In the moments before Quicksand took the stage last night at the Bluebird, the room lights dimmed and floor lights on stage came on to the sound of Basil Poledouris's theme from Conan the Barbarian. Quicksand frontman Walter Schreifels looked pleasantly surprised at the enthusiastic reception the band received when it took the stage. His jaw dropped, and he smiled as though he was genuinely awed that so many people showed up and remembered the band. Maybe these guys play the same set every night, but on this night, the welcoming reception seemed to spark the band, which opened with "Omission."
If you never got to see the band during its initial run, listening to the recordings alone does not fully prepare you for how dense and fluid the low end is and how it pushes the songs along with an inexorable and dynamic flow. Sergio Vega's bass tone straddled the perfect line between mechanical and sinuous, between incandescent and crunchy, while Alan Cage struck the ideal balance between textural and driving percussion with accents. The band, including guitarist Tom Capone, created a notable dynamic tension, whether the music transitioned into a hushed, darkly vibrant section or burst forth with an energized, transformative shattering of angst and desperation.
Schreifels gestured broadly, often lifting his Telecaster into the air in a visual embodiment of a moment of suspended force before bringing the sounds crashing down together. Capone, Vega and Schreifels also caught air on multiple occasions as each surged into the songs with a passionate joy. "Freezing Process," with an intro that sounded like it could have come from a space-rock band or from Swervedriver, blossomed into a weighty catharsis and showcased the band's mastery of creating vivid, contrasting sound ideas within its music.
Toward the end of the set, Schreifels told us they were going to play a song they used to way back when, and it ended up being the band's cover of "How Soon Is Now?" Naturally the echoing guitar line was turned into something sonically heavier than The Smiths' original, with Quicksand transforming the number into something it could have written, as the dynamics of the original fit into its own aesthetic perfectly.
Following the Smiths' song, Schreifels mentioned that the next tune was one that didn't make it on to an album and that the band didn't really play it on its earlier tour, the fiery and drifty "Shovel." The main set ended with bouncing, melodic "Landmine Spring." Throughout the show, the band deftly mixed heavy, melodic and dark elements with the kind of sinuous dynamism that informed earlier Soundgarden material -- that is, if Soundgarden had come out of hardcore and stripped that music to a raw emotional core and embraced the naked vulnerability of it all.
Before leaving the stage, Schreifels introduced the band, starting with Capone and finished with, "We're Quicksand. You've been amazing. You make it worth it." Of course pretty much everyone there cheered for more, and the band didn't keep us waiting and returned for an encore, closing the show with "Can Opener."
The show began with a very focused and forceful set from Il Cattivo. Like Quicksand, the band's music comes from hardcore and metal to create its own form of hard rock. Roughly a third of the way through the set, frontman Brian Hagman joked with the audience about how we could breathe up here, and he sat down at the edge of the stage in imitation of some band or another that always mentions the altitude for lack of anything else to say between songs.
Two songs later, Hagman stood back up and got back to his emotive antics. Some of us have seen the guy perform several times for years but whether he's dancing wildly to the music, shaking his index finger like a hep cat, clapping to get the audience to clap or posing like a caricature of Mick Jagger or Ian Astbury, he never seems like he's faking it, and when you do get that feeling, you can tell he's at least trying to make himself or one of his bandmates laugh in a moment of heightened emotional expression.
Never boring, Il Cattivo collectively put in an especially cohesive performance, and its set ended with the psychedelic "Jesuit." Playing the song this night, the band didn't wander through a tripped out, introspective soundscape as it has often done in the past. Even so, the song was served as the embodiment of a suspension of disbelief and contradictions as it was both controlled and sounding like it could collapse at every moment, and this was just one of the many charms of this band on this night.
Personal Bias: Quicksand is one of those '90s bands, like Unrest and Versus (to name a few), that you hear as an influence on so much that came in their wake. Getting to see Quicksand was a rare privilege.
Random Detail: Before playing "Can Opener" during the encore, Schreifels said, "It's nice to be back on Colfax where I almost got jumped. I think that's kind of a rite of passage in Denver. My Spidey senses warned me just in time." Someone up front joked that it was him or something along those lines. Schreifels laughed and said, "That was you? I thought you looked familiar."
By the Way: We should all be as energetic and passionate about our work as these guys were playing this show.
Quicksand Bluebird Theater - 1/15/13 Denver, CO
Omission Unfulfilled Head To Wall Fazer Too Official Freezing Process Brown Gargantuan Lie And Wait Delusional Divorce Slip Thorn In My Side Backwards Dine Alone How Soon Is Now? Shovel Landmine Spring Encore
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