America’s next ultra-cool indie darlings Parquet Courts played a colossal art show with other artsy alternative giants like Lee Ranaldo this past weekend just past the Brooklyn border in Maspeth, Queens. The whole huge marathon shindig went down at the former glass and door factory compound turned truly enormous art complex called the Knockdown Center. This brand new venue is a truly awe-inspiring facility with two immense art galleries (both were thankfully open during the show) on each end, several bars and one very sweet cocktail lounge, as well as two vast open stage areas with massively tall rooms with headroom that would make Terminal 5 sob with envy. With all the freakouts about what sadly occurred in Oakland recently, many would be happy to know this place has more doors than a MC Escher drawing, which more exits than any crowd, no matter how large, could possibly need. Also, even though the whole facility is far from typical NYC mass transit, the lengthy walk can also be avoided by taking a rather lush leather seat private bus ride to and from the Jefferson L subway stop. On top of a big gallery opening earlier in the night, this giant cavern featured two stages to get through the lengthy list of bands before the night was over and the exhausted rooster called.
The DC post-punk trio Flasher opened, and after having seen them a couple times now, I’ve come to really warm my head noodle to their brand of 80’s-flavored post-hardcore sound that reminds me of the likes of Fugazi, early Sonic Youth, and Mission of Burma. The band consists of Taylor Mulitz (who is in another of my favorite punk outfits called Priests), Emma Baker, and Daniel Saperstein and they blast an ear-splitting wall of sonics worthy of going deaf to. Then on the big stage, the Cleveland, OH outfit X____x (pronounced Ex Blank Ex) played against almost completely spooky veil of darkness. These much older rockers do have some serious, albeit obscure, no wave cred. Headed up by guitarist John D Morton (who was probably better known for another infamous Great Lakes archetypal punk group by the name of the Electric Eels), they really only played for about six months way back in 1978, producing a couple singles and performing perhaps only a handful of notorious shows. Still, they are back now and playing a rather hard to wrap your head around Dada-esque blend of artsy music, performing heavily foreboding sounds to the tone of everything from a spooky theremin to actually sawing wood cylinders on stage. A rather surprisingly loud and proud Brooklyn band by the name of Vanity then tore it up on the video installation stage. Frontman Evan Radigan definitely has the driving hooks, hot looks, and bold poses that a leading rock singer needs, and he clearly knows how to use it. The combined sound of the whole very talented band reminded me a lot of a Second Coming–era Stone Roses (with Radigan’s raggy bowl haircut and overall appearance just driving that Manchester scene comparison home), only with a louder 1980’s Black Flag raging punk rawness.
Next was alternative icon Lee Ranaldo, who is probably best known as his decades spent as guitarist and occasional frontman of Sonic Youth. With that band effectively divorced and dead, Lee is now fully solo and has been turning out some impressive solo works in the stead. The last time I experienced him playing with Parquet Courts (at the huge Ground Control Touring festival at Webster Hall) he played a solo acoustic set and then him and the boys in Courts played a whole set of the Lee-helmed Sonic Youth classics like “Mote” and “Eric’s Trip.” I think many of us were hoping that would happen again, but alas, it did not. Instead, we were treated to a set mostly made up of songs from his soon to be released still nameless studio disc. The fresh material sounds wonderfully dense and blazingly psychedelic, and Lee continues to prove himself an artist in his prime. Then there was some freshest of blood found on the lips of a vampire by the name of Guerilla Toss. This shredding skin on metal art rock band blares out a uniquely powerful blend of music, with groovy, yet somehow off-putting, beats along with harshly angular guitar work that mixes everything from video game squeals to dance-punk freak-outs. Each time I see them, they grow on me more and more, with lead singer, violinist, and sound-skewer Kassie Carlson always screaming her way to the forefront of your attention with the mesmerizing skill of a performance artist hypnotist. Their newest album Eraser Stargazer is easily one of the best avant-garde albums out this year and is definitely worth losing your mind to.
Then there was vocalist and guitarist Andrew Savage and Austin Brown, bassist Sean Yeaton and drummer Max Savage who go by the name Parquet Courts, for which the massive hall finally filled up to its sold-out capacity tipping point with a crushed mob of sweaty dancing fools happily thrashing and bouncing about. They have been mixing a uniquely experimental sound for several years now, but it now feels like they really have begun to find their maturity in the midst of complete lunacy on their newest album, Human Performance, which easily made it on to my top 10 of this year, and is sure to be number one in your heart too. Their sound blends the legendary sounds so many amazing rock experimenters both old and new into a wondrously intoxicating musical brew- with tastes of Elvis Costello, The Feelies, Talking Heads, and Squeeze to Pavement, LCD Sounsystem, and Thee Oh Sees, but once fused sounds more fresh and unique than any band out there today. They played a hefty set that stretched across their catalogue and rocked well into the wee hours of the morning. I definitely look forward to seeing more rock and art shows at the Knockdown Center and hearing many more years of impactful music from Parquet Courts.
Article: Dean Keim