Parquet Courts end their 10-month tour in a Birmingham basement

The Brooklyn psych-punks bring big DIY energy to the last night of their Sympathy For Life tour

Ceilings were dripping last night in Birmingham (or “Birms” as Austin Brown put it, just to annoy the locals). Finishing up almost a year on the road in the tiny downstairs room of the O2 Institute, Parquet Courts brought their Sympathy For Life tour to a close in front of less than 500 people – getting back to their roots playing an album that feels far from them, and turning one of the hottest days of the year into the best excuse for a wall-to-wall mosh pit.

More funk than punk (phunk?), last year’s Sympathy For Life saw the band embracing new sounds – grabbing influences from techno, jazz, house and a whole lot of Primal Scream. Played live, the album’s sprawling tracks sound more Can and Spacemen 3, opening the night with a wall of experimental electronics leading into ‘Application/Apparatus’. Getting the crowd sweating early, a run of tracks from Wide Awake! And Human Performance bring things back to New York garage rock before the set takes its time to delve into best excesses of the new record.

Parquet Courts -"Walking at a Downtown Pace" (Official Music Video)

Here, ‘Zoom Out’, ‘Plant Life’ and ‘Homo Sapien’ weave seamlessly around ‘Light Up Gold’ – the band’s old spitfire punk anthem fitting in perfectly here as Andrew Savage weaves the chorus into the long, deliberately shapeless outros of the new songs – somehow finding a way to gel the band’s ever diverging sounds into one jam. 

And then everything stops. “The thing is, my brain is broken,” says Brown, frazzled and out of steam after 10 months on the road. This is the last riot of many the band have started since they launched their new album with a Mardi Gras march through Coney Island last summer, and it’s finally starting to take a toll. Taking a few minutes to look slightly lost, Sean Yeaton tries hard to remember the chords to whatever the crowd start yelling out – sort of starting ‘Sunbathing Animal’ while Brown gets half a ‘One Man No City’ singalong going. “Welcome to band practice” laughs Yeaton.

The lull over, an easy run of ‘Mardi Gras Beads’ leads into the band’s best take on ‘Stoned And Starving’ yet – another ferocious early screamer matured here into prog punk perfection. Always at their live best when they weave around each other’s instruments like a jazz quartet, Parquet Courts end their tour on a jam that feels just as spontaneous as it is perfectly polished, bringing the crowd down softly on the woozy, wonderful album closer ‘Pulcinella’. Time for a well-earned break.

Find tickets to upcoming gigs and tours here.