Quicksand – The Mothership: December 16, 2023

Quicksand

Quicksand are part of a moment in Punk Rock history when a(nother) sound was synthesised, as US hardcore, grunge and post-punk collided in the early 1990s, out of it came an anxious,  energised and tuneful genre (Fugazi, Helmet, Therapy?) that momentarily threatened the music charts in the wake of Nirvana’s mainstream success.

Hailing from New York City, the release of their eponymous, 1990s EP and touring with heavy hitters Rage Against the Machine and White Zombie, got them signed to a major label and in 1993 they released the debut album Slip, which was instantly seized upon by music critics as a masterpiece, and while not another commercial Nevermind, became a benchmark album of the post-hardcore sound.

Tonight’s show is part of a three-date Aotearoa tour on the back of four dates in Australia, celebrating the 30th anniversary of their 1993s debut album Slip, and while the lineup does feature originals Walter Schreifels, Sergio Vega and Alan Cage, fellow-founder guitarist Tom Capone left in 2017, and touring replacement Stephen Brodsky is not on the tour either.

Swallow The Rat

Swallow The RatOnstage at 8.30pm, Swallow The Rat efficaciously created their signature wall of sound: loud and impressive, in a set that featured mainly from their latest album South Locust. The dual vocals of Stephen Horsley and Hayden Fritchley created a dynamic that maintained a fluidity for the audience as guitarist Brian Purington constructed post-punk rhythms and soundscapes. Increasing the young folk in the full room, were diggin’ it, perhaps it being their first time seeing the band. STR finished with a My Bloody Valentine-like wall of noise, with Stephen Horsley’s bass unslung and on the stage, as they created a neo shoegaze finale, reminiscent of experimental trailblazers Throbbing Gristle.

Mothra

Almost famous for being voted to kick off Big Day Out 2010? Post-metal? Psychedelic Mothraexperimental? Formed in 2008, they have a heavy weight list of stage companions, Helmet, Russian Circles, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Earth, Quicksand and soon the to be adding Deftones to that list when they open for them in March 2024. 

Looking like three landscape gardeners or perhaps copywriters for ad agencies, it’s a band of beards. Mothra are an instrumental band, the mic setup in front of Hugh Allan (guitars, samples) is only for chit chat, a three piece with some seriously heavyweight equipment. How many musicians and techs does it take to adjust a temperamental bass amp – five it seems!

Mothra created multiple soundscapers, complex compositions and a perfectionist approach that sometimes saw the continuity wavering. Their Post Prog-Rock or Post-Metal sound combines multiple genres that they meld together with great efficiency and glamour (maybe they are copy-writers), towards the end of their set there is a symphonic sound, which at times is reminiscent of being at a Drum n Bass night, after dropping an e.

Quicksand

When four becomes three, what did Quicksand do? Sergio Vega, bassist for the band (and for a while The Deftones) is sporting a guitar, confusion reigns, no bass on stage. Turns out Quicksand‘s solution is for  Sergio to play a tuned down guitar, and possibly for a sequencer to trigger bass lines.

QuicksandVocalist/guitarist Walter Schreifels is energized and amped, as the band launch into Fazer, Head to Wall, Dine Alone and Slip all come quickly. Walter is dancing and bouncing around, engaging the audience as they sing-a-long, meanwhile Sergio is doing his best to keep up, surging, lunging into the front row. And all the while drummer Alan Cage tucked in a corner, is maintaining the beats, rhythms and timing like a magnificent machine,

As the remainder of Slip flows, the energy and enthusiasm onstage and down on the floor is unending, Unfulfilled is a gentle break in the pace but is quickly upended when Can Opener’s intro begins. As Slip ends, Quicksand pull three from 1995’s Manic Compression (Thorn In My Side, Landmine Spring and Delusional) preceded by Colossus from their 2021 album Distant Populations.

Tonight’s show looked, felt and sounded organic, as a punter it was a fun set to watch and experience, the 30 year wait was well worth it.

Footnote: Sadly no sign of Quicksand’s infamous cover of The Smiths How Soon Is Now?, but I had to leave sprightly to catch the copy deadline. Did I leave too early?

Simon Coffey

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Quicksand:

Mothra:

Swallow The Rat:

Simon Coffey