April 23, 2024

Quasi – Live in Leeds 2023 – “Doing things wrong is my thing”

Live at The Brudenell Social Club, Leeds 1st May 2023

If a trio gets you nearer to the heart of rock and roll by simplifying, wouldn’t a duo take it even closer? Well, it depends on that duo; do they eat, breathe and excrete rock? If so, yes. Sam Coomes and Janet Weiss have an energy that sustains twenty-odd songs performed as a pair.

A Quasi gig feels like a conversation with moments of spontaneous creation. Sam seems immersed in thought sometimes as he ponders the keys, while Janet watches, questions and insists, all with her eyes. A to-and-fro at one point seems a game of follow my leader and don’t trip up. Driven by tactile sound, Coomes has his keys set so he can rock and tilt them with excitement between switching sounds with the myriad of pedals and switches at his feet, occasionally adding a knee or foot to hit more keys or trigger his theremin-type gadget. Notes are as often wrong as right, yet the right wrong, the perfect dissonance. Drums are busy, muscular and tight, an equal in driving force, a musical partner rather than a beat machine.

Taking the studio sound and adding volume and distortion, it becomes a fuzzed out, distorto-dream of sixties-style melody. Big hooks and tunes encounter random notes, and over-amped sound, punching along powerfully. “”, says Sam Coomes, while explaining the band’s intention to play the encore before their last song of the main set (well it made sense when he said it).

Opening on ‘Last Long Laugh’ is ideal, a mission statement of sorts; “I was a teenage porcupine, a bed of nails running down my spine”. Comfy big hooks combine with uncomfy semi-bum notes and squelches. Jazzy moments from the playful drums make it clear we aren’t in relaxed territory, while the cheeky interplay adds a smile to it. Contradictions push and pull. Atonal keyboard passages arrive, sounds wander, keys and drums pulse together, sounds pound and squelch. ‘Riots & Jokes’ is an ideal closer – the fairground organ sounds reaching newly crazed levels as the duo sing together and the song teeters on the verge of collapse. There you have the set’s bookends – the set in miniature, highlighting the fun and the purpose behind the enterprise.

A fascinating hour and a half, basic rock and roll pop being forced into big, loose boots before running about, flapping, in a field of sound.


Ross McGibbon

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