Mapmaker, the new album full of arena-sized noise-rock calls-to-arms, may have come out a month ago to seemingly universally warm reviews, but Parts & Labor held off until last Friday to formally launch it with a show. Perhaps they were waiting for friends Matt & Kim to get back from their nationwide tour in order to headline for them; if so, it was a good choice, and the release came off in style. “In style”, in this case, stands mostly for “with a fervidly excited, frequently crowd-surfing mob of fans in some kind of hanger-like abandoned warehouse space”. The show had been originally slotted for the recently Lightning Bolt-baptized Above the Auto Parts Store, but some last minute problems and impressively quick correction (good work, Todd P) found it around the corner from East Williamsburg / Bushwick’s Ad Hoc Art, in a yet unnamed space. The last-minute rescheduling was evident in the piles of bricks and lumber still lining the walls, but piled lumber actually makes for a pretty good vantage point.
Brooklyn’s Golden Error kicked things off, finishing just as I arrived and giving way to the Death Set, who, though actually from Baltimore, play here so often as to seem like locals. Unfortunately, these guys just can’t catch a break: when I last saw them at Glasslands some punkass girls wrecked their mixer and laptop with water balloons, this time around, one of the speakers kept cutting in and out. But the beauty of the Deathset (whose music when full operational is a racing Japanther-esque mix of punk noise and backup keyboard loops) is that the audience never seems to mind. Fists pumped, bodies flew from the stage onto outstretched hands, and everyone seemed satisfied.
Austin-based but also honorary Brooklyners (one of them even designed the art for local d.i.y. listing Showpaper), Best Fwends are basically impossible to dislike. I admit I wasn’t sold before, but seriously, how can you fault a band like this? Their appearance was announced as a “special DJ/MC set” and yet, as far as I know, their crazed-shouting-over-a-backing-track deal is really the only way they perform. The entire set was an encore: just two tracks in, they were getting ready to leave the stage, then played “just one more”, then two more, then another, and so on. They wear ridiculous matching white t-shirts. They are called “Best Fwends”. And just look at their faces.
It’s hard to take this seriously, yet they’re so into it. It barely matters what this is, though this turns out to be terribly catchy.
Parts and Labor pulled out the stops to send off Mapmaker. Co-frontmen Dan Friel and BJ Warshaw were joined with extra guitar by Joe K from Pterodactyl on several songs, and they even brought in a (glorious) three-piece brass section to give “Fractured Skies” and a couple others the full treatment. New material dominated the set list, but they still touched upon some old favorites from Stay Afraid, stabs of keyboard feedback churning forward on Chris Weingarten’s drums, precise in spite of their blinding speed. And now they’re heading out on a tour through the oft-neglected mid-section of the continent. What’s next? Already they’re nearly finished work on Escapers Two which promises to follow up the warped digital noise of its predecessor with another (albeit different) tangent away from the full-lengths. It’s like they’ve got a side-project from themselves.
Matt and Kim’s first home show in what seems like ages served as a reminder of why they’ve become local favorites, and why they’re currently making a name for themselves nationwide. Like Best Fwends, their passions are plainly inscribed on their faces. As usual, it was a stripped-down affair, Kim drumming and Matt keyboarding with everything they had, but if I’m not mistaken, their technical proficiency is definitely improving with the touring. With only one album out, the material was almost entirely from that debut, but I was especially glad to hear “Silver Tiles” again, a live favorite only previously released on their demo. Of course, the crowd was going crazy. Lack of crowd control is one of the great advantages of the d.i.y. Brooklyn show, where audience participation is expected and standing back cross-armed is decidedly unsatisfactory.
Still, it can get out of hand. In this case, the audience pressed in so far and so hard that they nearly overturned the speaker towers. Shooting pictures next to the stage, I saw it buckling and leaped over along with one of the Best Fwends to hold it something like upright, trying to kick the middle piece back into place against the bodies on the other side, until the tower could be lashed more firmly in place. So if you see Best Fwends around, thank them for helping me not get crushed. And if you see Matt and Kim, thank them for the evening’s excitement.