California Wet Dreams – A Night With Qwiksand
It’s a beautiful California night with a golden yellow sunset and a full white moon. The surf is high and full of foam. And the smell of sea weed is strong in the humid air. I’m going to see Qwiksand at Hermosa Beach and manage to end up in Compton.
To quote Qwiksands “Get On By”: “Trapped in a sea of red lights/I saw you flip off your headlights/I’m in the fast lane going nowhere/Was in the slow lane almost lost it then/The 91, the 5, and the 405, the 101 is purgatory suicide…Perfect waves and succulent beaches, I just want to get on by.”
Oh yes. But rest assured I found my way to The Pitcher House, a little club along the Pacific Coast Highway. This eclectic Route 66 style retro bar is covered from floor to ceiling with no less than animal trophies, old bottles, records, road signs and more. Definitely a hidden oasis!
The headliner for the evening wasQwiksand, who are currently touring to promote their Planet Squared release, Liquid Dream. This five song EP is an angst ridden plea to CalTrans to make more roads in California! The album was produced by Wyn Davis (Sublime, No Doubt) and engineered by Dave Collins who worked with Hawaiian native Jack Johnson. Already I could see the elements were in place for a fantastic night of surf and Cali rock.
My first impression of Qwiksand was they are a jam band, with a splash of surf. This twist of traditional surfer spring reverb fuzz tone with a light spray of cymbal made you feel like you were steps from the ocean, which in fact we were. So close in fact that the usual stuffiness of a bar was blended with the salty dampness of the ocean air. You could smell the seaweed mingling with sweat. Sweat that lead singer Terry Sahale wiped off on drummer Chuy Vidales with gratuitous hugs met by “Aagh! Gross!” Yes, these guys are a riot. You will love to see them live with such positive energy you can’t help but smile when you watch them play. The funk grooves definitely recalled to me The Spin Doctors. Specifically, “Are You Ready” reminded me of the Spin Doctor’s “Refrigerator Car” with breaks and rap sessions between splashes of sound. Erim Kardes on bass definitely knows how to bring the funk and did so well when paying homage to one of the greatest funk masters ever for a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstitious” where Qwiksand took longer than necessary drum breaks to work the crowd.
A brief chat with drummer Chuy Vidales revealed to me the serious musicianship of Qwiksand. Whispering as if in a confessional, Chuy revealed that he likes all kinds of music, and maybe “might even listen to country music but don’t tell anyone!” Adding, “The Grateful Dead were country.” The significance of Vidales mentioning The Grateful Dead was not lost on me as the greatest jam bands from Phish and The String Cheese Inciden to Little Feat all let the music take control. And now we have Qwiksand to add to this jam band genre! Ironically an old concert flier of The Allman Brothers and Little Feat was hanging on the wall just beside the “Ear Protection Must Be Worn At This Location” sign hanging just above Chuy, who has a nice drum set up with two cow bells. Because lets face it, you always need “More Cow Bell!” Chuy used this to great effect on their perfect replication of Bob Marley’s “Stir It Up.” Yes, there are plenty of covers here, but take note: all with the ocean twang and ability to let the music speak for itself.
Qwiksand’s lead guitarist who goes by RAS is the hidden talent of the band, as he is the original founder and songwriter. His funk sound definitely recalled the scratchy wahwah of Jimi Hendrix’s intro for “If 6 was 9” on the song “Let It Go” which is on Liquid Dream. It was no surprise to me then when Qwiksand did a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “The Wind Cries Mary.”
The vocals of Terry Sahale I found comparable to none other than Dr. Maddvibe himself, Fishbone’s Angelo Moore. There are elements of rage rock to some of these songs – nothing near hardcore music, but definitely some Red Hot Chile Peppers funk style, especially on “One Arm Marsupial” that has an open similar to RHCP’s “Warped.” I would be anxious to see a development of these heavier qualities in the music, and yet the groove feel of the band is so divine, you almost don’t want to see a diversion away from what they already have going on. The three part harmonies of RAS, Sahale and Vidales are a refreshing change of pace. Sahale revealed to me that thisPlanet Squared Liquid Dream five song EP release is their first step in putting together an album, to get the songs and band exposure. So you can buy this in rounds or wait until the album, but chances are you’ll want to rip this tide to your Mp3 player now!
Visit Qwiksand at: Planet Squared