Quasi - Maxwell's, New Jersey, September 22nd 2003
Bluesier, Noisier, Screechier, Louder and all for the Better
It is still unclear, mostly from sheer lack of vocal communication with their audience, which one of the two members of Quasi wore the pants in their marriage, a union that apparently dissolved before the release of their first album in 1997. Sam Coomes and Janet Weiss sit at their respective keyboard and drum set both tacit and intense - but it seems that Ms. Weiss has more balls, that is, more than most drummers out there today. Balls enough to attempt the Keith Moon insanely-loud-with-more-fill-than-beat schtick and with overwhelming success. All of this while harmonizing perfectly with Mr. Coomes bluesy screeching.
The new Quasi album Hot Shit is a minor departure from their previous efforts in that the guitar-to-keyboard-as-main-instrument ratio is about 50/50 nowadays (that, and the fact that their cover art is the worst since Warrant's Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinkin' Rich). It is also apparent that Sam Coomes' solo project, the blues guitar driven and aptly named Blues Goblin is stylistically seeping into the Quasi bloodstream. But the album still retains their trademark noisiness, somewhat pop, and always bleakly pessimistic tone.
In concert, however, the differences on the new album are lost in the rawness that engulfs pretty much every entry in their 20-plus song set-list. It may have taken the soundboard technician at Maxwell's a tune or two to adjust and balance to the uber-loud everything, but after that, Quasi sounded perfect and intense.
Crunching his keyboard with his feet and using the microphone stand as a guitar slide/noise maker, Coomes high pitched voice cracked and falsetto-ed at all the right times, and as usual, their stop-start timing was on. The upside to having no song that lasts longer than three minutes is that the audience never gets tired, and for a little over an hour, Quasi continued to help prove my theory that the ultimate gauge of a concert's success is in the band knowing when to get the hell out of there - even if they rank among your top bands.
The encore line-up - if a Maxwell's show, notorious for having no backstage, can technically have an encore if no one actually leaves the stage - included a rendition of John Lennon's "Instant Karma." And despite my dislike of the ironic cover, it was actually pretty impressive. Still - the show completed itself as it should have, with a really noised-up version of "Our Happiness Is Guaranteed" - Quasi's ultimate irony.