When you're hovering as close to “living legend” status as Janet Weiss and Sam Coomes, you can afford to call on your hometown's best and brightest to help you fill out a bill.
Never ones to waste such an opportunity, Weiss and Combs summoned an A-list (or at least the Portland, OR equivalent of “A-list”) lineup for their return this past Saturday as Quasi. With a collection of such talent it's hard to skim over anyone, so we'll take this one play-by-play.
The Golden Bears
I arrive 20 minutes past the Golden Bears' scheduled start time and am pleasantly surprised to find that the duo of Seth Lorinczi and Julianna Bright have yet to take the stage. When they at last wander into the Doug Fir's curiously shifting spotlight, Bright is quick to apologize for the delay, citing her and Lorinczi's daughter as the responsible party (apparently she had a cold).
The next 20 minutes are spent in a display of thundering throwback rock that makes me wonder how Lorinczi and Bright manage to maintain parallel careers in music, art, parenthood, and culinary journalism while apparently excelling at all of them. In all fairness they are helped along by Viva Voce drummer (and Lorinczi's Blue Giant bandmate) Kevin Robinson on bass, but the solid analog pounding of their next century psychedelia seems easily suited to a venue three times this size. It's the kind of rock and roll you can feel shaking around in your gut and Bright's drumming pairs so well with Lorinczi's overdriven guitar that it's easy to see why the couple is, well, a couple.
Eat Skull's set is a grand display of cognitive dissonance. Actually, more or less everything Eat Skull does is a grand display of dissonance of some kind. Tonight is made all the more bizarre by the band's being so thoroughly at odds with the clean, cosmopolitan interior of the Doug Fir.
Wandering onstage wearing varying degrees of thrift store flannel and carrying amps that look as if they're about to break if they aren't there already, Eat Skull sets about thrashing through the barely tuned punk-by-way-of-metal-by-way-of-“huh?” tunes that have carved the band its own niche in town. It's clear from watching the boys of Eat Skull that they are far more used to playing venues with much lower ceilings, drunker audiences, and awful sound systems than the Doug Fir.
Though “Puker Corpse” and “Dead Families” feel right on the money, it seems like Eat Skull is warily oscillating between frantic energy and being slightly weirded out by playing to a concert hall that doesn't double as someone's basement.
Toward the end of the group's set, lead singer Rob Enbom reminds the audience “We have some shit for sale if you want to buy it.” Aside from the two kids trying to mosh in the front, everyone seems just as confused with this pronouncement as Enbom himself.
I think we can all agree it's a good thing that Janet Weiss and Sam Coomes' divorce was carried out on such amiable terms. As a result we are still treated to Quasi at pleasant, if irregular, intervals.
During its last bout of hibernation it seems Quasi undertook a few changes, but for the most part, remained exactly as it was the last time it played. Coomes has lost his beard and Joanna Bolme (a “Jick” along with Weiss) is helping out on bass but neither of these things seem to have made a dent in the shambling style of Quasi's trademark indie rock. If anything it's solidified the comfortable aesthetic.
The trio pulled material from all corners of its decade-plus existence, attacking each beat with a precision that made it seem that Coomes and Weiss had spent their latest two year hiatus locked in their basement perfecting every chord change and fuzzy solo.
And there was many a solo.
It doesn't come across as heavily in their recorded material but Quasi has a propensity for extended jams that sometimes border on the epic. When Coomes moved from Rhodes organ to guitar halfway through the band's set it marked a sea change from the melodic funk of songs such as “Drunken Tears” to a series of tunes made increasingly greater in length by Coomes' guitar-god noodling.
This focus on guitar actually meshed extremely well with the style of Weiss' drumming, which never allows a moment to pass without playing it to its absolute cymbal-smashing extreme. The two played off each other like separate chambers of the same instrument, making it obvious why their partnership has endured through six albums and is still kicking—even if we are only treated to results on even numbered years.
The Golden BearSpace
Old press photo courtesy of Quasi