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Quasi and Jeffrey Lewis @ Boot & Saddle.

October 16, 2013

Quasi01Text and images by Dana Lucchine.

When Jeffrey Lewis, opening act for Quasi, announced that the headlining band was selling a ‘zine commemorating their 20th anniversary, I was certain he had misspoken. Twenty years seemed like too long an existence for a band this explosive and fresh.

And yet, a brief perusal of the merch table proved Lewis to be correct and me to be way out of the loop.

Comprised of Sleater-Kinney/Wild Flag drummer Janet Weiss and Portland music scene alum Sam Coomes on guitar and keyboards, Quasi has been around long enough to have earned serious rock music cred. They’ve played with the likes of Elliott Smith, Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks, Built to Spill and Bright Eyes. But they are so polished and perfectly suited to be the ultimate touring rock band themselves that introducing them by talking about their connection to other bands does them a disservice (my bad).

Quasi hit new South Philly venue Boot & Saddle with the force of a tidal wave. Weiss and Coomes struck me as the ideal combination of power and skill; they repeatedly wound up the audience and pulled us taut before letting the whole room loose with a relentless crash of cymbals. It was cathartic for the fans. The band played old songs and new songs, and traded banter about the crowd’s seeming lack of enthusiasm.

(I have heard this kind of talk from bands before: that a Philly crowd is not “into it” enough during a show I am enjoying. The audience always appears invested in the music to me. My only explanation is that Philly music fans don’t emote our joy the way bands are used to. In the case of last Saturday’s Quasi show, the audience members were most assuredly pumped. We were excited. Weiss and Coomes perhaps saw hundreds of scowls staring at them, but that’s really just how our faces look, I guess)

JeffreyLewis01The energy level was elevated almost immediately once openers Jeffrey Lewis and the Rain (right) took the stage. They warmed the crowd up nicely with lyrical ditties about Pussy Riot and the importance of time. Lewis, a comic book artist, played some of his songs accompanied by picture slideshows he had drawn. A highly editorial piece about the fall of the Soviet Union was a real standout.

Lewis and Quasi offered up performances of wit, confidence, focus, and power. In a time when our city is continuously inundated by slick “indie” acts from Brooklyn, these rock veterans were a welcome breath of fresh DIY air.

Anytime they want to stop by to be appreciatively scowled at, Philly will be waiting with open arms – metaphorically, of course. In actuality, our arms will be firmly crossed.

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