Feeling uncertain about my future, I decided to go see a post-punk show at the Hipster Gestapo’s own personal Korova Milk Bar: The Echo. Not to be confused with the Echoplex, which might be upstairs or downstairs, who the fuck knows, but after parking at a nearby Laundromat and getting engulfed with the smell of processed cheese and pork from a local pizza joint, I felt as if I was back in college. And since I’m still perpetually broke and paying back gargantuan loan payments – it all felt oddly authentic.
After seeing Colleen Green open the show with her lo-fi fuzz-punk, perfectly ripped stockings, and Nintendo-ish cover of the Go-Go’s “Vacation”, I began to notice something happening around me that made me feel uncomfortable. A Tweet from Colleen, which came later, told me she had escaped upstairs because it was “too packed” at The Echo. Of course, I never listen to my spidey senses or rock star acquaintances. 40-year-old hipsters, former philosophy majors, and beautiful blondes dressed like occult woodland witches began to gather around me as we prepared for the next band. We shared nothing in common, and I know this because I ask (I always ask) and one beautiful blonde, wearing a black beanie covering everything except her Barbie doll red lips, told me she was there to see Parquet Courts. “Me too, so, what’s your favorite song?” I said, trying to make conversation with a girl who wanted nothing to do with guy who would ask something as prepubescent as what’s your favorite song? In front of me, a group of retired fraternity brothers swung their respective girlfriends around and ignored the close proximity dilemma we all faced. Once again, as I had two years earlier to see Shonen Knife cover The Ramones, I was crammed into a corner near the ‘merch’ section, staring at t-shirts and a sign that tingled my spidey senses: FREE BUTTONS!
Crammed like a pack of soft and chewy Swedish Fish, we awaited the appearance of the Texas quartet turned Brooklyn post apocalyptic stoner punk band, Parquet Courts. Oddly enough, my now roughed up pair of Chucks firmly gripped what seemed to be, yes it was, an actual Boston Celtics-era parquet court covering the empty space between the stage and the ‘merch’ stand. It was fitting, but the irony didn’t last very long, because as soon as Andrew Savage strummed the first chord to their single “Borrowed Time”, from the second LP Light Up Gold (2012), the mosh pit sucked me into its vortex. Together, we all ‘moshed’ to uncertain futures and championship-less dreams.
Formed in 2010 when Andrew Savage (guitar/vocals) left Texas for Brooklyn to join the more eccentric Austin Brown, Parquet Courts became whole upon acquiring the rhythm services of Andrew’s younger brother, Max, and the headbanging bassist Sean Yeaton (who adorns an old iron forearm tattoo that is both distracting, and flat-out questionable). Either way, my attention for most of the night was on Austin Brown, who played simple chords between provocative gestures and squealing guitar effects , while always taking a swing from a bottle of cheap Trader Joe’s wine.
Parquet’s performance that evening, which should be the focus of my review, was unpredictable at every turn. Stripped down post-punk pieces like “Yonder Is Closer To the Heart”, where the mosh pit would erupt in response to the pounding bass drum and cymbals of the younger Savage brother; blended uncomfortably with twangy tunes like “N. Dakota,” which had the crowd confused between acts of aggression and just standing there and waiting for the next more punk song to begin. Switching between fast to slow seemed to be their style, which was thankfully harnessed nicely by a tight rhythm section. But the most buoyant element of Parquet’s live performance was the diverse vocal deliveries and jam band quality they brought with them that night. Occasionally, Andrew Savage would switch between an almost sarcastic and deadpan singing style in “Careers in Combat,” right into the complete opposite in “Donuts Only,” which gave them an eclectic sound that seems to be the new thing emerging from Brooklyn with bands like The Men and Nude Beach. Then again, not-so-good guitar solos, a repetitive rhythm section in some songs, and occasionally missing chords made the Parquet sound that night a bit too unrefined to fully embrace. To make things even more confusing, a noticeably loud Spanish radio station was blaring in the background while, at the same time, the nearby Echoplex had been turned into the loudest discotheque in Los Angeles; it was shaking the foundation of the Echo and the slippery parquet court we stood on.
As security continued to escort stage diving aficionados into the parking lot (the same guys moshing during slow songs), I noticed a girl sitting by the stage with an endearing Simpsons character quality to her. Unlike the quirky and played-out looking hipster chicks that hovered around her, this girl had spiked red hair, freckles, and wore a sweater adorned with Bart Simpson’s iconic mug. She swayed back-and-forth during Parquet’s most accessible song, “Master of My Craft”, while her bobbing head and small lips sang along to edgy lyrics such as “Socrates died in the fuckin’ gutter.” She looked entirely like a cutout from a ’90s teen magazine. But more than anything else that night, she captured the spirit of Parquet Courts: retro, stripped down, ironic, fast and slow, funny (but not hilarious), and definitely troublemakers. If Bart Simpson was hip, he would have been a Parquet Courts fan. While Bart’s sister Lisa, always the smarter of the two, would have been upstairs jamming to some mellow tunes with Colleen Green and some purple hair sativa.