Published Apr 26, 2019After years of recording and playing music with a host of other bands — Wild Nothing, Hand Habits, Vagabon and, most notably, as the keyboardist and back-up vocalist for power-pop group Cherry Glazerr — Los Angeles-based Sasami Ashworth has now taken charge with her own project. The nearly sold-out Baby G in Toronto last night (April 25) was evidence that her radiant energy, varied musical background and outspoken views on inclusivity have resulted in a loyal following over the past year or so.
Chicago multi-instrumentalist Sen Morimoto started off the night with a shape-shifting set of experimental jazz/hip-hop infused with tongue-in-cheek quips and avant-garde grooves. Nnamdi Ogbonnaya's kinetic drumming acted as the elastic band that held Morimoto's shifting instrumentals together as he ranged from bleeping keys to saxophone while rapping. Despite not being exactly the same style of music Ashworth would end up performing, such genre-bending would continue to be a theme throughout the night.
Ashworth's first headlining tour with a band (she previously performed solo in Toronto opening for Baths and King Tuff last year) showcased some more vigorous takes on her iridescent, soothing eponymous debut album. The pensive, shoegaze quality of the record bloomed into something more primordial as Ashworth displayed her silly, spirited presence throughout her ten-song set.
All dressed in red, the three-piece began with a fuzzed-out version of "Morning Comes," with the extended outro dedicated to Ashworth prancing around the stage, conjuring noise from her guitar. Similarly, the prim, jangly guitar on the ending of the recorded version of "Not the Time" was instead replaced by a joyous clamour and playfulness between the beaming Ashworth and bassist Adrien Young. A proggy version of "Jealousy," kept in line by drummer Zoe Brecher, transformed the uneasiness of Ashworth's airy delivery into a visceral scream towards the end of the song.
That Ashworth wasn't particularly concerned that her live show shamelessly kicked the fun factor up several notches was refreshing; carefully orchestrated shimmering voids from the album were often filled promptly with Ashworth's determination to break loose into some flagrant, crunchy guitar riffs. Still, some of the more vulnerable moments on songs like "Free" and "Adult Contemporary" maintained their beauty and simplicity, with Ashworth's warm, comforting vocals restraining them.
On her debut album, Ashworth's songwriting deals with the complexity of sadness, and she juxtaposes that sorrow with the right amount of abandon and release during her performance. There is something pure and reassuring about Sasami, who performs like a friend that understands how we feel, telling us everything will be okay if we set aside our insecurities and live it up a little.