DEBBY FRIDAY Took a Victory Lap in Toronto

Velvet Underground, December 13

With Thermal and distraction4ever

Photo: Jennifer Hyc

BY Ian GormelyPublished Dec 14, 2023

DEBBY FRIDAY was beaming as she took the stage at Velvet Undergound on Wednesday night — and why wouldn't she be? After earning plaudits for her debut album GOOD LUCK in the spring, the genre polymath won this year's Polaris Music Prize, played a string of international gigs and garnered further year end praise. Now she was capping off this whirlwind year with a hometown gig that doubled as a victory lap. 

As a testament to her eclectic influences, the bill was a similar grab bag of sounds. Locals Thermal kicked things off, playing songs from their just-released Plaster Girl EP. A new project from Prince Innocence's Josh McIntryre, the five-piece started out slow but picked up the pace as their set went on. Their live performance sharpened the edges of the six songs the band performed when compared to their studio versions, making for a more visceral experience even if some of the vocal subtleties of singer Lauren Armstrong — who said little to the crowd between songs — were lost in the process. 

Far more in your face were Montreal's distraction4ever. Performing over backing tracks, singer Beau Geste flailed around on stage, his sportcoat flying opening to reveal his heavily tattooed and shirtless torso while delivering atonal tales of love and alienation. His energy matched the chaotic sound of the music, which saw guitarist Splitshift's Killing Joke and New Order-esque guitar lines layered atop pop and hip hop beats. Their final song, "We Could be Friends," seemed to sum up their come-one-come-all M.O.:  "We could be friends, we could be happy! We could be dead, we could be lonely!" 

FRIDAY started her set with the menacing "Good Luck," a twisted pep talk boasting the refrain "Don't you fuck it up." Performing with just a DJ, who was set very far back on the stage and spent most of the 45 minute set essentially unseen, FRIDAY was left to carry the entire performance on her own, which she did effortlessly. Endlessly circling the small stage, whipping her long hair around and undulating her body, she held the audience in the palm of her hand. 

"Do I have any bitchpunks in the house?" she asked, referring to fans of her debut EP, to which she received an enthusiastic yes before diving into some of her earliest material. Later, the thumping "I Got It" pushed the energy level up several notches while "Hot Love'' proved to be a set highlight. 

She took two runs through "Pluto Baby," performing it once onstage, then coming down into the crowd for a second go around. "I love to love," she repeated over the song's post-industrial beats, holding individuals in her intense gaze, mere inches from their face, "I love to love!" That intensity gave way to a sweeter version of the singer on "So Hard to Tell," her breakout song, which was the night's biggest singalong moment. 

FRIDAY capped the night off looking back; "This one is for the OGs who were there from the very fucking beginning," she said before transitioning into the pounding "Indulge Me," from her debut EP. Five years on since its release, there was no indulgence required. 

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