Quasi with the Magic Magicians and Shannon Wright at Lee's Palace, September 30. Tickets: $12. Attendance: 100. Rating: NNNN
according to quasi frontman Sam Coomes, the title of their most recent album, The Sword Of God (Touch and Go), is a reference to the rock 'n' roll spirit that fuels the dynamic drums-and-piano duo onstage. Coomes and bandmate Janet Weiss were obviously feeling some divine inspiration Sunday night as they rocked a near-empty Lee's Palace well into the wee small hours.
Openers the Magic Magicians did their best Built to Spill act but fell short. Axeman John Atkins (of 764-HERO) displayed ample instrumental skill but was lacking in the vocal department; his nasal yowling grew abrasive, and he strained to hit the few notes within his range. Both Atkins and drummer Joe Plummer forgot they were playing to an audience, eschewing stage banter and focusing (with eyes closed) on the music. No magic here -- more like a jam session in your mom's garage.
After the Magicians stumbled off the stage, weird, distorted noise and spooky, filmic music drew the crowd forward, transfixed by the slide show of suburban bungalows and blue-rinsed old ladies. With the audience reverently hushed, Shannon Wright silently took the stage. The shaggy-haired redhead practically made love to her guitar, convulsing as if possessed by demons.
Quivering centre-stage, Wright demonstrated her vocal prowess -- first slurring lyrics in a little-girl whisper, then howling madly, and then purring like a Brechtian cabaret madam. Her powerful pipes were matched by masterful classical piano and dissonant art-rock guitar.
But Quasi was the main attraction for the handful of people present, and the former husband-and-wife team (now divorced) didn't disappoint. They served up a 90-minute-plus set, heavy on new material, of their trademark squelchy distorted keyboard and virtuoso percussion.
Charming Coomes built walls of guitar feedback and waged a full-body attack on his piano, while Weiss proved she's the coolest chick in rock, hypnotizing with a relentless, frenetic bashing of the skins. The crowd of hardcore fans played off the pair's energy, bopping to the 60s bubblegum vocal harmonies and shouting out requests.
At the moment, Quasi is still a for-those-who-know phenomenon, but that should soon change.