if trying to say that this is the band carrying the garage-rock torch. For example, Rolling Stone once said, “The Brooklyn-via-Texas band makes near-perfect post-college rock, merging sharp, twitchy post-punk (Wire, The Fall, Gang of Four, The Feelies) and sweet, slovenly early-Nineties indie rock (Pavement, Sebadoh), while nailing all the right 24-or-so themes.” Even though they completely rocked Sugarhill, the poor acoustics and cramped conditions reduced Parquet Courts somewhat to a more traditional punk band, with a lot of the detailed nuance in their music lost. They did not play “He’s Seein Paths”, from EP Tally All the Things That You Broke, a song far removed from their sometimes-punk sound, because they couldn’t even if they’d wanted to. I once wrote about that song “the band shows the full range of its musical ideas. We’ve gone from rock to punk to college rock to … something entirely unexpected from the guitar rock band. The best way to describe the song, which comes in at a staggering long 7:38, is to say that if I didn’t know what artist it belonged to I would think that it was a Beck song. (The Beck sound was immediately apparent to me on the very first listen, but it feels good to know that both NME and Aquarium Drunkard agree.)” That’s the massive downside to trying to out-hipster the hipster audience by choosing this kind of offbeat venue – there’s a reason the other venues are more popular. I wish I could have seen Parquet Courts in all their glory in a place like Music Hall of Williamsburg.
With that in mind, the band still reminded me of their indie forefathers, just instead of Gang of Four or Pavement it was a much rougher, louder, more explosive sound. Perhaps the best comparison I can make is early-era Replacements. It wasn’t what I expected from a Parquet Courts show, but on the other hand that’s some pretty high praise. By the time guitarist and co-vocalist Andrew Brown started playing his guitar with a bottle of beer, the show was a jam session of mayhem. Perhaps that’s the explanation for them leaving their most popular song, “Stoned and Starving“, off the set list. Had they played it, the Sugarhill Supper Club may actually have come falling down.
There isn’t much more to say about this show. I hope I never have to go to Sugarhill again (though I kind of wish I tried the food station) and I really hope to see Parquet Courts play a more traditional club venue. They’re such a good band – probably my favorite new band to emerge over the past two years – they deserve better than this. Their fans do too.