Last Friday at Union Transfer, the Brooklyn punk rock band Parquet Courts, touring in support of their new album Wide Awake!, played a sold out show with Goat Girl—a London–based group who was, to my delight, a band of four women—and Street Stains. Though the volume of the latter two–man act’s sound made the majority of their lyrics indistinguishable, their frustrated screams of punk foreshadowed the crazed mosh pit that would later ensue with Parquet Courts.
The band took the stage at 10:30 p.m., diving right into the opening track of their new album, “Total Football,” with lead singer and guitarist A. Savage jumping around at each explosive chord. After the Eagles dramatic win over the Patriots in the last Super Bowl, a song that ends with the scream, “Fuck Tom Brady!” set the room of Philadelphians into a frenzy.
The majority of the set featured songs from the new album, but Parquet Courts maintained a balance with older tunes, and also paid tribute to their punk roots with a cover of the Ramones’ “Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World.” But the highlight of the evening was the performance of “Wide Awake,” a song with diverse composition and riotous chorus. An additional keyboardist joined the stage along with Goat Girl and Street Stains in a collective song and dance to which fans vivaciously pogoed along.
In my , I focused on the biting commentary of its lyrics—but seeing it performed live with all of its diverse percussion and whistling sound effects revealed that the instrumentation behind the words was equally revolutionary. Then, as if sensing my recognition of this, the band later played “One Man No City,” of which the second half features nearly three minutes of naked rhythm and guitar improvisations from Savage. A song with such extended lack of lyricism often risks the expiration of its listeners’ patience, but the filled–to–capacity room of devoted punk fans anchored themselves to the ever–present pound of drums and let the twisting notes ring into their souls with eyes closed and heads swaying.
There were obvious balances that stood out through the night: the one between the aggressively spat songs and the warm engagement with the crowd as the band humorously returned lost car keys, the one between the sweaty mosh pit and the softer head bang, and the one between the personalities of all of the bands that performed. But when looking for similar balance in those not onstage, I came up short.
I admired and appreciated Parquet Courts for choosing an all–female punk group as their support for this leg of the tour—punk bands that aren’t all white men are few and far between. But I’m still tired of going to concerts where I turn around and see an ocean of 20–something dudes all with the same haircut. The honest and incendiary messages behind Parquet Courts’ new album, and the majority of their music for that matter, are the kind that a diverse range of people should hear.
Despite there being no encore, I left the venue feeling full after the 19–song set. As I came down from that familiar high of a summer concert, I wondered how many others felt the same at that moment, and how many felt they better understood the plagues of our world by applying the lens of the music. My empowered temperament was tinged with disenchantment as I realized that most of the people who needed to hear those words and witness the physical struggle of dealing with these often–incomprehensible times weren’t in attendance. Parquet Courts imparted their message in the first song of “emancipation from expectation,” but now, I think, it’s our turn to see it through.