It’s hard to get a sense of what to want as a fan from a band when they step on stage.
To one side, leaning into an urge to hear what first drew one in, to tuning stayed true to the record overheard at a bar or vetted by a friend or queued by an algorithm, to a lusher and louder cover of whatever first wormed into the ear. To the other, to be geared up for something a bit stochastic, craving broken strings and off-kilter fill-ins and embrace of contagion between stage and floor, when one becomes of just a couple dozen or hundred to get something particular, as a conflux of circumstances coaxes a new memory out of performance. “I remember, I was there when…” such and such et al.
There are other, sundry elements at play. There’s money paid and peer prestige on scene and the dully blunt fact that the bassist hasn’t slept in their own bed for weeks and resents that and can’t quit on keeping their head up because there’s a job on the line and it sucks to let their friends down. Their wrist hurt, they didn’t put their foot down about that song they can’t stand, they were out too late in the last place they stopped in and missed sound check not knowing the local word for aspirin. They get through it. We mainly don’t blame them for going through their paces. Most of the grocer’s apples are consistently pretty good, and pretty good is typically enough. It’s business.
Frankie Cosmos split the difference. The quartet stitched together a short set of up-tempo tracks from last year’s Vessel with several hits from Next Thing, the record that brought them as a band (Greta Kline’s own fame set aside) into the faux-antique wire filament limelight of the indie rock circuit.
The brisk takes were spliced with ironized truisms
all i’ve been doing is sleeping // i’m still so tired // it’s ok // rock is the cure)
and toss-off anecdotes
at the merch table // someone ‘fessed // all my friends say // your music is boring i // just think it’s relaxing
The in-between banter got a lot of mileage off several gases: that Kline had sprayed an anesthetic on her throat and thought she sung better that way; that they’d been to Stockholm’s Abba Museum and learned it’s hard even in farce to play bravado guitars back to back; that it was actually, quietly badass for the bass and the rhythm to switch pairs of hands for “Jesse”, the best-received piece of the evening.
Amid the crushing pressures of a lengthy tour, it seemed for an instant like they’d struck a chord of equilibrium, and that of itself is worth an encore of applause.
On the Lips
Ballad of R & J
*** (missed the lyrics as a friend said it’d be good to be in a field or on a beach, just anywhere but the dark bar with the quadfurcating pillar and the wallet-scraping beer)