In the fall of 2012 I picked up Parquet Courts' album Light Up Gold on the recommendation of some blog or another. Since then I've picked up every release from the band, always finding a song or two on each that blows my mind with its exuberance. Obviously my admiration isn't exactly unique – the band is universally loved by everyone from casual indie rock fans to the most erudite of critics – but in my record collection, Parquet Courts is one of the few new buzz bands that has achieved bankability. So even after Kate declared she was too tired to go to the show, and I secretly felt the same way, I felt I owed it to the band to make the drive to Lawrence. So at 8pm I pointed the Prius toward Kansas and cranked the new Shellshag album.
Young Mammals from Houston started the night at exactly 9pm. The band is a four-piece that dwells in the indie rock '90s but has some of the post-punk bounce that the genre incorporated in later decades. Lead guitarist Cley Miller is all over the place with delightfully noisy, noodly, or meandering leads. Bassist Jose Sanchez serves a similarly destructive role, ripping songs apart as he jumps all over his fret board. This left drummer Justin Terrell and rhythm guitarist Carlos Sanchez to provide the driving rhythms that are the cohesive foundation of the band's sound. Carlos Sanchez's vocals played it safe most of the night though when they picked up a bit of yelp, the set got more exciting. After a polite 25-minute set, the quartet stepped aside. Friendly gents, good songs, good band, see 'em.
At 9:45, Kansas City three-piece Lazy took the stage. For those with a passing familiarity with Lazy, a quick tangent may be helpful. This three-piece version of Lazy had performed as "BB Gun" as recently as a few weeks ago, but at that time that band was described as the side-project of Lazy frontman Brock Potucek. However, Potucek has since disbanded the old Lazy line up, and has now rechristened "BB Gun" as "Lazy." Do they still play the old Lazy songs? No, instead Potucek's move is reminiscent of Mark E. Smith who once noted that any group that included him could be the Fall, up to and including "me and your granny on bongos." So Lazy is dead, long live Lazy. With that history lesson, and all the taxonomy behind us, let's turn our attention to the stage.
Lazy is a post-punk band in the grand, 1978 tradition of the genre. Amazing bass lines delivered by Potucek defined most of the band's set, while the guitar work of Brenton Wheeler provided bursts of angular energy, and new drummer Billy Belzer added primal rhythms powered by his snare and floor tom. Both Potucek and Wheeler provided vocals, but it was the complicated compositions full of electricity and sharpened edges that took center stage. Dare I saw that the new Lazy is even better than the old?
There was a long pause before the headliner took the stage – like over 40 minutes long. During that time the audience packed in tighter, beefy guys in backward baseball caps showed up from nowhere and claimed spots up front as if by birthright, patrons were over-served, and we all just stared at a stage devoid of musicians, but completely populated with the equipment placed there before the doors even opened. Each time a band member would walk out on the stage to fiddle with an effects pedal or cord, the audience would cheer for that brief moment. Then, when the band member would wander off, the audience would return to their previous conversations, only slightly more antsy than before. Whether the delay was caused by club policy, or if it was of the band's choosing, at 10:50 everyone seemed bored of the game, and the show began.
Brooklyn-based headliners Parquet Courts opened with "No No No" from its forthcoming EP Monastic Living, due from Rough Trade on November 20th. That song began a 90-minute set that drew from all corners of the band's career, allowing for frantic explosions of thrash, simple pounding garage rock, wiry post-punk, and even expansive, languid instrumental jams. The band sounded good – sloppy when it could be, tight when it should be – but the audience wouldn't have known if the band had gotten it reversed. The Wednesday night crowd was there to party, and the bros in the audience were hard drinkers that band felt compelled to match shot for shot. After the second song the area in front of the stage had become a jostling pit that stumbled this way and that, tossing the women in the audience to the periphery, leaving room for the shirtless hulks too bleary-eyed to pump their fists with the rest of the audience, much less sing along to the underground hits like "Sunbathing Animal" that engrossed the audiences in the wings.
Still, the entire audience responded to each song with shouts of sycophantic praise so prejudiced that even the band found it comical. While guitarist Andrew Savage changed a broken string, bassist Sean Yeaton urged the audience to continue its "Sean is great" chant so long that guitarist Austin Brown began to play over it, announcing "We normally save the 'Sean is Great' song until the encore." There weren't many moments of this crowd interaction (a fact that Brown recognized late into the set), but the highlight had to have been when Brown and Savage told the story of their last area show – an unpromoted basement gig in Kansas City in 2011 or 2012 where the band played to a small audience in an unheated house where both the toilet and the bathroom sink were clogged with the same putrid material. The band has relayed this story in interviews as the worst show they ever played. For some reason hearing that story live instills a certain amount of pride in me. Hey Brooklynites, you want to be rock & rollers, you're going to have to come through Kansas City and claw your way up from there. It's survival of the fittest.
I continued to snap photographs throughout the set, taking my lumps from falling bodies and awkward elbows, but I was never able to lose myself in the band's music. There was a lot to process, and my lizard brain consistently lost out to its analytical counterpart. While "Borrowed Time" was the same thrill ride as when I first heard it three years ago, it was obvious that this band wasn't "my" band any longer. It now belonged to a wider audience, and some members of that wider audience were just jackasses that I had no interest in teaming up with even for a 90-minute set.
The band closed with the epic "Content Nausea" – also the closer of the band's 2014 album Content Nausea released under the band name Parkay Quarts – and then immediately unplugged their gear and walked off the stage. The audience cheered for an encore, and the house kept the dream alive by leaving the lights low and keeping the house music away, but after a minute or two we all realized that the band was not coming back out, the house lights came up, and the audience members lit upon the stage like vultures to pick away the set lists. I thought about waiting for the band, to tell them that their promotions company set me to cover the show, to tell them where photos from the night would be, to tell them them I was glad they returned to the area, persevering through KC's aromatic plumbing issues, but by the time I packed up my camera gear there was already a queue forming outside of the backstage door. "It's okay," I thought, "the band has plenty of adoring fans ready to buy them shots, and I'm sure they're not clamoring for a Too Much Rock button anyway." With that, I walked to the car, and started my late-night drive back to Kansas City.