by Michael Thomas
Let it be said that we don’t need a show to remind everyone that there are some kickass women making music in Toronto. But while a showcase literally called Toronto Women in Music may be a tad too obvious a title, it did highlight many women doing various genres of music well. “Female” shouldn’t have to be a theme but at least it got some great bands together.
Whether with a full band or by herself, Megan Bonnell is spellbinding. Tuesday night she went it alone, switching between piano and acoustic guitar. The room wasn’t really full at the beginning of her set but were quite enthusiastic throughout. Her slow, mournful songs like “We Are Strangers Now” and “Family” had the room so quiet any sudden noise was deafening, while songs like “Dreamer” showed off her piano prowess. She was fully aware she was the only quiet act of the night and relished giving the audience something different.
The WAYO were a logical next step in the night’s noise hierarchy, being more instrumentally involved and a little louder. The four-piece mixes pop with light jazz and soul influences for some groovy slow jams, and lead vocalist Charlotte Day Wilson switches between keys and saxophone. The set started off with a prolonged guitar intro before the bass, drums and keys joined in to get some heads bobbing. The band was at their best when the guitarists and vocalist harmonized in an interesting inversion: the men provided the higher-register notes.
Programm seem to be cursed with getting shows at venues that never get the sound right, so it was nice to see them at the Garrison, one of Toronto’s better-sounding venues. The band’s heavy, complex brand of shoegaze shone even brighter with Jackie Game and Jacob Soma’s vocals fully audible. The band seemed perfectly comfortable and effortless as it breezed through songs from their Like the Sun EP, including the title track and the depressing, excellent “ZeroZeroZero.” The band’s momentum was unimpeded thanks to their lack of stage banter, and they continue to prove they’re one of Toronto’s most technically impressive bands.
The last full band of the night, Dirty Frigs, started an ended with a bang. There’s a reason the band has endeared themselves to so many—Bri Salmena and co. are absolutely pyrotechnic. At certain points in their more fast-paced songs, the three stringed instrument players seem to move in perfect sync as they obliterate the audience with a wall of sound. Salmena is wonderfully charismatic, never standing still as she moves between a powerful voice and a throaty yell. Even when the band does a slower number they still manage to blow it out of the water. The last song had Salmena going out into the crowd and wandering around, seemingly lost, to make the last few moments truly special.
In case it wasn’t clear to anybody in attendance that night, women kick ass.