Skip to content Skip to footer

Live Review: Quasi w/ Marnie Stern @ The Atlantis — 6/26/24

Quasi, the duo of keyboardist/guitarist/vocalist Sam Coomes and drummer Janet Weiss, has persisted for more than 30 years, making intelligent indie rock. In February 2023, they released their first album in 10 years, Breaking The Balls of History. Despite the break between albums, they haven’t lost anything in terms of chemistry and dynamism, and they delivered another set of great songs.

In their recent show at The Atlantis, Quasi rocked hard and loud, to the delight of fans who were thrilled to see them back together live on stage.

Coomes and Weiss’s partnership goes back to the early ’90s, preceding Quasi, when they were in the trio Motorgoat. Over the years, they’ve frequently been pulled away from Quasi by their many other projects. For more than 20 years, Weiss was a member of Sleater-Kinney, and she’s also played with Bright Eyes and Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks. Coomes, for his part, was a member of Heatmiser and Pink Mountain, and he also played with the late Elliot Smith. Both Weiss and Coomes play in the recently formed Jon Spencer & The HITmakers.

Though they’d been inactive, events over the last several years led Quasi’s reemergence. A month after leaving Sleater-Kinney in 2019, Weiss was seriously injured in a car accident that sidelined her. Just as she was recovering, the Covid pandemic hit, meaning that getting back on the road was, for a time, not possible. Weiss and Coomes made the most of the circumstances, getting together to jam and work on songs, allowing Weiss to regain her playing form as one of the best drummers in rock. In 2022 they hit the road, and they went to Robert Lang Studios, where they recorded Breaking the Balls of History over five days.

For all their tunefulness and sense of humor, Quasi has never shied away from controversial topics, like religion. Introducing the title track of their 2001 album Sword of God, Coomes shot down the idea that the album had anything to do with 9/11 — which should be obvious from the fact that it was released the month before the terrorist attack! (Similarly, Wilco’s “Jesus, Etc.,” was recorded before 9/11, though the lyrics are almost eerily prescient.)

At The Atlantis on June 26, Coomes’s sense of humor came through between “Repetition” and “Only Success Can Fail Me Now.” He mentioned how he was starting to perceive individual members of the audience, as opposed to a single organism, “an amoeba,” which he described as a defense mechanism for being on stage. There was another funny moment when Weiss admitted to starting to play the wrong song, despite them using a consistent setlist from night-to-night. This sensibility also comes through in numbers like “You Fucked Yourself,” “Ape Self Prevails In Me Still,” and “You Can Stay but You Gotta Go.”

Watch the official music video for “You Can Stay but You Gotta Go” by Quasi on YouTube:

For the numbers where Coomes played guitar, they were joined by bassist Joanna Bolme, who has played with them in the past. (She also played with Weiss in the Jicks; just what exactly is a Jick, anyway?) They kicked things off with “Our Happiness Is Guaranteed,” followed by “I Never Want To See You Again,” “The Poisoned Well,” and the bitingly political “The Happy Prole.” The set continued with “Sea Shanty,” “It’s Hard to Turn Me On,” “Nothing from Nothing,” and “California.” The back half of their performance included “Please Do,” “I Give Up,” “The Rhino,” “Under a Cloud,” “Death Culture Blues,” “It’s Raining,” and “Riots & Jokes.” They sent the audience home with “Rockabilly Party.”

Guitarist Marnie Stern got things started with a 30-minute solo electric set. Known for her finger-tapping technique, she spent nearly a decade in 8G, the house band for Late Night With Seth Meyers. Like Quasi, she, too, released her first record, The Comeback Kid, after a decade between albums, last year.  She kicked things off with “Plain Speak,” and her set included “Believing is Seeing,” “Transformer,” “For Ash,” “Prime,” “The Natural,” “‘Til It’s Over,” “Sixteen,” and “The Crippled Jazzer.” During her set, she mentioned she’s on tour with kids, with all the frustrations and shenanigans that come with that: “Are we there yet?” gets repeated every day, she said, for about seven hours.

I’m not sure why it amused me, but it did amuse that Stern seemed to materialize out of the crowd before taking the stage, having not been noticed or bothered by anyone. To the audience’s credit, I saw her on the floor after her set, completely left alone by the crowd. This crowd was a cool group of cats, and that definitely made a great night of music — both Stern and Quasi were spectacular — an even more enjoyable experience. And, which I’m sure was appreciated by everyone, we were out by 10 o’clock — I was even able to catch the tail end of the NBA draft when I got home, though I didn’t recognize the late picks.

Here are some photos of Quasi performing at The Atlantis on June 26, 2024. All pictures copyright and courtesy of David LaMason.

Quasi

 

Quasi

Quasi

Quasi

Quasi

Quasi

QuasiQuasi

 

Quasi

Quasi

Quasi

Quasi

 

Quasi

Quasi

Quasi

Quasi

Quasi

Quasi

Quasi

Quasi

Quasi

Quasi

Quasi

Quasi

Quasi

Quasi

Quasi

Quasi

 

Quasi

Quasi