The Nelsonville Music Festival stands among the most exciting opportunities for people who prefer hazy, reflective head-nodding over programmable chaos with more NBA jerseys than there are players in the league.
And this year’s festival, held June 1-4, brings an act to town that is too strange to pigeonhole into one approach.
Since 2010, the New York City quartet Parquet Courts have diverted rock music from its traditional path without straying from traditional instruments.
The band features two guitars, a bass and a drum set but manages to produce songs as grating as “Elegy of Colonial Suffering” to ultra-accessible ones like “Outside.” As hinted in the lyrics of the group’s song “Instant Disassembly,” Parquet Courts is out to redefine the conventions of rock, setting a new and more thoughtful tone for the music’s future.
Unlike a good portion of modern music, Parquet Court’s playing factors into song structure delivering just as much of an attitudinal role as Andrew Savage’s anxiety-ridden and post-modernist lyrics that recall passages from the work of Foster Wallace and Orwell.
With Savage on rhythm guitar, lead guitarist Austin Brown adds voicing to the panic; hitting notes that resonated with synapses firing messages of panic, shrillness and resolution. Not to mention the rhythm section presents noticeably tight grooves on personal favorites like “Content Nausea” and “One Man, No City,” but are sparingly highlighted amongst the mix.
Parquet Courts’ music is not only meant to get people’s feet moving but primarily focused on stirring up the existential dread that is burning in the back of the mind. In fact, several of the band’s songs like “No Ideas,” “Everyday It Starts” and “Yonder is Closer to the Heart” focus on anxiety. Although it might seem funny to want to hear about a man chain-smoking his way through bad love and constant worry, the catharsis it brings is unlike anything else, a niche unfulfilled until the band’s formation.
And perhaps the most satisfying aspect of Parquet Courts is the group’s punk urgency. Instead of arpeggiating endless synthesizers or sugarcoating painful truth claims, PC embraces the harshness of existence but know how to craft a catchy riff that fails to end up as worthless spells. The aim is clear and executed in a manner more direct than a drill sergeant who wonders about modern strifes while wandering around Ridgewood, Queens.
Ween, Twin Peaks and country music stalwart Emmylou Harris found a place on the bill during the late spring weekend, as well. It seems appropriate because Ween has written songs that surpass Parquet Courts in strangeness (ex. “Big Jilm”) and Twin Peaks shares a similar sonic territory.
Looking now from January, the event might seem a little blurry in a schedule of abstraction. But with the lineup and complementary vibes, the festival will stay steady on my mind until June comes around and maybe even on yours.