No Sunbathing Animals at Parquet Courts and Naomi Punk

ParqThere was no lethargy at Parquet Courts and Naomi Punk this past Saturday at the Biltmore. The animals that packed the house were starved (and likely stoned) and salivating for punk rock. Whether it was the off-kilter, boney charge of Olympia, WA’s Naomi Punk or the barrelling, whip-smart adrenaline shot of Brooklyn, NY’s Parquet Courts, the crowd was chomping for it.

I feared a cave-in as Naomi Punk bashed out ghoulish, hammerfist riffs that shook the Biltmore to its foundation. Drums clobbered in tandem with every dramatic guitar stroke, each motion a force of nature. The dissonant, carnivalesque whirrs – some mish-mashes of album interludes “CSL + Death Junket”, “Gentle Movement Toward Sensual Liberation”, and “Eon of Love”, from the band’s debut LP The Feeling (Captured Tracks, 2012) – served the same purpose between some of the songs in Punk’s set.

I’m starting to think the space-horror mic effect I first heard used by Seattle’s So Pitted and now Naomi Punk must be a convention amongst dank bands from Washington. The lift-off turbulence it makes me feel overwhelms me with the sensation that my body’s going to de-atomize. But I welcome the fuzziness that shoots over my nerves.

As a band I mostly associate with house shows and miscellaneous, possibly illegal, performance spaces, I was thrilled and reassured to see Naomi Punk survive and thrive above ground, however dislocated they seemed within more “pedestrian” confines.

Parquet Courts fans can mosh to any of the band’s songs. For people like me who hadn’t heard anything from their upcoming third album, Sunbathing Animal (out June 3 on What’s Your Rupture?) besides the first two singles, “Black and White” and the title-track, about half of their set was disarmingly slow. But that didn’t mean you could stand safely with your hands in your pockets or live-tweet the show during the woozy “Dear Ramona” and “Raw Milk”, or the wheat-straw chewin’ “Instant Disassembly” – you got caught in the zombie-sway (a bunch of bodies hardly keeping themselves on their feet, kept upright by the force of others rocking back, can get pretty raucous).

So what happened when Parquet Courts broke into their more pulse-pounding songs? Utter sloppy mayhem. The crowd’s eager energy boiled over for new songs. The already familiar “Black and White” and heat lightning flash of “Sunbathing Animal”; the manic, stuttering, jumpy “Duckin’ and Dodgin'”, and the wobbly “Vienna II” were just some of the charged proto-punk homages Parquet Courts banged out. And the walls once again almost came tumbling down with the songs that put Parquet Courts on the map: “Master of My Craft”, “Borrowed Time”, and “Light Up Gold II”, stuck me deep in the best mosh pit I’d been in in a long time. Each of those songs was like a foot pressing my head in the mud, not letting me up until the song was over. And then the next one came and stomped me back down.

If you saw me at the show, don’t be fooled by my default mosh pit position: when you’re thinner than Kurt Cobain at the height of his heroin addiction (if he did in fact weigh the buck-twenty as Charles Cross reported in Heavier Than Heaven), you have to fight to survive. I ate more than a healthy dose of backs-of-heads to the teeth and shoulders to the cheek, regardless. Sorry if I pulled your hair. I’m still finding new bruises almost a week later.

The curtains closed, and the house music faded in. Rather than hold out for “Stoned and Starving”, I rolled my dice on the “show’s over” convention and took my leave – as I do every time. It was 11 PM, and there was an antsy DJ in a green room or taking a drag on a final smoke, awaiting his night at the Biltmore’s weekly Glory Days.

Depleted, stinking, and stuck to clothes that could have been rung out, this animal was ready to rest.

Leslie Ken Chu

Leslie Ken Chu