By Joseph Sutton-Holcomb
When I walked into Neumos Thursday night, I expected to eat my dessert first — dessert being nerve-jangling hard rock, in this case.
The punk-inspired, lo-fi production on Parquet Courts’ 2012 debut album, “Light Up Gold” hinted that the band was capable of cranking out an ear-splitting live show if they wanted to. But their opener, Seattle-based Naomi Punk, are heavy through-and-through. I figured the show would unfold in true Seattle fashion: a short-lived, high-energy set from Naomi would give way to an hour or so of laidback licks from Courts. The Capitol Hill crowd can only nod their heads vigorously for so long, after all.
But Courts outdid themselves; they matched Naomi Punk decibel for decibel. If you missed this show, driving up to the Copper Owl in Victoria to catch their Saturday show wouldn’t be a bad idea. There are worse ways to spend a weekend. The two bands are a match made in indie rock heaven.
At the risk of selling the band short, I’d call Naomi Punk the perfect opening act. The trio — two guitarists and a drummer, no bass — create tidal waves of noise, but it’s all perfectly measured, a refreshing departure from hardcore bands that abandon any semblance of musical self control on stage. Naomi has an airtight, syncopated sound, like if The Strokes had decided be a metal band instead. It even shows up in their stage presence: each members’ movements are jerky, almost robotically precise.
On “Light Up Gold” Parquet Courts cultivate a totally opposite sound. The album meanders between surf punk in the tradition of California’s Thee Oh Sees and a more casual art-rock vibe a la The Velvet Underground. The LP is boilerplate pot-head rock — the single is called “Stoned and Starving” for god’s sake — but is delightfully rough around the edges.
But the band’s delivery in person was more raw, more classically punk rock. Lead vocalist Andrew Savage ditched his nihilistic drawl for a grating yell. I’m glad he didn’t go that route on the album, but it’s great for a life performance. The band made the best use of their more ragged live sound when performing their album’s first two tracks “Master of my Craft” and “Borrowed Time” back to back.
It was all a little sloppy, but that’s kind of the point, I think. Nobody wants to go see a perfectionist punk group. The bassist had a hilarious habit of letting his lower lip hang out while headbanging, and I’m pretty sure I saw Savage drool on his guitar after a feedback-laced solo.
In true up-and-comer fashion, Courts saved “Stoned and Starving” for the very end. It made a great bookend for the concert though. It’s by far their longest song, and they took advantage of that, stretching it out even further into a jam. As the song wound down, Savage slurred the last lyrics like a spoken-word poem. Then Courts left the stage. No encore. It didn’t feel truncated, though. The choice had an air of self-confidant finality. Here’s hoping they crank out another LP — and set up another tour — sooner rather than later.