Quasi @ Doug Fir
Written by Pete Banjo on November 27, 2013
Quasi @ Doug Fir – November 22nd, 2013
(yes, the lighting was dramatic at times)
A quick introduction for those of you who don't know: Quasi has an incredible amount of indie cred for being a duo. Janet Weiss played drums starting in 1996 for Sleater-Kinney (on the 'Dig Me Out' album) When she joined the band; she was it until they broke up in 2006. No more Spinal-Tap-esque drummer change-ups. Janet also played drums on albums and tours for bands like The Shins and Stephen Malkmus. Sam Coomes was in Heatmiser with Elliot Smith before his solo career took off. He has recorded on every Built To Spill album since 'Perfect From Now On.' These are only some of the highlights of these two luminaries' careers. Quasi, their own band, was often the 'backing band' behind Elliott Smith on his tours, including his major label debut tour for the 'XO' album. So that's about all the name-dropping you need there.
Quasi's music needs no introduction. If you really have no idea but the intro made you interested … go check them out on Spotify or something. I'll wait. Back? OK, then. This show was the culmination of their 20th anniversary US tour. The venue felt packed, but not horribly so. People joked to each other on multiple occasions that "no-one under 30 is here tonight,' and each time were met with a refuting challenge from a twentysomething not more than an arm's distance away. But the feeling was correct – this was a show for fans from a different era. Quasi never ran on fame or fads – they endured. So did the fans.
And what a show it was. As an over-30 fan, I had contemplated standing up front for the first few songs and then maybe retiring to the back to lean against a wall or even find a rare barstool or ever-elusive chair. By the time the second song kicked in gear … that contemplation was blown away like so much ephemeral candle-smoke by the furious hurricane of indie rock churned out by the spinning dynamos on stage. That's not to say there were not mistakes. As a musician, I always find it interesting to see how bands deal with mistakes on stage. Quasi embraces them and laughs at them. When Sam actually forgot how to start a song … Janet teased him both for the audience but also for themselves … there was a long exchange over the entire song simply through knowing gleaming-eyed smirks that translated to "Ha ha Sam … you screwed up that intro not once, not twice, but three times. Ha ha ha ha. Oh by the way let's rock this next riff even harder than normal."
Classics were played. Deeper cuts brought to the forefront. The show was nearing the end. Janet took to the mic between songs to tell the audience just how much they enjoyed playing this last show of the tour to this kind of a room (the kind where people's faces were not buried in the zombie glow of iPhone screens, which they had encountered on previous legs of their tour, apparently). There was an extremely crowd-pleasing bashing of a previous show in Santa Barbara and a few random digs at LA in general. The crowd ate it up as only a choir being preached to could.
So the last song of the night is played. Then Sam says "let's do one more." When that ends, Janet says "let's sing happy birthday to (someone's name this writer forgot)." They do … as a minor key dirge version. No, I'm not embellishing. Then they leave. The crowd chants and claps and they come back for the obvious encore. Except the encore keeps going. For 5 more songs. Instruments and pedals are trashed onstage and then repaired to play yet another. The last 4 songs of the night consisted of all the covers from the CD (called 'Interprets') they gave away with their new double-album 'Mole City':
Queen – Don't Stop Me Now
Nick Lowe – What's So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding?
Black Sabbath – War Pigs
Marvin Gaye – Let's Get It On
Each one was fantastic. Seriously – Janet's drum fills on War Pigs were spot on. I had to sing along loudly to the whole thing … and I'm not one of those people at a show who does that. When 'Let's Get It On' started, it was like that scene at the end of 'High Fidelity' when Jack Black blows everyone's mind by rocking that exact cover song – people who didn't know each other just grabbed partners and started dancing en masse. It was THAT kind of an epic cover. They all were.
Also of note – despite living in Portland for over 6 years, somehow I never got around to going to the Doug Fir to see a show. I've been there probably over 10 times in other capacities, but never to see a show. As a music gear nerd – it lives up to the hype. EAW floor monitors. That's all that needs to be said. If the floor monitors are that quality … you can imagine the rest of the system. Possibly the best small venue sound I've ever heard.
All photos by Lee Meredith.