If I had to choose one word to succinctly describe the Parquet Courts & Merchandise show at the American Legion Hall in Tampa, it would be “high-octane.” Other accurate words would be “insane”, “energetic”, and “ass-kicking”. It was an unforgettable show featuring two of the best punk rock, alt rock, and indie rock acts out right now.
The flannel-clad audience made their way onto the dance floor as Gainsville psych pop band Soda took the stage. They proceeded to put on an impressive and hypnotic set that was almost shoegaze in nature, with their searing guitar riffs blanketing the vocals. While the low vocal levels would be an issue throughout the show for each act, the crowd responded well to Soda, and they were a great warm up for hometown heroes, Merchandise.
The breakout Tampa band performed to an ecstatic audience, and the mosh pit that formed in the middle of the floor proved it. Touring in support of their 2014 album, After The End, their first release on major label 4AD, their newer, poppier sound delighted everyone. Lively singles like “Enemy” and other standouts like “Little Killer” were big hits as the night went on. During one of their songs, lead singer Carson Cox was pulled into the crowd, and kept singing while experiencing an impromptu crowd surf. Cox also found time in between verses to lick the camera lens of a photographer in the front row and lean into the audience and lock eyes with a female fan for what felt like a full minute.
Closing out their set with the dramatic slow burner, “No You And Me,” it felt like an appropriately epic comedown for such a great performance. Not unlike rising bands like Viet Cong and Iceage, Merchandise showed their versatility as well as their technical expertise and live prowess with a solid and extremely entertaining string of songs that made a new fan out of yours truly.
Before Merchandise was even finished taking their gear offstage, the sweaty crowd shuffled forward, packing the dance floor in fevered anticipation for the headliner, Brooklyn, NY punk rock band Parquet Courts. When they finally took the stage, whatever energy was present in the venue up to that point was amplified tenfold. From the first chord of their set opener, “You’ve Got Me Wonderin’ Now”, until the last raging note of their fiery title track of last year’s album Sunbathing Animal, Parquet Courts was a tenacious force. Headed by frontman Andrew Savage, he shared lead vocal duties with guitarist Austin Brown, who was clad in his signature mustard yellow wool cardigan, despite the heat of the lights in the venue.
The band played a varied mix of tracks from their releases over the years, including last year’s Content Nausea, recorded under the misspelling Parkay Quarts. Their indie rock and post punk sound led to a crazy mosh pit reforming during their third song of the night, “Black And White.”
While things slowed down a bit during their drawn, contemplative 7 minute track “Instant Disassembly,” before long the energy was back up to new heights. By the time those four signature ascending chords introduced Light Up Gold highlight “Master of My Craft,” it was safe to say the place went bananas. I joined the audience screaming along to every word, as the mosh pit grew in intensity. One mosher actually passed out in the middle of the pit, only to regain consciousness a few seconds later, raise his beer triumphantly, and continue moshing as though nothing had even happened. After the show was over, I was walking back to my car to find a small group of friends on some steps outside the venue attending to their buddy, who had apparently gotten a nasty headwound in the pit, and was still bleeding as I walked by. If you measure the success of a concert by wild stories and head wounds, then this show was undoubtedly a triumphant one, and one that definitely showed Parquet Courts are indeed the masters of their craft.