The Quails
w/Ted Leo (solo), the Lashes, Radio Berlin
Wed Sept 24, Graceland, 8 pm, $8.

Bird names carry various implications--think of the stoner-metal workings of Tarantula Hawk or the pop primacy of the Partridge Family--yet all I knew about quails was their diminutive cuteness and baking temperature. The word itself sounds somewhat old and quaint, like "pheasant" or "butter-churn." Starting out four years ago in San Francisco, the musical Quails--guitarist Jen Smith, bassist Seth Lorinczi, and drummer Julianna Bright--carry a similar earthy quality in their rock, but they punch it out with poignant lyrics, call-and-response vocals, and jutting, angular rhythms, switching between songs from upright bass to a plain ol' fuzzed-out electric one, a transition symbolic of their balance between traditions. Even the back-porch hoedown pictured on their first album, We Are the Quails (Inconvenient), points to the band's folksy, homespun approach to punk--like the Carter Family channeled through Television.

Smith and Lorinczi cut their teeth in Washington, D.C.'s punk scene, where the latter played bass in Dischord mainstays Circus Lupus. Smith says that "being from D.C. certainly has had an influence on us in terms of being a band that sings about political issues. I grew up watching bands that let me know that marrying these ideas together was normal. So now, for us, making songs that are about social responsibility and community life feels important, necessary, normal, and liberatory." Smith later moved to Olympia, where she was ringleader for the multimedia odyssey known as the Cha Cha Cabaret before alighting in San Francisco in the late '90s, while Bright played in a few SF outfits such as the Electrolettes.

After two albums on San Francisco's Inconvenient (run by Erase Errata's Sara Jaffe) and national tours with Sleater-Kinney and the Aislers Set, the Quails are gearing up for the release of their latest, The Song Is Love, on Mr. Lady. It's a good fit considering the group's queer-positive lyrics and Mr. Lady's identity-politic. With the band's adopted home of California on the brink of electoral disaster and mounting resentment piling up toward "The Man," one could do worse than have the Quails as tuneful voices of dissent.

editor@thestranger.com

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