Published Apr 08, 2018The Garrison was buzzing in advance of Toronto's FRIGS taking the stage. The room was dark aside from dim red and purple lights angled onto the empty stage; European disco kept the audience on hold, attracting a few dancers in the dark as they awaited the band. The band slowly assembled, one at a time, before singer Bria Salmena stepped out, wild-eyed and grinning.
The set kicked off with "Chest" (a gut-punch that speaks of the ghastly Brock Turner rape trial), and then bled into "II," both cuts off their first full-length, Basic Behaviour. Salmena stormed around the stage, repeating "I am nothing" over and over, almost pleading with the audience to understand. She was flip-flopping between personalities during the performance, going from manic panic to giggling to vulnerable. Guitarist Duncan Hay Jennings had a pained but focused look as he brought his skittish guitar into the room, often glancing up at Salmena, as if trying to anticipate her next move.
Salmena's vocals were unfortunately drenched in their signature vocal effect, which would have sounded great if it wasn't dialled up so much, making her voice often incomprehensible. Unlike on record, where she opted to keep her vocals clear and up front, here the effect seemed to hinder the connection with the audience.
During "Talking Pictures," Salmena stepped out to the front of the stage, her face in direct red light, wildly repeating "Do you see it? Am I healthy?" while staring down the audience. She then turned the question into an accusation, pointing with a definitive "No… no… no." She has an uncanny ability to keep the crowd on edge, at times inciting fear or discomfort, then guilt, then awe. It was the kind of fearless display we've come to expect from her, and a true highlight.
Though FRIGS were in top form, and played with seasoned confidence, one might expect a little more energy from a band returning home to headline a sardined room. The crowd, in turn, watched with appreciation but remained relatively tame. "Concentrate," Salmena told the crowd before the last song of the set. "We're only going to do this once. You came here to participate." During the song, she climbed down into the nervous audience, perhaps in an attempt to rile a bit of life out of them. "Good job you guys," said Salmena, waving back at the rest of the band from deep within the darkened crowd. And we agreed, despite the feeling that this show might have lacked the wild dynamism of which FRIGS are capable.