I gained a new sense of Parquet Court’s dynamic range of songwriting after watching them noodle and hammer out their jams on stage. Their western-post-punk aesthetic is so immediately recognizable and ubiquitous in their discography that it’s easy to miss the fact they just transitioned from a rager to a head-bobber in the space of five minutes.
The range really comes through in the way their bodies move differently for every song. For something like, they are starry-eyed and firmly planted in the ground, grooving. In contrast, while banging out a jam like “No No No”, they’re almost flying out of their boots and bending their torsos towards the floor.
Through all the shifts their songs stay drenched in a unique brand of spaghetti western Brooklyn punk. Their guitars have a rich country twang over major chords and vocals that can sound like a man in pain or a spoken word poet. The lead guitar can be noodly, screeching. or precise, and the singer can be calm or screaming, but you always know exactly who you’re listening too.
During Content Nasua – a song that consists of a rage-filled galloping build and two chord hits that seem to evoke someone smashing their head against a wall over and over again, all strung together by a silence – my friends noted that I looked pretty stupid. My mouth was agape, as chills shook my core. I was completely still, which in my mind was necessary for my body to just listen. Even drunk assholes moshing could not break the acute concentration the song called forth.
Content Nausea, as the title suggests, is about over-saturation. It felt important to savor every word Savage was puking out to combat the world illuminated in the lyrics. Many have suggested the song itself partakes in this over-saturation as its main point as Savage adds image after image, but I was able to hear every word. Even as the scenes are disjointed, they create sense as a sprawling anthem against capitalism and consumerism. This is how the world is, as told by a Texas punk. This would be cheesy if they didn’t wrap that been-done theme of hey-fuck-capitalism in a form so dependent on overwhelming the listener with words (see: content.) The song does not actually fall into the saturation of content it seems to be performing, because this performance of overwhelmingness is such an acute comment on what it’s really like to be bombarded by ads, food, events, all in one song. The live version speeds up during the second two-chord part, adding to the tension of the world piling up around you, finally releasing in a silence and galloping build, that to my paralyzed body suggests transcendence is entirely possible, if only during a really satisfying chorus, shouting “I am a bonfire of human bones” while shielding your smaller friends from the drunken punks around you.
I wasn’t sure what type of crowd Parquet Courts would command this Monday night in Milwaukee. I was expecting this show to be a head-bobber, but I forgot how jammy and loud their hits are. I imagined the band nerdier, and they do seem like they’d be awkward humans off-stage. Their hipster-swagger was undeniable.
Savage became notably annoyed as the increasingly drunken crowd began to demand a bunch of old songs, but the band handled it gracefully. Too bad this sort of privilege to yell whatever you want at the artists is common in all-white mostly-male punk crowds. I am tempted to say it’s what you should expect, but that feels lazy. Luckily, it would have been impossible to mosh to half the songs, but even during the ones that did elicit a pit I wanted to stare at a great band doing what they do best.
There’s a way to mosh or be drunk and excited at a show respectfully, and trying to pull the girls in the front into the pit, yelling at your entertainers, grabbing at girls, or putting an arm around a guy who definitely does not want to sing along with you is not it. I don’t know why I expected more. Maybe I attributed an intellectualness and respectability to a fanbase that doesn’t deserve it. I thought that because Parquet Courts can turn a phrase beyond complaining about women I could feel safe with my female-bodied friends, but I guess that’s too much to ask. Once again, I had a great time at a show while my girlfriend did not.