I came to see Parquet Courts’ show in the dark and dank underbelly of Hackney’s Sebright Arms directly from the shiny and palatial Hammersmith Apollo, where I’d just seen fellow New Yorker Louis CK perform. Although the difference between venues could not have been more drastic, and on the one hand I saw a comedian at the top of his field followed by a band just starting to work their way up theirs, there are some similarities. Both are presenting stories from daily lives in the bustling metropolis of New York; stories that those of us living in another urban centre, London, can appreciate and sympathise with. Both acts are looking to give their audiences some kind of release through their tales; Louis hopes to get his audience to laugh and Parquet Courts hope that theirs will dance and sing – something they had no trouble getting them to do on this occasion.
From the stage, Parquet Courts probably couldn’t see much more than the sweaty faces of the first few rows of people, crammed in on both sides and right up in front of the stage, with a masses more bodies jammed in somewhere behind. They probably weren’t expecting this before coming to London, and even with this being their third consecutive night of playing to crowds like this in the British capital they still seemed stoked on the energy. Bassist Sean Yeaton was the main focal point for energy in the early stages of the show, standing in the middle of the stage between the two guitarists, swaying and nodding his head along confidently, a look of slight fury on his brow which fed into his tight and strong playing, and any time you looked at him mid-flow you could feel him channeling the energy and giving it back to the crowd. Either side of him guitarists Andrew Savage and Austin Brown used him as an anchor for their guitar noodling and squalling, which often left them screwing up their faces and twisting their bodies as if trying to find additional ways to manipulate the giddying shrieks of their instruments.
The tightness of the band cannot be underestimated, and drummer Max Savage can take a lot of credit for that. This allowed the band to easily lurch between the fretboard-working of their verses and the head-banging foot-thumping choruses seamlessly. Fast-paced favourites like “Borrowed Time” and “Light Up Gold” easily had the crowd bouncing along, while the more midtempo rockers tied the audience’s minds up in intertwining guitar lines. The confidence in the playing and the general demeanor of both guitarists seemed to belie how relatively young this band are.
Parquet Courts finished with the irresistible post-punk stomper “Stoned and Starving,” jammed out to even greater lengths, its earworm guitar hook only getting more and more seductive with each further repetition. The band pushed the volume and the length without ever losing sight of their end goal, captivating the audience’s attention and giving us an indication of how much bigger and more boastful this band could go in their future work, and making us want it all the more by doing it with such aplomb. By the end of the song there were broken strings, wailing feedback and the resonant din of the noise that had just been summoned. By the time Austin Brown said his final thanks to the audience his glasses were completely misted up from the sweat from the stage and the crowd – a sure sign of a great show.