Andrew Savage of Parquet Courts in 2017
Andrew Savage of Parquet Courts in 2017 Noam Galai / Stringer

I had a hard time trusting Parquet Courts. I saw them live for the first time at the Vera Project in August 2014. They were touring with local band Naomi Punk and, being ever the Eastsider, I did what any 20-year-old would do, which was showing up really baked with my friends, ready to bob violently to the music. I was completely unprepared for a Parquet Courts 10 minute, Buckethead-esque guitar solo that my friend Peter described as “incredibly punishing.” It felt like some sort of circle jerk-y betrayal and it killed our high, worst of all. Since that night, I fell off the Parquet Courts bandwagon, checking the pulse every now and then, noncommittally listening to a single or entertaining the idea of going to a show, but I never followed through with anything. I didn’t want to get burned again.

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When I saw Parquet Courts last night at the Showbox, I thought to myself, “This is what graduation sounds like.” From their previous sound, from Vera to Showbox, from younger crowds. Touring in support of their new album Wide Awake, the band that got onstage and the music they played seemed markedly different from the band I remembered four years ago. This band had all the trappings of being just outside of mainstream success, a cult favorite in the making, one that would never play an incredibly punishing 10-minute guitar solo. I’d read that they wanted to make a punk record that could be put on at parties—a truly noble effort that by-and-large succeeded. I can see some teen in 2045 stumbling across Wide Awake on whatever mid-century Spotify/Apple Music/Tidal conglomerate hellscape we end up on, feeling moved to dance around her bedroom, wondering what it would be like to be at one of their concerts, imagining herself in my shoes.

I arrived, like, fifteen minutes late because I was too busy having a truly carnal experience stuffing my mouth hole at HoneyHole and decided to waddle the mile down from the Hill to 1st Avenue. Like a lot of things downtown, it was my first time at the Showbox and I was taken aback by its opulence—chandeliers, a 21 plus section, clean bathrooms. The house lights were red—sinister and sexual—and the building more cavernous than I’d imagined.

I came in about halfway through the supporting band Gong Gong Gong’s set while they were in the midst of technical difficulties. Everything was sorted out after about five minutes and the crowd whooped. Only vocalist/guitarist Tom Ng and bassist Joshua Frank were onstage—no drummer. I quickly learned there was no need for percussion. The bass and guitar distortion created their own logic and rhythm, but in that chaotic way, throttling toward some messy end, the kind where no lyrics are stuck in your head, only tunes. The music was Southern in its punk sensibility. This Beijing-based duo was super fucking cool and set the stage for the rest of the night.

After what seemed like a criminal wait between sets, Parquet Courts took the stage and opened with “Total Football,” the first track on Wide Awake. The whole crowd got moving, shouting the words, bouncing the floorboards. That energy only grew exponentially; by the third song in the set, “Almost Had to Start A Fight/In and Out Of Patience,” someone threw a half-full cup of beer onstage and a pit started. I’d describe the vibe as “cautiously riotous.” I felt kind of bad because I was acting as a “chill” barrier between the pit and this dude convulsing next to me, who eventually asked me if I could see alright, which I thought was sweet. By the next song, “Freebird II,” I realized that I’d really underestimated the crowd—everyone seemed to know the words and screamed alongside the band. I saw some dude shaking two tall boys in the pit. A girl crowd surfed. White, straight, mostly male Seattle was LI-VING for this performance, absolutely losing its collective shit. It was fun to watch.

The peak of the night was when they played the titular song “Wide Awake.” By this time, the concert space smelled pretty dank and the agogo bell, played by some guy they brought out (I think named Diego), absolutely demanded to be danced to. It was so fucking groovy, every single body moved. It was at this point that the performance began to blur for me. I was parched and sweaty and sought solace in the back of the crowd. Parquet Courts played at least eight or nine songs more. I listened to “One Man, No City” nervously, as they ended that song with a prolonged jam session, sure that they’d backslide into some shred heavy solo. They didn’t. I think the enthusiasm and captivation of the crowd gave the band space to jam, to do something a bit funky and weird. That jam sesh energy isn’t something I see often at a lot of indie gigs—it seems like a bit of a relic in both a good and bad way. But in this context, the crowd ate it right up and it worked.

The crowd begged for an encore, but is that too much to ask after an almost-hour-and-a-half set? Parquet Courts put on a good show for the indie crowd last night—one that was blissfully and wonderfully danceable, earnest, and circle jerk free.