Imagine you’re walking into a bookstore. You wander through the various gondolas of books, magazines, noggin stuffers, etc., aimlessly killing time until your dinner reservation, speed-dating event, or your roommate’s annoying guests finally leave. You enter the bookstore and you notice that Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks is playing faintly over the bookstore PA, you like Stephen Malkmus. As you meander somewhere between the prints on monastic living and human performance, you’re confronted by an unassuming fellow that looks like Jesse Eisenberg’s younger brother. You think nothing of it, until he hits you over the head with an anthology of American Specialties, and before you have the chance to ask him “what the hell?” he’s gone.
In your dazed state, you decide to leave the bookstore and head to the coffee shop across the street to decompress. You know you want a breve, but you don’t know what to make of your assailant other than the fact he never struck you as the overtly violent type. You notice the coffee shop is playing Guided By Voices, which settles your nerves slightly.
Once you get your breve and walk to an empty table, you notice a thin fellow who looks like a cross between Beck and a Weasley from Harry Potter. You consider commenting on his doppleganger status, but not for long, so you return to your breve. As you take your sip, that same Beck Weasley guy comes up, and without saying a word, taps the bottom of your cup as you’re drinking, spilling frothing espresso and half-and-half all over your shirt. You’re dumbfounded, totally perplexed and taken aback, but by the time you voice your disbelief, Beck Weasley is gone.
That was weird, wasn’t it? It might be a bit surreal (or just weird, Sean), but that’s a Parquet Courts show in a nutshell. Sean Yeaton, Austin Brown, and Max and Andrew Savage are four of the most unassuming punk rockers on the touring circuit today. You see any of them out and about and you’d be more inclined to think their proclivities lean closer to bookstores and coffee shops (and whose to say they don’t?) but musically, Parquet Courts will bust your ass with their one-two punch of guitar chops and art punk sensibilities.
The Brooklyn quartet’s Monday night show at Mercy Lounge was no exception. Totally self-effacing, Parquet Courts took the stage to much deserved fanfare (please, for the love of god, if you haven’t listened to Human Performance, get on that joint now) and dove right into a raucous array of post-punk and nu gaze hybrids. Parquet Courts opened with “No, No, No!” off of their 2015 Content Nausea LP, and then ran through a string of Human Performance tracks – “Dust,” “Paraphrased,” “I Was Just There,” and “Berlin Got Blurry” – before finally taking a moment to address the crowd. In short, Andrew Savage and Austin Brown’s banter was the most unexpected aspect of the set, with clever quips and biting jabs – “You’re at our Mercy… Lounge” – that kept an already hyper stimulated crowd engaged at any given moment. Brown’s witticism was arguably the show’s best non-musical feature, speaking in jest about the band’s “little tour of all the ‘Ville cities they could think of,” and asking if anyone came to Mercy Lounge by accident, meaning to go to church. Without skipping a beat, Savage quipped “church is after this, but now its time to worship” and seamlessly broke into “Human Performance.”
All in all, Parquet Courts’ set was transcendent if not for the melodic mastery by the Brooklyn guitar maestros, then for the razor sharp wit of the band itself. The band’s overall intellectual dexterity is one of its finest factors, as their indiscernible façade breaks down any and all pretense brought about by Parquet Courts’ critical acclaim. Playing out to a packed Mercy Lounge, Parquet Courts continued to hit their captive audience over the head with a masterclass of punk sensibilities only to help lift those so eager to become dazed with nu gaze and art punk before knocking them out with a wave of sound once more. Everyone in the room was “at the Mercy… Lounge” of Parquet Courts, and couldn’t have asked for anything more.