Dear Chester, I only realised a few days ago that it’s nearly been a year …
THURSDAY & QUICKSAND with We Set Sail
Friday March 9th, 2018
The Zoo, Brisbane
When we stroll in to The Zoo on this dreary Friday evening, the mood is relatively inauspicious: there’s no line outside, an absence of visible security guards, bartenders milling around idly, and punters sticking to the walls of the venue like bits of chewed gum. We’re sure things will pick up–it is a double headline bill after all–but for now, we’re happy to sip on a frosty beverage, make small talk and soak up the restless ambience.
Looking to disrupt the sense of quiet tonight are Brisbane noise merchants We Set Sail, who are given the task of warming crowds on this national tour run. We’ve seen the band a multitude of times before, and this evening sees them in their most lean of potential configurations: playing on the floor of the stage as a quintet, actually facing the crowd for once, and with Bloom Parade guitarist Chris Hill filling in on bass. It’s a short set for the group, and given that their songs tend to push the five-minute mark, song selection is paramount. Cuts from their outstanding 2016 record Feel Nothing sound more upbeat in a live setting, with the samples in Reminders Written On Maps and Snails buried in the mix, alongside front man/guitarist Paul Voge’s subdued vocals. This is probably the most animated we’ve ever seen Voge on stage, as he bashes his guitar with vicious strums, and at times, flinging his head back to scream wildly to the roof above. Older tracks like Understanding Human Architecture get a mention, but we’re more focused on the new tracks unrevealed by the band. In particular, a new song called Resolutions sounds positively glorious, with its formidable three-pronged guitar attack, and thick rumbling tones reverberating through the venue’s floorboards and into our toes. Feel nothing? Highly unlikely.
We move to the bar at the back of the room, and rub shoulders for what seems like an hour (which it definitely wasn’t) before New York institution Quicksand take to the stage. As anticipated, the venue has now filled up considerably, with a lot of old punkers making an appearance. With scene figurehead and NYHC icon Walter Schreifels to stage left, the three-piece charge right into a dense set of mid-tempo, groove-oriented punk bangers. Pulling largely from 1993’s post-hardcore defining Slip and recent album Interiors, tracks like opener Fazer and Cosmonauts showcase the band’s dynamic range quite well, with enthusiastic shouts from the crowd mid-song, amid a smoky haze of alternating green and blue lights.
It’s a testament to group’s collective musical pedigree–Gorilla Biscuits, Rival Schools, Deftones, Youth of Today; take your pick–that so few members on stage can sound this full. Sure, there’s pedals and effects and a whole bag of tricks at play, but everything from Schreifels’ lofty riffs, to the quaking bass and drummer Alan Cage’s tectonic fills sound huge, and older tracks like Brown Gargantuan and Thorn In My Side in particular get heads bobbing and feet shuffling. It’s clear that most of the crowd in attendance tonight grew up on a diet of Fugazi and Helmet, so witnessing a Quicksand headline set is kind of like gorging yourself on a 90s hardcore buffet. Thanking Brisbane profusely for their inviable hospitality, Schreifels & Co close with Dine Alone and relish the opportunity to move around and savour the welcome reception.
Taking position on the steps to get a more expansive vantage point, we’re a little giddy when the lights dim and Thursday blow the roof off The Zoo by launching straight in to For The Workforce, Drowning. We’ve been fans of the band for the better part of 15 years, and albums like 2001’s Full Collapse and 2003’s War All The Time have aged incredibly well given today’s current musical climate, so tonight’s setlist is an absolute treasure trove of nostalgic reverie. Vocalist Geoff Rickly is a commanding figure onstage, with one rolled up sleeve and a back already caked in sweat, yet there are moments in classic tracks like Cross Out the Eyes and Paris in Flames when even Rickly seems taken aback by the intensity of the crowd’s sing-a-longs. Lyrics are screamed, limbs are flailed, and the only moment of brief reprieve comes with some stage banter before the left-field inclusion of Jet Black New Year, where Rickly comments that the EP to which the track belongs was mostly a contractual farewell for an old label, but nevertheless, the band really like the song. And evidently, so do tonight’s crowd, swaying effortlessly to the track’s more upbeat rhythms.
As the group moves into more wordy cuts like Division St and This Song Brought to You by a Falling Bomb, Rickly encourages crowd involvement, and there are seem brief flirtations with neutered stage dives that have fleeting, good intentions yet ultimately lack conviction in execution. We’re also a little bummed that Asleep In The Chapel doesn’t get featured tonight (just quietly, it’s a fucking banger), but we’ll settle for singing along to Steps Ascending, and reminiscing about wearing out that particular song in our high school Discman. Guitarist Tom Keeley wields the lead riff in Understanding In A Car Crash like a deadly weapon, and the melodic refrain is still as infectious now as when we first heard it comingled with our own fumbling adolescence.
There’s a brief encore of sorts, before the group comes back out to dust off some more recent cuts from 2009’s Common Existence and 2011’s No Devolución, but we all know what we’re waiting for—when the anthemic War All The Time starts up, the reaction is essentially instinctual at this point. As one of the pioneers of contemporary post-hardcore, Thursday have crafted a legacy by writing passionate and intelligent songs, and War All The Time perhaps personifies this better than any other. In a post-9/11 world, it’s hard to listen to lyrics about H-bombs, New York skylines and Three-Mile Island and not think about the shaky state of affairs we find ourselves in now. But, alas, tonight is both contemplative and cathartic, and we leave The Zoo with good gig memories, a smile on our dial and plenty of food for thought.
Catch Thursday & Quicksand with We Set Sail at the remaining dates.
Sunday March 11, The Corner Hotel, Melbourne VIC
Tuesday March 13, The Gov, Adelaide SA