[First published at End Hits, June 14 2013]
I’m sitting in the garden* of the Doug Fir and my friend’s just texted me saying that Andrew Savage is 20 yards away, sitting by the fire. We’re not usually reduced to text messages and hushed whispers, but for a few brief moments tonight we’ve become shy, giggling schoolgirls. This is because Andrew Savage is no regular Singer In A Band. He’s one of the few rock polymaths of our generation, masterminding lo-fi pop-punk in Teenage Cool Kids and experimental psych band Fergus & Geronimo before leaving Denton, Texas, for New York City, forming Parquet Courts and becoming one of the most talked about musicians in the country. It’s Parquet Courts that he’s brought back to Portland for the second time in six months tonight, and the buzz around the Doug Fir is proof that their star has risen significantly since the release of their magnificent debut Light Up Gold.
* Editor’s note: I think this is English-person for “patio”?
Before all this though, there’s Naomi Punk, whose set usually caves in on itself before it has the opportunity to make any sort of impression. Tonight, however, they are a different animal. Tighter and more refined than normal, tracks like “Voodoo Trust” and “Burned Body” hit twice as hard, their bluesy dissonance sounding more terrifying than simply monotonal. Much of this can be attributed to Nick Luempert, whose canon-like drumming dominates the set, and allows Travis Coster and Neil Gregerson the freedom to plunge their guitars into the sludge. Naomi Punk’s embrace of their more technical side could prove to be their secret weapon and, on this showing, the potential that they demonstrated on debut album The Feeling may be realized.
The room is packed by the time Parquet Courts reach the stage and, with all the swagger that’s come to be expected from them, launch into a new and unheard song. In many ways it’s the perfect showcase for their talents, as the guitars of Austin Brown and Savage carelessly play off one another while the rhythm stays hypnotically consistent. Sure, the room is visibly shaken when the magnificent “Master of My Craft” blares out of Brown’s lungs, the sardonic refrain of “fuggedabouddit” chanted back in a manner that can only be described as odd.
Much the same can be said for the frantic “Light Up Gold,” a highlight live just as much as it is on record. The real gift here, however, is that Parquet Courts can play whatever the fuck they like and make it sound essential. Every new track is greeted as if it were a classic and there’s every chance that might be the case before the year is out, so brilliantly does the new material stand up to the that of Light Up Gold. Yet again, Savage is demonstrating his ability to walk into any style and make it his own.
With all the hushed whispers and mild hero-worship, I should have seen that coming.