February 25th, 2018 | Live reviews

Photos by David Fisch Words by Zach Bilson

Parquet Courts’ sardonic rock drones often feel like suburban hymnals, made for chanting at DIY shows in the basements of churches. So their first of two shows at Hollywood Forever Cemetery’s Masonic Lodge felt strangely fitting, an unintentional nod to both their trancelike nature and the cultish following they’ve built up over the last five years. Openers “Dust” and “Ducking & Dodging” set the stage perfectly, singer/guitarist A. Savage barking his frenzied diatribes while bassist Sean Yeaton shook his signature mop of hair side to side, pounding out single-note riffs. Rather than discussing the venue itself, the band seemed more bemused by the cemetery outside, spending most of their talk breaks musing on their surroundings – “Any ghosts here tonight? I hate freeloaders…” Savage deadpanned, prompting guitarist Austin Brown to fire back with, “If I were a ghost, I wouldn’t haunt a cemetery. That’s so obvious!”

In contrast to the raucous crowd from their last LA show at the Regent, Friday night’s audience was well-mannered and stable, save for a few screams and fist-pumps for old favorites like “Borrowed Time.” It may have been the hallowed ground we were on, but there was also an air of anticipation – the band had just announced their sixth LP, the Danger Mouse-produced Wide Awake!, and we were anxious to see the results of an artsy post-punk band working with a pop superproducer. As it turns out, fans should have nothing to worry about – tracks like “Total Football” and “Freebird II” added just a pinch of funk into the mix, as well as more of the on-a-dime turns from recent single “Almost Had To Start a Fight.” Nestled into their hour-long set with the rest of their sizeable catalog, they fit in just fine – another step in the saga of ‘10s rock’s most subtly evolving band.

Opener Mary Lattimore was perhaps more directly aligned with the Masonic Lodge’s mystical atmosphere, though the LA-based harpist did crack a wry joke – “What did the cannibal’s wife give him when he showed up late for dinner? The cold shoulder!” – before digging into her spacious modern classical set. Lattimore’s approach to the harp is deeply personal – outside of plucking gorgeous arpeggios, she strums, scrapes, and slaps the instrument to conjure up otherworldly voices, stacking and mutating them with a DL4 delay pedal. Part of the joy in her live set lies in just observing her craft – while the lobby was still bustling with latecomers grabbing drinks and records, the lodge itself was reverently quiet, eyes and ears glued tuned into her meditative physicality. After laying down another piece of one of her puzzles, she would often rest her head on her harp momentarily, pausing for breath before returning to her work. It’s remarkable how much focus it can take to make music this tender and delicate.