At first glance, Quicksand and Glassjaw don’t seem to make perfect tour mates. Quicksand was an early adopter of post-hardcore in the grunge soaked early 90’s, and their tone reflects it. They broke up quickly, then reunited and got back on tour to kick off their later career. Glassjaw, on the other hand, came up playing a radically different style of post-hardcore in the nu-metal era of the early 2000’s, and after a short burst of activity, they quietly stopped releasing new music while continuously touring.
However, while their sounds stand opposed to each other, those career arcs are remarkably similar, especially bucking against trends during eras where mainstream music was caught up in a soon-to-die fad. The fact that both released their first new music in over a decade in the last year also spiritually links the two bands on a deeper level. Each is out to prove something with this tour.
At Mohawk Austin on Tuesday, July 24, Glassjaw came out ready to roar. Notably, their newest record, Material Control, their first full-length since 2002’s Worship and Tribute, is consistently heavier than almost anything Glassjaw has ever recorded. Pretty melodies are left behind in favor of jagged hardcore riffs and a more aggressive tone than ever before. It’s as if Glassjaw had demons to exorcise and needed to show the world they weren’t going to slow down after that fifteen year hiatus from recording. That led in turn to a set heavy on older songs like “Tip Your Bartender” and “Mu Empire” that closer match their newer style than fan favorites like “Ape Dos Mil,” noticeably absent from the setlist, that show their softer, more sensitive side.
In a live setting, there is perhaps some logic to this, especially when debuting so much heavier new music, but at a certain point it did get to be like Glassjaw beating one over the head with hammers. They are fantastic live performers, but at some point the setlist just needed a bit more room to breathe. As is the issue with Material Control itself, the setlist reflected a whole lot of blunt brutality, but not a lot of dynamic variation.
Quicksand silently approached to a vastly depleted audience, making one question the pecking order of the bands that night. Glassjaw certainly arrested the Mohawk crowd more and was clearly the bigger draw, but out of respect to the veterans, Quicksand closing the show made sense regardless. Launching right into “Head to Wall” from their classic record Slip, Quicksand made good on keeping up with the heaviness displayed by Glassjaw earlier in the night. “Don’t let the shorts fool you, buddy,” quipped front man Walter Schreifels, “this is post-hardcore.”
As with Glassjaw, Quicksand placed a heavy emphasis on newer material in their setlist. With new album Interiors and new EP Triptych Continuum, there was much to draw from and Quicksand wasn’t shy about showing off where they are now. Unlike Glassjaw though, not a whole lot has changed in Quicksand’s sound. There might be a larger sonic range involved in their newer recordings, but overall the setlist flowed seamlessly as it weaved in and out between Interiors tracks and Slip classics like “Dine Alone” and “Fazer.” One could hardly tell any time had passed between the band’s first run.
For two bands working on proving they belong in the current musical landscape, Tuesday night’s show was a mixed success. Both Quicksand and Glassjaw rely heavily on nostalgia to entertain their audience, such as when Schreifels made a joke about playing a song from his former band Gorilla Biscuits. It is obvious why audiences still swarm to see these bands, and it’s obviously not Material Control or Interiors. On the other hand, for an older audience who may not keep up as much with new releases from classics bands of their youth such as these, Quicksand and Glassjaw both made their cases eloquently, and never lost the attention of their respective audiences, whether they knew the new songs or not. To keep fans patiently engaged through unfamiliar waters is a true accomplishment, and both succeeded, regardless of the nostalgia card in play.