In the underground, DIY punk scene, there are few artists that are able to reach the mainstream while still maintaining that garage show spirit. As Frankie Cosmos takes the big stage in its Vessel tour, singer Greta Kline and her backing band emerge from Bandcamp to deliver heart-warming performances that maintain the genuine indie vibe that drew so many to the group’s music.
Frankie Cosmos started off its set at The UC Theatre with the first track from its most recent release, Vessel. Released in March, the album got rave reviews for the band’s consistent mastery of cute, quirky yet poignant lyrics. On stage, Kline’s iconic, crackling voice swirled in the hazy glow of the room. Stage lights bounced off the glittering “Frankie Cosmos” garland that hung between her microphone stand and her keyboardist’s setup. “We’re Frankie Cosmos!” she said into the microphone, her voice soft yet excited. She looked around at the audience and gave a nervous laugh. “Please don’t smoke pot in here; come on,” she said, looking out over her clouded audience and giving another girlish chuckle before launching into her set.
Frankie Cosmos played stuff from all generations of its discography. The crowd got throwbacks from Next Thing and fresh hits from Vessel, and the band even performed songs that didn’t have release dates yet. In the performance of “Floated In” Kline’s drummer led her in with the shaking of a can from behind his setup. Despite the gentle nature of her voice, the strength and control of her vocals emphasized every lyric in this campy little tune. This technical grasp on her sound is what makes Kline such a standout artist in the indie pop genre. In a sector of music that has been marked by whiny vocalists and over-hushed harmonies, Kline brings a refreshing body to her performances that makes her live presence such a beautiful complement to her band’s recorded works.
In the performance of “Sinister,” from the band’s 2016 album, Next Thing, Kline pulled out a plucky solo on her pale-pink guitar — one with a little bit more of a funk flavor than her music usually has. In this song that talks about accountability and being a bit darker than one may seem, Kline transgresses slightly on her usual gentle, bopping indie sound. In her live performances, these experimental jumps are welcome. They bring a kick to her work that live audiences crave. As she goes through the bridges and choruses of “Sinister,” the audience is captivated, not just by the glittering guitar, but by the way in which her tender voice can fill the entire auditorium with the salty but honest lyrics of the song. It’s this seemingly oppositional quality that fills her music with so much life, while also being able to instill such a melancholy sense of nostalgia.
When the band performed “The End,” Frankie Cosmos’ keyboardist took some stylistic leaps on the keyboard, but ultimately, the band retained the same Frankie Cosmos sound it had back in 2012 on its first Bandcamp releases under the name. Although the recording quality has increased as the band’s success has grown, it still has that indie DIY sound that made it so unique and lovable. Frankie Cosmos has definitely grown — the depth of Kline’s lyrics have developed to capture more complex emotions, but ultimately, the sound of the band has remained something that fans can always rely on.
In this sense, not all artists have to make huge stylistic changes to their sound with each release to stay relevant. Sometimes the ability to keep empathizing with listeners is all it takes for people to keep coming back.
Frankie Cosmos has this unique ability to evolve while staying committed to giving its fans that same recorded-in-my-garage vibe that sprouted up on Bandcamp more than half a decade ago. In its intimate, quirky performance at The UC Theatre, Frankie Cosmos shows how it has blossomed while staying true to the sensitivity and style that fans have fallen in love with.