Lessons in Humility

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Matthew Faller

If there is one thing Parquet Courts do well, it is this: not take themselves too seriously. Do they keep the music serious? Always. Themselves? Not as much. Their laid back attitude was brought out in kind as they opened their ongoing winter tour at Union Transfer last Tuesday, and along with them Philly native harp-wielder and musical soothsayer Mary Lattimore. As she took the stage, a genuine sense of appreciation was conveyed through her barely audible words as well as the music that she proceeded to disperse over the crowd. Lattimore sat alone with her harp and an effects unit on her lap, and began to hold a clinic on what 47 strings can be transformed into: a rainforest, an ever-expanding universe, and more. She treated her instrument as a drum set as much as a harp, squeezing every percussive angle out of it that was available; her knocking and tapping on the wood of the instrument sounded as close to that of hearing creaks in the floorboards above you as any produced in a live setting. Lattimore was able to convey palpable senses of both a vast expanse and a near-suffocating confinement, something that her facial expressions only gave more evidence towards.

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The Brothers Courts showed no less than their headliner-worthy opener, but in a starkly different direction. Their ultimately easy-going attitude served as a perfect contrast to Lattimore’s intensive soundscapes, and they seemed to have no problem jumping right into the mix. Co-frontman Andrew Savage took ahold of his perch as left-field playmaker and held down vocals for a majority of the night, kicking off the night with “Dust” from their 2016 album Human Performance. If one was not familiar with Parquet Courts’ preferred method of lyrical delivery, they soon would be, as Savage chugged out in their trademark half-singing, half-explaining mode.

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The band was tight, yet embodied looseness and confidence. Savage’s better half, Austin Brown, entered the night in a very pomp-and-circumstance outfit, complete with frilly ascott and hat reminiscent of Beck’s Morning Phase cover. As they progressed through the night, Brown begin to show a little more of himself, and the set grew into equally shared vocals between himself and Savage, like on “Master of My Craft”, where Brown seemed perfectly content with minimal movement on stage and instead stuck to his pocket more than gum in the washing machine.

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The great paradigm of Parquet Courts seems to be that, for as unbridled as their music sounds on record, their shows are immediately revealed to be a shade lighter, at least from the band’s angle. They portray both sides of the spectrum: unrefined, angst-fueled wonderings and fully realized contentment. Toeing the line between these two can be difficult, but the boys from New York seem to have come to some sort of understanding, or at the very least a dual restraining order that reigns one side in from oversaturation.

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To close down the evening, Brown rolled in on the absolute groove train that is “One Man No City”, but not before discussing topics such as outfit choice and direction in life over the suitable backing of the songs open. If this got the house shaking, the closer “Berlin Got Blurry” made the house into a western saloon and the shaking into bench-clearing bar fighting, complete with shootout-style guitar hook and ever-cool lyrical flow. As the song morphed into a ten minute jam session and down to the nub, the band gave a last goodbye and wandered into the night, leaving behind only what they brought with them.

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