Photographs by Neil Van.
Wednesday Adams’ evil twin slunk onstage, closed her eyes and strummed up a dreamy ballad of unrequited love. Is there any way to call this adorable without sounding patronising or condescending? Frankie Cosmos (née Greta Kline), daughter of actors Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates, delivered a disarmingly soft performance. The gathered audience at The Horseshoe Tavern responded as only a certain crowd could, by standing still and clapping politely.
It took about three tracks of reserved bedroom poetry before she addressed her audience. “Drums?” she asked in a chipper manner that belied her reserved nature. Aaron, the drummer from the next act Porches, took the stage. Through the subsequent tracks, her performance unfolded like a lotus. The chemistry was palatable and harmonies emerged. Feeding off the beat, her voice and energy loosened up and delivered something upbeat and danceable. There may have been a foot shuffle or two in the crowd. Frankie noticed, cracking a smile. “Feel free to get down. It is Saturday night after all.”
Calling up another Porches bandmade Ron, her lo-fi charm once again crackled to life. “I usually play as a 4-piece” she admitted and it brought with it perspective. Each subsequent instrument added much welcomed atmosphere. Standing still, eyes closed through the whole set led to a sedate stage presence. After a call for any guitarist to step onstage, the final song came alive with a guitar squeals and a drum solo, leaving us wondering what could’ve been if her whole band tagged along. With over 40 albums waiting on her bandcamp, I guess we don’t need to.
Frankie moved stage right as the rest of Porches took their place, excepting one member. “We don’t have our keyboard player because he didn’t get in…” Remarks the lead singer “…to Canada.” Describing themselves loosely as a combination of rock ‘n’ roll, R&B, dance and classical, the musical jumble marked a noticed departure from their bandmade Frankie’s solo work.
With a bassline echoing Toto’s Africa and a few errant cheeky guitar licks, the looser, carefree energy shone through. The crowd picked up on it, with one or two oscillating shoulders and swaying hips. At times reminiscent of laconic 90s indie rock, the eclectic style was equal parts blessing and curse. When it came unhinged, the disparate parts felt almost in competition. Percussion drifted between lazy cymbal dustings, maraca and tambourine flourishes, while the lead guitar had a habit of alternating between stuttering anthemic guitar and fiery Santana-eque solos, jilting lead singer Aaron’s falsetto drone.
Aaron was flush with playful, irreverent banter, relating the speed with which they’d willingly left their bandmate at the border. Later in the set he sheepishly admitted “we really need the keyboard.” Frankie held her own on the bass, her harmonies with Aaron tempering the absence of keyboard support. Wild guitar shredding occasionally found its match in crashing drums and swelling bass, evoking clammy summer nights of fun and trouble. The result was an electric blitz of youthful exuberance. When the band stripped back for a downbeat R&B number, they listened, played off each other and found their mojo. Disjointed at times, but when it worked the atmosphere was undeniable.
Sweet twee-zus, Hospitality burst forth like a playful kitten wrestling a ball of yarn. Fresh off the stage at Osheaga, their buzz lit the dim surrounds with a spirited festival feel. With a friendly children’s television host vibe, their performance immediately skewed sweet, with a salty twang. Soft ambling bass laid the foundation for adorable art pop vocals and spicy guitar riffs. The crowd quickly found its feet, adding a few toe taps and head bobs to its otherwise minimalist repertoire. Sarcasm aside, the room surged with a vitality that’d been sorely missing.
Hospitality’s talent really stands out live. Lead guitarist Nathan Mitchel flits easily between minimalist refrains and complex, intricate plucking. Frontwoman Amber Papini holds a strong presence and a voice that sweetly croons or delivers cheeky sarcastic lines with a wry punchiness. The harmonies flow smoothly and sweetly, lending a lightness reinforced by solid backing. Bassist Brian Betancourt may just be the unsung hero, effortlessly padding out any gaps, ushering in a fuller, warm tone that enhances, not drowns. The banter is minimal, but the sound speaks for itself.
Musically diverse, Hospitality flowed stylistically without missing a beat. The Right Profession kicked in with a bouncy radio ready chorus, holding back for a breath before ripping into a spirited guitar solo. Last Words began as a sprawling, synth driven rise before building to a chaotic guitar solo. Rockets and Jets found all parts firing in unison, pretty brooding vocals backed by gloomy bass, shimmering guitar and sleepy synths. Like a looming cloud the mood descended into darkness, heavy beats, thick basslines and menacing synth only to be pushed aside by ascendant guitar wails. All Day Today skipped along with an idyllic childlike enthusiasm, while It’s Not Serious sported a hazy autumn allure.
Suddenly the band said their thanks and left as abruptly as they’d arrived. Finally warmed up, the floor shouted for an encore. Cheers, claps and stomping feet were enough to coax out another two songs from the New York art pop group. Unerringly upbeat, the encore was marked by jangly pop melodies, tambourine and a cute “la la la” call and response between Amber and Brian. As they politely left the stage once more, the now activated crowd bid farewell with a host of cheers and smiles. Who says you can’t draw blood from a stone?