I’m just back from Europe and have decided that sleep is for wimps. At least, that’s been my motto this week. I’m shaking off jet lag, going to a show mid-week, working like a dog, and having some other issues that are keeping me from visiting the sandman. But it’s Saturday, and I’m ready to roll again. Are you with me?
Wednesday night I was back at Union Transfer (do they have a frequent concert club?) to see Parquet Courts. These guys are mainly from Texas, but formed in Brooklyn, so now they are a New York band. Whatever. They’ve been around for about 4 years, and have been a hot item for critics and indie rock fans alike. I really like their album Light Up Gold, and was excited about seeing them. I had been so excited about seeing them that I was not only going to see them in Philly on Wednesday night, but also see them in DC the following night. And in a weird booking arrangement at the 9:30 Club in DC, I was going to see Parquet Courts at 7, and then see Titus Andronicus at the same club at 10 under a different ticket.
Things happened that prevented me from going to DC, and I ate the tickets. But I did catch the Philly show of Parquet Courts. And it was good. A solid show and one that I would recommend to others. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as good as I had hoped, but nothing stands in the way of this band being one of the best of their era. I’m anxious to see how they develop and grow. Here’s a picture of a few of the boys on Wednesday:
Before I get to the show, I’m going to give away one of my secrets for shows at the UT. I never pay to park there as it offends my cheap-ass attitude toward life. Instead, I always look for a street spot and have found this kind of scary and dark place a few blocks away that has proven to be a winner most nights. It’s right by a pistol range, of all things. There is lots of broken glass, and no one ever seems to be around. It’s poorly lit. And while the general area is gentrifying (meaning it ain’t there yet), it is still on the front end of the process of transitioning from crap to not crap. Now, I wouldn’t park in this location by myself, but I figure I can always outrun my companion (or at least they can come back and identify my body later). Anyway, on Wednesday, we zoomed right into a spot in front of the pistol range, and by luck, this one lacked its normal Philly allocation of broken glass. We were in good shape.
(By the way, why is Philly so full of broken glass and litter outside of the few ritzy areas of town? I don’t get it. I don’t see people smashing bottles and throwing litter wherever they are, but I’ll be damned if there isn’t broken glass, trash and litter everywhere. It’s disgusting. And it’s not like every city of this size has to be filthy. Boston and DC are not like that – notice I don’t mention New York here. And don’t even try to compare this to other cities globally – Tokyo is amazingly clean, but has about 6 times the population of Philly, and even Paris, with its piles of dog feces, is better. Anyway, it seems like every time I get away from Rittenhouse Square, I’m stepping around filth, broken glass, and other detritus of human existence.)
Now that I have that out of me, let’s get back to the show. I don’t know if the show was sold out or not, but it was a pretty good sized crowd. I used to say that Philly was a great live music town because every show I went to see was sold out, but that has not been the case over the last two years or so. This is a city with a huge college-aged population (second only to Boston), so there are always people with time and money on their hands and at the correct age to go to a lot of live shows. Recently, the city has seen a boom in venues, and that might explain it, or it could be concert fatigue as bands can only make money these days by touring, but whatever the case, shows don’t seem packed anymore. That’s good in the short term but it will be interesting to see how this plays out locally and nationally.
For Parquet Courts, we got a good spot on the right side of the stage. UT has two elevated areas on each side of the main floor, and if you are lucky enough to get there early, you can lean against a rail (that also has a level spot to hold your beverage) and have an unobstructed view of the stage. Being able to lean on something is key for my old bones, and it’s one of the reasons I like this venue so much. Anyway, we got a rail spot right up front.
A band called the B Boys opened up, and they were fine. The crowd seemed appreciative and for an opening act, they were decent; in fact, one of the better opening bands that I’ve seen for a while. And then it was time for the headliner. We waited. And waited. C’mon guys, we aren’t all students, and some of us actually WORK for a living. In any event, Parquet Courts finally took the stage, and the rocking began.
They rolled through all their best stuff. “Master of My Craft,” “Borrowed Time,” “Stoned and Starving,” and songs from their new album, like “Dust.” They were proficient, sounded good and had the crowd into it.
And yet... something was missing. I know I’ve commented on bands that don’t talk at all from the stage, but these guys were the opposite. They talked so much it was like they were trying to establish their coolness and hipness through audience interaction. At one point, they solicited comments from the balcony, and when a guy yelled “shut up and play” (got to love that about Philly!!), they called him ignorant. But I was right there with balcony boy – too much banter that goes beyond the time needed to tune up the instruments results in breaking the momentum of the show. And that’s what happened here.
I’m also going to criticize the timing of certain songs, and how they played them. I’m a big believer in bands coming out and immediately ripping into a rave-up rocker. It gets the crowd engaged and anticipating much more. The band can then turn it down for a while (but, please, god, no slow ballads), but as the show reaches its end, it’s always best to kick it up a notch again. But PC came out with a slower song, ripped during the middle of the show, and then enthralled (ahem) the crowd with about 5 minutes of feedback to end the set. Now, I like feedback if there remains some melody and song focus in there, but this was simply self-indulgent and boring.
Two more comments. One is that the guy who sings “Stoned and Starving” and “Borrowed Time” is angry. I mean, I’ve never seen a lead singer look so pissed off as he shouted out the lyrics. It was weird. And it’s not like “Stoned and Starving” is an angry song; It’s a slacker song, but it’s not an angry song. In any event, we chuckled about this guy after the show, and hoped that we didn’t see him later hiding in the shadows outside the pistol range.
The other comment is that one of the guitarists/singers had a broken foot or something and couldn’t really walk around. So he was sitting on a stool, and that certainly changed the stage dynamics of the show. Oh well, you take ‘em as they come, right?
I was kind of lazy that night, and didn’t move from my rail spot to get good pictures. The one above and the others below are kind of blurry and purple, which is weird because I didn’t think the lighting was all purple, but the pictures don’t lie. I promise to do a better job next time.
Two more quick and irrelevant items: the first is the cool street art picture below that was taken in the St. Germain area of Paris. It’s not Banksy, but I like it and thought you might, too.
The second is that the next show that I see will be in Florida. So with that thought, here is a picture of the beach that we always frequent in Pompano Beach. Looks pretty good, right?
That’s it for now, hope all is well in your world, and once again thank you for reading.
My name is Bill, and I live in the greater Philadelphia area. I love music, and I have a lot of opinions. This site is primarily focused on music, but sometimes I get off track. I hope you enjoy.