Frankie Cosmos captivates with casual, intimate venue
By GRACE HOWIE
Every time I go to Charlottesville, Va., I always end up getting dumplings at Marco & Luca’s on the downtown mall. This past Saturday afternoon it was warm and I was sitting outside eating with a friend when I found myself doing a double take at the person strolling by. Greta Kline, the lead singer of the band I was in town to see, was strolling down the downtown mall a few hours before the show was set to start.
Kline, who plays under the stage name Frankie Cosmos, is a charming indie alternative musician originally from New York. She is currently on tour with her band, which includes Luke Pyenson on drums and Lauren Martin on synthesizer.
The band was playing in Charlottesville for the first time at The Southern Café & Music Hall. I had been there once before and the mark the venue left on me was part of why I decided to go to this show on Frankie Cosmos’ tour, which started in D.C. the night before. This venue is incredibly small which makes for intimate, spellbinding shows as one feels privy to an experience seemingly only the other people there will ever experience (never mind the fact these bands are on tour and play the same songs every night to different audiences).
The doors opened at 6:30 p.m. and the show started at 8:30 p.m. My friend and I, eager to secure spots since it is such a low-capacity venue, entered around 7 p.m. to a completely empty space where a merchandise table was slowly being set up. We grabbed our tickets from will call and sat down in the café area of the venue since the stage area wasn’t going to be opened up until around 8 p.m.
Usually I am not one to be embarrassingly early, but on this occasion it ended up working out. Kline and her band ended up eating dinner in the café only a few tables away from us. This was refreshing to see as in my experience, most bands attempt to avoid interacting with their crowd prior to a show. Was it the intimacy that the small size of this venue allowed? Who knows, but it was cool. This transitioned into Kline being behind the merch table where she signed items, engaged in light conversation and left each person with a “see you later,” providing a very personal feeling to all of her interactions. I myself am now the owner of a cassette on which Kline wrote, “Hi Grace! Greta.”
There were two openers for this show: Nice Try and Ian Sweet, both indie-alternative and more than fitting for the vibe that emanates from Frankie Cosmos. Nice Try provided a playful, fun set to start off the evening. This was followed by a solo set from Ian Sweet’s frontwoman, Jilian Medford, who provided stripped down renditions of their songs with melancholy lyrics presented through powerful vocals. This provided balance, as each exemplified parts that came together as a whole later in the evening through the headliner, Frankie Cosmos.
The venue itself took a while to fill up. Between sets I would sneak away to get water, only to find the café more and more full which, with changeover, resulted in the stage area ending up more and more full too. By the time Frankie Cosmos went on, the area was crowded but not so packed that it was uncomfortable.
Kline’s voice has a quality to it that is so simplistic, but entrancing all at the same time. This accompanied with simple backing and pure lyrics made for a show that was nothing short of what I expected. If I had to pick one word to describe the show it would be comfortable. The live vocal and band had an ease and familiarity to it as it was almost indistinguishable from the recorded album, which is actually exceedingly difficult to accomplish. I felt as though if I closed my eyes I could trick myself into thinking I was laying in my bed.
The lyrics are so straightforward and relatable while still possessing a poeticism not easily matched and that can resonate with anyone, especially those in their early 20s. She perfectly captures what it is to be figuring everything out, whether it be love or bad friendships and she even dips into exploring more melancholy themes as there seems to be a recurring thread of existential crisis and dread.
One example of this is in the song “On the Lips,” which goes, “Sometimes I cry ‘cause I know I’ll never have all the answers.” It is this uncertainty of life that strikes a chord especially when backed by head bopping and sweet guitar melodies along with vocal harmonies provided by both Martin and Pyenson. At this show they played a new unreleased song, which Kline politely requested no one record. Again, there was a feeling of trust that was created between this band and the audience in this small space.
There was another level of comfort at the show due to Kline’s casual outfit, a spaghetti strap crop top and athletic shorts. There’s a simplicity in everything she does that somehow made everything feel complete. Kline was so low-key the entire time, there was no pressure on anyone involved and this allowed for a positive environment.
My friend and I ended up talking to her again after the show. After a conversation about hair, since we had both recently buzzed all of ours (Kline believes everyone should cut all their hair off at least once in their life and I agree), we said our goodbyes and I got a hug. It was as if I was saying goodbye to a new friend.
Frankie Cosmos is on tour right now for their second studio album, Next Thing, which came out in 2016. You can listen to it on Spotify, or download it at https://ingridsuperstar.