In Defence of Live Shows: A Night Out w/ Babygirl by C.E. Hoffman

One thing I can say for Toronto: it’s queer af. 

This is one of those rare cities where I can be myself. Case in point: rocking black shorts, leather boots, and a red tank top advertising the university I’m too poor to graduate from, en-route to another exceptional Saturday night. 

I’m unsurprised by all the cute lesbians in line. I am surprised by the line’s length, and the smooth, red lights inside that lull me into complacency. 

Right of me, two femmes call each other their husbands. To my left, two girls argue what a set list is. 

People are buried in drinks or phones. The talk grows to a din. 

I think they call this atmosphere. The Drake Underground has plenty, plus a stage small enough to sit on. 

If the twenty-something lesbians next to me can joke about attachment issues, maybe I can admit life still terrifies me, least of all with this fancy, freakish brain. 

We crave bass to soothe our anxieties. I crave an island in this sea of phones. Then the butch left of stage smiles at me and I remember we’re all here for the music. 

Anytime I’m at an “emerging artist” gig, I wonder how we got here. Does Spotify dictate our obsessions? Did I find Babygirl, or did my algorithm spoon-feed me liquid gold. 

Babygirl dominates my Sexy and Breakup playlists- a feat few have achieved. 

The opener offers a sleepy set better suited to an open mic than an opening act, but if you know Babygirl, you know they’re worth the wait. (Far moreso than the toxic lovers they sing about.) 

The scariest/prettiest thing about Babygirl: everything they sing is so true

Cameron and Kiki strap on their guitars like jet packs to blow us into space. We the audience are breathless, hung in suspense with the red balloons. 

Only the best bands open with a love song. 

Music could heal the world if we let it, or at least heal the moment, and maybe the moment is enough. Live shows are vibe-feeders for our hungry, hungry souls. We need this. We need to crowd-surf with our eyes and head-bang our hearts back to life. 

Sometimes it’s best to be a puppet tugged by someone else’s guitar strings, or “just an animal looking for a home”, clawing at the air. 

Yes, I will quote the Talking Heads, because that’s where I’d place Babygirl’s lyrical prowess: adjacent the weird angels like David Byrne or Rob Smith of the Cure, the latter of which played overhead while we waited for the magic (read: music) to happen. 

It’s a tight performance (even when a pedal misbehaves), and one of those perfect sets that takes you on a journey while you stand in one place, mixing “old” loves (if you consider a 2018 release “old”) with new favs, plus gems off their shiny new EP which dropped during my tech-free Toronto getaway. 

Life is right now and always happening. We must do what we can to throttle it lovingly. 

The drummer brings a new edge to their sound: lush dreamo ballads become headbangers thanks to his vicious verve. Soft hits hard. A post-modern noise collage makes You Were In my Dream Last Night an acid-trip ode reminiscent of MSMR. (Damn, that light show! Good work, crew.) 

Tomorrow Tomorrow feeds my fiddledeedee-fuck-it feeling, because it’s so true

“I’m not where I thought I’d be by now/

I thought I’d be on TV by now/

or living in a beautiful condo maybe…” 

Did they lie to us? Or did we dupe ourselves? Maybe we let the BS seduce us ‘cause they dress it up so pretty, and it takes a real heart-shake to wake us up: like finding yourself single again, poor still, while purple lights explode behind Kiki’s face, as picturesque as her crooning siren call. Cameron wins every heart in the place with his adept strums and endearing backup vocals, outmatched only by his smile. 

Shall I compare Babygirl to a summer’s day? Nah: Starlight. The cold side of the pillow.  London Fog in the rain. Running for the train and catching it just in time. 

Sometimes I worry I was born in the wrong decade (or century), then bands like this tell me I’m exactly where I need to be. 

Babygirl is going somewhere- probably where a writer can’t follow. For all my emotional heavy lifting, all my scramblings to be seen and heard, tonight I’m fine with Babygirl speaking for me. 

It’s Over In No Time– like everything good. 

The setlist isn’t quite enough today. I am compelled to stand in yet another line to tell strangers they’re amazing

Cameron and Kiki are as approachable in-person as they are onstage. These are the new rockstars who give hugs in lieu of handshakes, accept my business card, and sign the setlist I scored off the stage floor. 

This is art at its best: a force that brings us together. 

I was wrong: we’re not here for the music. We’re here for so much more. Live shows beget the strangest pleasures, including but not limited to singing along with strangers, being high while sober, ruining your voice to shout that line because it’s so true!– too true to be concerned about vocal cords:

“I wish I never kissed you in my living room.” 

I’m a freak. I can’t help it. I’m one of those “crazy bisexuals” those lesbians talked about. 

Music like this, moments like this, are a homecoming for the misfits. 

Quoth my latest tattoo: 

I’m home. 

We all are. 

Follow Babygirl on Instagram

Review by C.E. Hoffman: Twitter

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