Porches and Frankie Cosmos almost seem an ill fit in the Deaf Institute. Although it’.s known as a popular independent venue, the place almost seems built for theatre – avian wallpaper and a red curtain backdrop immediately spring to mind. Juxtaposed against the DIY alt-pop stylings of Greta Kline and Aaron Maine (primary songwriters and vocalists of Frankie Cosmos and Porches respectively), though, it sheds its trappings of grandeur; this is a venue ready for a good time.
Surf-pop solo support is brought by Dutch-American extraordinaire Olivier Heim. Heim builds heady layer after heady layer of chorus-driven guitar upon his songs, rolling out smooth vocals over the top of carefully timed samples. The overall vibe isn’t unlike Montreal’s Homeshake – it serves well to get heads nodding, relaxing the air and easing proceedings in.
Things get warm; Frankie Cosmos take the stage, and the crowd starts waving gently. On her biggest two releases, Zentropy and this year’s Next Thing, Kline’s bedroom recordings shed their lo-fi clothes and stepped into a new, fully fleshed sound. In a live atmosphere, Frankie Cosmos mirrors this; softly grooving basslines walk clean-cut guitars down the aisle to Kline’s mellow vocal delivery, keeping things moving through highlight tracks ‘On The Lips’ and ‘Floated In’. Kline pauses between songs to joke how she feels naked on stage, but the songs here are anything but.
At one point, the members of Porches make a premature appearance – launching into a well-rehearsed dance routine, Maine and co. cut geometric shapes not unlike the ones Kline rattles off in ‘Fool’; “Your name is a triangle, your heart is a square” is murmured back with enthusiasm not long into the set. An oxymoron, I know, but this is the kind of set Frankie Cosmos pull off – emotional, yet carefree, and always, always fun.
Porches’ latest album, this year’s Pool, took a significant change of pace from the band’s earlier releases. A synth-infused, 80’s-esque affair, it departed from their past tendencies towards guitar-based recordings – still doing so magnificently, bringing a dark chillwave sound to Maine’s spectacular songwriting abilities. When the band takes the Deaf’s limelight, traces of the old sound are still very much there, however. Whilst Maine still uses autotune to great effect (albeit one unexpected of the genre) on ‘Underwater’ and ‘Be Apart’, there’s a real rock sound brought to personal favourite ‘Mood’. The bass guitar is even more powerful here than on the recording, bringing an appreciated burst of horsepower to the sweet synth lines.
Despite the grandiose backdrop of the venue, Porches keep things cool. Maine takes a moment to mention how much he loved watching the audience for Frankie Cosmos – the two bands are very closely intertwined, Kline being Maine’s frequent collaborator and partner, and seem to share the same joy to be playing here. Free from the limits of playing a city-wide festival the day before (“This is the best, the best, the best, the best, last night was the worst, the worst, this is the best…” ad infinitum) and playing their first UK shows, it’s a privilege to be in the same building as such as talented and eager gang of musicians.
Older tracks start to crop up midway through Porches’ set – ‘Headsgiving’ from 2013’s Slow Dance In The Cosmos showcases Maine’s soaring vocal ability alongside tight snares, whilst ‘Permanent Loan’ creates a huge wall of sound almost overpowering in the small corners of the venue. It’s an awesome set, pitting brilliant songwriting against equally brilliant performative ability.
Maine confesses a distaste for encores – “nice as they are, I think they’re tacky” – and so the set of moody numbers draws to a close far too soon in the wake of the older songs. Although only gone for a matter of minutes at this point, there’s a real sense of something missing – a Porches and Frankie Cosmos shaped hole in my heart, ears, and in the framework of the building.
Photo by Elizabeth Goman.By Jowan Mead