After my “unusual” weekend at The Eaux Claires festival, I was ready for a show that I could enjoy in a place that feels like home. The fact that I was about to see true legends was just the icing on the damn cake. Upon walking into The Varsity Theater on Monday night, you got the feeling that you were in the presence of giants because, well, you were. With two heavy hitting headliners Glassjaw and Quicksand, who truly shaped the scene that is post-hardcore and an opening act that instantly grabbed everyone’s attention, last night was just what I needed to make up for my crappy weekend.
Spotlights kicked the night off right around 7:30PM. They instantly dove into a sludgey almost drone like set that only lasted about a half an hour but definitely made an impact on the packed venue. Hailing from New York, Spotlights is a band that isn’t afraid to mix sludge, doom, shoegaze, and a little bit of everything else to make something truly different and creative. That creativity obviously paid off with the way the crowd that had started mingling by the back bar slowly crept their way up to the stage just to check it out. Being just a trio, I was truly impressed by the amount of sound they were able to produce. Sure, there were tracks but they weren’t super obnoxious or fake sounding. Everything was cohesive, loud, and energetic without being obvious. Although the members weren’t just standing there looking bored, there wasn’t much to watch other than the occasional walk away from the microphone and kneel down to make distorted noises with the amps, there was a sense of energy that radiated from the stage through the music. That mixed with the way the audience clapped with a sense of respect and love for this trio between songs left me with a truly enjoyable opening set.
The comments I got on the picture I posted on Facebook of the next band to perform pretty much say everything that needs to be said. “Well there’s a band I haven’t seen in 25 years or so…” Ain’t that the truth. Quicksand is one of those bands that I had just comes to terms with the fact that I would probably never see them live. Formed in 1990, Quicksand took the world by storm with their unique and distinct post-hardcore sound. After two releases, and a couple of tours, the band fizzled and by 1999, they were done. Other than a couple reunion dates, there was no word from the band. Fast forward to last year and Quicksand, out of nowhere, releases their third album “Interiors”. I was excited to see this band back in action. Although not my favorite band of all time, they have a sound that is so distinctively them that it’s impossible not to at least feel a sense of intrigue while listening to them. When they announced a tour (with one of my favorite bands) I knew that I just couldn’t miss this reunion. I mean, it was 20 years in the making. Things change with that much time and I was excited to see what had changed with Quicksand but there was a catch.
Nothing has changed. After a twenty year hiatus, Quicksand sounds just as great as they did back in their heyday. Although I never saw them back in the 90’s, I think it’s safe to assume that Monday night’s performance was just as energetic as it had been back in the day. With a nearly twenty song set that lasted just over an hour, Quicksand had the entire audience in the palm of their hands. Whether you grew up in a time when Quicksand was the coolest underground band your friends had never heard of, or you didn’t catch onto them until it was too late and they were no longer “a thing”, there was something for you in their extensive set. The excitement in the audience was palpable and, although I was unable to sing along to majority of the set, there were plenty of people around me who knew every single word and were singing it like it was the last song they would ever sing.
Honestly, I would have been more than fine with Quicksand ending the night. Their set was dynamic, fun and full of nostalgia for everyone in the venue which led to a very fun and care-free atmosphere but we still had one of my all time favorite bands to go. The anticipation in the venue was real as the stage was switched over and, although a handful of people scattered to the wind after seeing the one and only Quicksand, the crowd that was left inched their way closer and closer to the stage until the lights went down and the entire place exploded.
Glassjaw is one of those bands that has an almost cult like following and that was evident by the way the audience erupted as soon as the spotlights turned on and the band jumped into their set on Monday night. Easily one of the most influential bands in the post-hardcore scene, this east coast band powered through their Monday night set with a sense of ease and brutality that only they can pull off. Although completely in your face and, at times, a chaotic mess, Glassjaw’s live show is one that I always refer back to when talking about true musicianship and passion. You can feel the love that the musicians have for their craft as they play on stage just as much as you can feel the love the audience has for this band as they watch the legends play a flawless set.
With three albums out and a spattering of singles, demos and other various releases, Glassjaw seems to always know the best songs to put on their setlist. Having seen them a couple of times over the past years, I love the fact that I always hear a song that I hadn’t heard them perform before each time I see them. Whether an old song or a new song, Glassjaw’s music has a sound that is always presented with a side dish of energy, flash lights and energy. They are one of those live bands where, even if you had never heard of them prior to stumbling into one of their shows, you’ll leave with an arm’s full of merch and a new favorite band. Their seventeen song set wasn’t enough for me and I was more than reluctant to be dumped into the darkened streets of Dinkytown. Like many other bands, I could have stood there for hours on end watching Glassjaw.
My weekend was a flop. Even my shows last week weren’t quite for me. Honestly, I was getting discouraged. It had been a solid week since my last truly great show but last night made up for that “off week”.