Before heading to The Ottobar for the Parquet Courts show, which featured punk rock band Priests and local experimental rock band Horse Lords, my buddy and I grabbed a couple drinks at Club Charles. Both of us are pretty familiar with Parquet Courts catalog, but he asked me what to expect from opening act, Horse Lords — a band I often claim as one of my favorite’s in Charm City. After talking in circles for several seconds, the only noteworthy articulation I could share about them was that they’re intense.
Focused, driven, accomplished, and technical, Horse Lords blend the melody of math rock with the heady drive of experimental (or dare I say?) prog-rock. Typically the farthest thing from something I’d ever choose to listen to, let alone go see, Horse Lords are an anomaly — free from genre, clique, circle, sound or hip cliche. And after a night of kickass music from three diverse, accomplished American bands, they stood–as expected–at the top.
Horse Lords sophomore full-length LP, Hidden Cities, dropped in October and it’s filled with improvisation, saxaphone and intertwining guitar, bass and drum grooves that make any 45 second snippet on the album nearly standalone as a masterpiece. Their short set at Ottobar featured mostly songs from Hidden Cities including the 13 minute opener, “Outer East,” my favorite from the record. After seeing them headline The Crown for their album release this past fall, it makes anything less than a headlining slot seem like an undersell for such an innovative band.
Politicized DC-based punk band, Priests played the night’s second slot and brought a heavy dose of left-wing-punk-meets-riot-grrrl-rock that was both youthful and fervent. Lead singer Kate Alice Grass spilled her charisma and angst all over the stage, even if it was tough to hear her croon over the heavy guitar riffs and punching bass lines. They played songs from their newest release Bodies and Control and Money and Power.
Headliner Parquet Courts has had quite the year. They dropped two albums in 2014, one as the aforementioned Parquet Courts and the other as a quasi alter ego version of the same band called “Parkay Quarts.” Both albums received high praise from the critical elite including Pitchfork, which gave Sunbathing Animal a “Best New Music” tag. At times, Parquet Courts sound like a more thrashing version of Velvet Underground, other times a more punky Television. They ran through tracks from their last three albums, including “Bodies Made Of” and “Burrowed Time” but conveniently left their breakout song “Stoned and Starving” from the setlist with no complaint from me.
The show was loud, fast, and rowdy, but always jovial, the perfect set for The Ottobar. Between Priests and Parquet Courts, my buddy went out to have a smoke and encountered a blotto fan being consoled by Parquet Courts frontman, Andrew Savage. “He was genuinely bummed for the dude,” my buddy proclaimed after coming back inside. “He really wanted to him to enjoy the show.” Within minutes, Savage was on stage hitting us with “Bodies Made Of” with the rest of the band.
Author Taylor DeBoer grew up in the Baltimore area and studied Writing and Sociology at Loyola University Maryland. He is a local writer, music lover, and edits a website that he co-founded, Manikmusic.net. Follow him on Twitter at TayDeBoer23.