The Beths / Girl Friday Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto ON, July 5
Published Jul 06, 2019"Turn it up!" was a repeated heckle from the crowd at the Horseshoe Tavern throughout the Beths' second headlining appearance in Toronto. It wasn't certain whether the tremendously receptive audience were egging on the sound engineer to turn up frontwoman Elizabeth Stokes' microphone, or to simply make more efficient use of whatever air conditioning the venue had to offer. Regardless, the room was sweltering — with sweat and exhilaration throughout.
The evening marked the third night of tour with Los Angeles rockers Girl Friday, who not only were new to Toronto, but also on tour for their first time as a band. The set offered loud declarations of "I don't want to see another man in my life" and feathery la-la moments that made earworms of their songs. Some of them were certainly stronger than others, but in such a tender phase of their career, it's hard to deny that Girl Friday have something worth paying attention to — they intertwine psychedelic rock with pop outlook and post-punk spoken word seasonings in ways their peers attempt much less naturally. Their songwriting sensibilities borrow from the gratifying melodies of '60s pop and the jangly, animated guitars of '90s indie rock.
The Beths have mastered a brand of simple genius. Anyone could do what the Beths do, but they… don't. And it's that much more fun to watch live, demonstrated instantly with set opener "Great No One." The group made cuts from their debut Future Me Hates Me LP easy to recreate, but equally thrilling to take in. Stokes forewarned the Horseshoe crowd to "stay hydrated, please" before "You Wouldn't Like Me," which warranted much clapping participation and some hoarse vocal slip-ups. Understandably so; this might have been the hottest live music event I've ever attended.
The Beths also revel in playful irony throughout their lyrics. When the pen hits the paper, Stokes is comedic and confrontational, but still light-hearted. Case in point: the "I'll fuck you up now / And I'll fuck you up again" hook in older track "Idea/Intent"; it's sinister and catchy to hear her lust for revenge through a PA system.
It smoothly contrasted with their follow-up, the lively "Whatever." They showcased new song "A Warning," which demonstrated that the Beths' flame is still burning, albeit with little to differentiate from their prior works, and followed it with crowd favourites "Happy Unhappy" (which she dedicated to long-time friend/Girl Friday guitarist Vera Ellen) and their LP's title track.
The Beths are rock stars, and they might even be pop stars (see: surveying the crowd to delegate sing-along duties for "River Run: Lvl 1"), a package deal of hooky pop-rock, musical aptitude and fiery vocal presence.