Love: American Style

Glorious Noise is happy to introduce a new member to the team. Kristy Eldredge is a writer living in Brooklyn. Her new feature article reports from New York on her finding true love in the arms of Quasi. Be sure to welcome her to the group and post your thoughts in the discussion section.

I like to watch

A new GLONO member falls in love with Quasi and remembers why we all love to rock

I’m into watching desire, love. Maybe I’m a voyeur. I find it transfixing to see a couple so into each other they can hardly break eye contact, glued into each others’ auras so intently you can see that no one else around them seems to exist. It doesn’t matter the sex of the couple, or the relative sexes. Though I’ve noticed I’m more fascinated when they’re attractive. So I guess I am a voyeur, ’cause I wouldn’t mind involvement, there’s projection going on.

Anyway. Quasi. Sam Coombs and Janet Weiss, Oct. 4 at the Knitting Factory in New York. Wow! Watching these two play was like seeing their whole relationship spill out in front of you, sex and all. Let’s face it, one reason we go see live music is to watch the interaction of the band, and a lot of the time there’s not much there to see. But husband and wife, or ex-husband and ex-wife, guitarist-drummer teams are something to watch! Have you seen Yo la Tengo’s Georgia Hubley pounding out the drums behind her kinetic husband Ira? Have you watched him groove convulsively to her steady beat, losing himself while she keeps him anchored like the captain of a wind-tossed but rugged boat?

There’s something about watching a wife drum for her husband that’s very provocative, for me. Drummers are always hyper-alert and keyed in to their band members, but when wives drum for their husbands, that dynamic is so intense it’s almost visible. Watching their husbands play, sing and emote, it’s like these woman drummers are both in control and helpless at the same time. And the husbands know it, and it’s like they’re getting off on the absolute fealty that their wives must show during the song. Yet they’re also unbelievably geeked to be getting the perfect rhythmic answers to their every musical impulse. “Honey, you’re incredible!” seems to be beaming out of the men’s eyes as these killer rock drummers — there’s hardly anyone better than Weiss or Hubley — punch their way through song after song.

Sam and Janet are a fantastic duo. This is over-the-top, post-show babbling, but these two, how far can they go? They seem unstoppable! They sing as beautifully as Paul and Linda McCartney ever did. Hell, as Lennon and McCartney ever did. They play wonderfully, never a slack moment. And they’re keyed into each other with a loving intimacy that’s amazing to watch.

I was in a complete funk before the show and contemplating staying for just one song. My contact lenses were dry, I was tired, I don’t smoke anymore and couldn’t even bum that one live-on-the-edge cigarette because of a cold I’m still fighting off, I was alone, I was not even interested in drinking. As we all know, there’s nothing duller than waiting for a rock show to start. At one point, when I was considering becoming a rock critic, I’d thought about getting headphones and language tapes and trying to learn other languages during those dud hours when you’re waiting, waiting, waiting. You can’t do anything else. The light’s too dim for reading. You can talk to your friends, but it’s not a good atmosphere for great conversation. There’s nothing to do, let’s face it, unless you’re really young and getting trashed is still interesting to you.

So I was bored and drooping even when I got to the Knit. And the whole scene down there below Canal is really weird, the streets all blocked off and smelling like melted plastic, cops everywhere and just a few random groups of stylish hipsters roaming around. It looks like a Ridley Scott movie. I passed White St., coming up Church, so that was cool, ’cause I’d never seen the corner that Malkmus wrote that song about Robert Bingham about. But even so, I was in a foul frame of mind, the one that goes: Why go see rock shows anymore? Why, really?

Some unknown opening band was blasting it out when I got there. I skipped them, but went in to watch Shannon Wright. She’s good, there’s no question — a husky, strong voice, interesting songs and she can bellow, really impressively. But something about her unrelenting angst became heavy. It was boring. I felt droopy. Why go see rock shows anymore? I kept wondering. Why even stay for Quasi?

But oh God! Quasi blasted that ennui right out of me. Quasi fucking rocked! They were so good! They had chemistry, charisma, beautiful harmonies, killer melodies, incredible drumming, just everything! From their first song, I was putty in Quasi’s hands.

It’s not that it was that great a show. The sound sucked. But Quasi were so incredibly good! And a lot of it was watching the interaction between this supposedly estranged, but still friends, couple. Well! What I observed didn’t look so estranged. Sam seemed very happy, smiling and staring at Janet for cues as if he’d just been introduced to her. She was meeting his looks, smiling back, and they were manipulating phrases and breaks with that perfect melding of people who have once been lovers or maybe are again. I saw The Need do this exact thing. Those two women, it was like they were sharing one brain. They were so tight, so completely on one wavelength, that it was mesmerizing watching them rock out in perfect unison on fast, complicated rhythms. Quasi aren’t quite that symmetrical, but they have something else — history. When Sam broke a guitar string and appeared helpless, Janet seemed equally nonplussed, but eventually asked, “Where are your extra strings?” Sam replied “I don’t know!” She egged him gently, with wifely familiarity: “Backstage? In the green bag?” Sam admitted he did not know where the green bag was. The audience laughed at this evidently not-put-on display of unpreparedness. Sam eventually announced, in a vast admission of total haplessness, “I just don’t know where strings are!” Janet gave him a loving yet exasperated smile. Someone from the audience threaded their way up to the stage with some extra strings, and Janet said to Sam, “Okay, but you have to play something while I go into the back and change this.” Ha! The guy can’t even change the strings on his guitar! That is so — like a girl! Janet rules! She can drum, be strong, change strings, and still be a really cute babe. What gives with these two? Why are they not yet king and queen of the music world?

Because they are both very sexy. Sam Coombs is an incredibly charismatic and lovable frontman, and Janet is, while more self-contained, very attractive with her shiny pageboy, tube top and unflappable musical authority. Some performers keep themselves private onstage, so you get that “phoning it in” quality that some of our best musicians have. But Sam and Janet both sing their hearts out. Completely! Sam is the kind of performer who just seems likeably engaged and sweetly emotional from the word go. He’s incredibly nice-seeming and real-seeming and massively talented, plus broad-shouldered, in the most engaging way possible. His warm, tuneful voice was not even defeated by the buzzy, murky sound. And the harmonies these two laid down made you marvel that Janet’s role in her other band, Sleater-Kinney, has been restricted to drumming. She can really sing!

Quasi warmed the hearts and souls of the shaken New Yorkers who made their way into the war zone that lower Manhattan still feels like. They certainly put life and happiness back into my drooping limbs. Hurrying down the ghostly, cop-patrolled street to the subway to go home, I conceded that despite the cost in boredom and personal weariness, there is, after all, still a reason to go to rock shows.

Kristy Eldredge

Let us know what you think about this article. Come on, we know you’ve got something to say!

10 thoughts on “Love: American Style”

  1. I’ve never dated a real girl musician before – I don’t know if it’s because I can’t find a musician that meets my personal standards or a person that meets my musical standards, either way, the concept is a little scary.Great article, Kristy – welcome to GloNo.

  2. I just came across the features section…have i seen these before? I can’t remember. Anyway, it appears that the links are wrong in the more feature section. I think they should be index.php?name instead of index.shtml?name

  3. “Books on Tape”? Now that’s bored. (Although I once owned a copy of Mark Leyner’s *My Cousin, My Gatroenterologist* on tape, which is certainly a worthwhile, ah, listen.)Welcome to the club, Kristy.

  4. You the man now, dog!Do you know that line from the trailer for that Sean Connery movie? Doesn’t matter; that was a great article. Even though it’s closed now, and even though I’ve never been to Knitting Factory, I was reminded of a Pram show I saw at Wetlands, Autumn 1995. That feeling of waiting waiting waiting, the vibe not jibing with what you think it should, making you think maybe, “Shit, I should get the hell out of here. I heard this band sucks anyway, and besides, if the dudes behind me keep spouting off about Polvo’s new record like they know what they’re talking about and too loud so that everyone can hear, then I’m goingto go F’ing crazy.” But then the show starts, and the band is so amazing, hittinga ll the right strides that you forget about the fact that you wore the wrong shoes, and just hope that you can find a seat for the long train ride home.Welcome to GloNo. You’re our Eyes on East Coast.JTL

  5. Rumor has it Kristy is dating Julian Casablancas. Any truth to that?Great to have you here. Can’t wait for the next post.

  6. Even after those stupid terrorist fucks flew into the WTC, I still love NYC and would go there in a heartbeat. I am jealous of Kristy that she gets to live in the one of the most fun places in the world and check out cool East Coast bands. Well, have fun & tell us all about it!

  7. I met Quasi in downtown Pittsburgh. I didn’t know who they were, but I could tell by the van and the look that they were in the kinda band I like. So, I approached and started talking to them. What assholes. Instead of making a fan out of me, they decided that I wasn’t a big enough poser to hang with them, so they wrote me off. Good article though.

  8. I came across this article just the other day. I saw Quasi at the Magic Stick about a week before the show at the knitting factory. I had a aimilar experience thinking: “Am I too old to be making the pilgrimage from Kalamazoo to Detroit to see a rock band? They had better be good.” I really enjoy the Quasi records, they’re a melody and verse clinic in themselves. They were a thoroughly complete experience and well worth the journey. I even felt a bit of pride as I struggled through work the next day on the shortage of slumber, but you know, it was worth it, cos that sort of thing is important. As tired as I was, I felt renewed and inspired by seeing them perform. Thanks for the article.

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