Sunday, January 11, 2009

Quasi at the Doug Fir

I headed off this evening (last night, as you read this) to see Quasi at the Doug Fir. Of course, there were a couple of opening acts to be dealt with. First up were The Golden Bears:

I knew next to nothing about this band, and they turned out to be a very pleasant surprise. The Golden Bears are the husband and wife team of Julianna Bright (drums and vocals) and Seth Lorinczi (guitar). Tonight they brought along a bass player and a second guitarist, who rounded out their sound quite nicely. Julianna's vocals remind me a bit of Margo Timmins, but her stage presence is somewhat more dynamic; think Tori Amos meets Baby Dee. Next up was Eat Skull:

I came to this show wanting to give these guys a second chance. Really. I first saw them about a month ago, when they opened for the Dirtbombs at Berbati's. I caught the last few songs of their set, and I wasn't very impressed. But I figured, a few songs are a few songs, and if I ever see them again, I should keep an open mind. Which I did tonight, and it did not pay off. Eat Skull combine the most ridiculous and sophomoric elements of '60s garage rock, '70s punk rock and '80s hairspray rock into one big ill-conceived mess. You can't help but get the idea that they're trying to lampoon something, but they haven't quite figured out what that is. Which would be bad enough on its own, but ultimately somebody's going to have to listen to it. Which we did tonight at the Fir, and it was still pretty awful. I don't care if their record did get an 8.3 from Pitchfork (we've all seen the "Hambone" footage, we know how easy it is to get an 8.3 from Pitchfork...); for my money, the true measure of a band is what they can pull off in front of a crowd, and in this regard, Eat Skull really weren't doing it for me tonight. Fortunately, they were followed by a bunch who know what they're doing... Quasi:

Quasi has become something of a Portland institution over the years, and are a band of multiple pedigrees: They got their start in 1993 as a collaboration between singer/guitarist/keyboardist Sam Coomes, who'd put in time on the bass with Portland grunge band Heatmiser, and drummer/vocalist Janet Weiss, who would go on to hit the skins for Sleater-Kinney. Interestingly enough, they formed the band not long after their divorce. They continued as a duo for years until recruiting bassist Joanna Bolme in 2006, who was then - and still is - playing bass for Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks (Weiss, as it happens, is the Jicks' current drummer), thereby solidifying their current line-up as a trio. An incestuous relationship to be sure, but one that works. Quasi just rocked us stupid tonight at the Fir. They started their set with "Alice the Goon" and continued with a few more piano-oriented numbers, but eventually Sam stepped away from the keys and threw on his SG. And this is where Quasi truly shine in a live setting: as a guitar-driven power trio. They kept on in this vein for the bulk of the set, before getting back into the piano material with a blistering version of "Death Culture Blues" and finishing out their set as they'd begun. Quasi put on a fantastic show, and were a stark contrast to the band they followed; as always, they more than measured up to their reputation.

Oh, and I gotta give a shout out to Michael: You, my man, are the best bartender in all of Multnomah county!

No comments: