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Quasi At The Echo, Wednesday November 13th 2013



Quasi always gives everything it has to the point it’s difficult to realize the band is only made of two people, as a matter of fact, I can’t imagine two people being louder and more energetic on stage. The duo guitarist/keyboardist Sam Coomes (Heatmiser, Elliott Smith, Built to Spill) and drummer Janet Weiss (Sleater-Kinney, Wild Flag) may have lost bassist Joanna Bolme to Stephen Malkmus since the last time I saw them, but this doesn’t stop them even a bit in their propulsive delivery.

They gave a tight show at the Echo on Wednesday night, with little stop between the songs, just the right amount of chatting and joking, building an enormous rock sound, whatever Sam Coomes was behind his keyboard or playing guitar. The Quasi sound is unique and distinct, immediately recognizable, built on distortion and harmonies, the antipoles of music marrying each other in almost each of their songs. For the first half of the set, Sam Coomes gave us songs played with his distorted mad Roxichord organ run through a distortion pedal, beaten to death by Janet Weiss’ super dynamic and multi-level drumming, and backup by their two part harmonies. It is their signature sound and you can’t miss it, moving with a formidable energy around noise, sonic punk fury and poppy melodies escaping from the chaos. Their music is hard to figure out, unclassifiable, they obviously don’t want to be pigeon holed, but they have been this free for quite a long time now, about two decades, consistently giving live shows as frenetic as the one I saw on Wednesday night, with a ripping drums-keyboard-guitar combination from start to finish, determined to not slowing down a bit. At first, the ensemble may have seemed stripped down (especially since the departure of Bolme)  but the two of them were working very hard, with Sam Coomes’ loud screams over a chaotic guitar or boogie-ing keyboard and Janet’s heavy and masterful rock beats, that it felt like they were an army on stage, pushing the walls, moving the room with their heavy melodies and sweet poppy moments.The complicity between the two is real – after all they used to be husband and wife – and when they were not harmonizing, Sam’ s plaintive voice could go way over the top as I am sure everyone thought he was about to pass out when he was holding that note for so long at the end of a song.

They are currently touring to promote their eighth and massive, 24-song album ‘Mole City’, but they didn’t overplay it, giving the crowd a nice mix of new songs like ‘You Can Stay But You Gotta Go’, ‘Blasted’, ‘Double Deuce’, ‘Bedbug Town’, ‘Nostalgia Kills’ and old songs like ‘Rockabilly party’, ‘Two Years Gone’, ‘Nothing from Nothing’, ‘Orbiting Pods’, ‘Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler’ and many others. I guess they were working with a partial setlist, and these are all the titles I got from their list, but they played much longer than this would suppose.

At times, they were totally ferocious, Janet, hair floating in the wind, showing a constant aerodynamic style and no sign of fatigue whatsoever, and Sam shaking his hair like a maniac (or wet dog, well he said he was missing his dog on tour!) or putting his two feet on his keyboard. For some reason or for just plain fun, they had surrounded themselves by cut-out silhouettes of eclectic characters, a cowboy, Oz’s Good Witch, a tiger, a gorilla and Death, and at one point, Sam threw away a tambourine which kicked the tiger down. But at least he hadn’t touched ‘death’, as he said,  ‘you can’t cheat death, but I know a few people who have cheated death’ he added. There definitively were bounding moments between Quasi and the crowd, first they were selling their own merchandize before the show, then there were these stories about Janet being born ‘a few blocks from here’ in what is now the (scary) blue scientology building, and Sam feeling alone and so far away from home when they were in Texas, listening to this band playing all these bad covers of old songs, ‘all about pussy!’…. ‘I feel better tonight!’ he told us, and it sounded like a big hug.

They came back for a long encore with more frenetic numbers like ‘California’ (they had to!) and in particular this surprising and excellent keyboard-driven cover of Back Sabbath’s ‘War Pigs’, hey they wanted to rock, loud and unmercifully… while promoting their last vinyl coming in two different shades of clear, unheard of? Unconventional? But there’s nothing conventional about Quasi.

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