After listening to Sasami Ashworth’s (stylized as SASAMI) self-titled debut— a collection of dreamy shoegaze tracks with understated vocals— you’d be forgiven for thinking that a SASAMI show might be a relatively mellow experience. At least, that was what I was expecting as I headed out to Brighton Music Hall that day, but my assumptions were proven wrong extremely quickly— and my night was all the more better for it!
Two artists opened for SASAMI that night— first up was Boston’s very own Carol, who delivered a dramatic, poetic, and gorgeous set of folk songs. Sen Morimoto followed, bringing an eclectic mix of jazzy r&b and rap to the table. Carol’s debut EP Softest Destroyer dropped just this past March, and Morimoto’s Cannonball! was released last year— I went and listened to both of these projects later on, and they are both excellent. Seriously, stream them!
SASAMI opened her set with “Morning Comes”. During the song’s chorus, she suddenly snarled “I’M NOT FUCKING SORRY” into the mic with all the guttural intensity of a death metal vocalist. I was feeling tired from having locked myself in my room to write a paper earlier on in the day, but this abrupt change of pace jolted me awake instantly. The track’s closing guitar breakdown was also much heavier than it was on the album— SASAMI strutted across the stage and whipped her hair around as she played her guitar, resulting in rapturous cheers from the audience.
After “Morning Comes” ended, SASAMI turned to the crowd and made as if she was going to greet them. Then she turned away. And then back to the crowd again. And so on and so forth, faking us out a few more times. This was the first of many goofy and lighthearted moments that really demonstrated SASAMI’s infectiously spunky and cheeky energy— two similar moments that really stood out to me were when SASAMI jokingly asked the crowd “who’s Jimmy Fallon? Is he a dad?”, and when she pulled out a legitimate witch cackle to test out the reverb on her vocals in between songs. She even joked that she might be in the wrong profession, and that she should have maybe been a comedian instead.
Banter aside, SASAMI noted to the crowd that she really likes dynamics— in a near-whisper, she said that she likes to be loud, but then abruptly screamed that she “ALSO LIKE(S) TO BE QUIET SOMETIMES”. This shift between quietness and loudness is a key feature of SASAMI’s debut album, something that was infinitely more pronounced in this live setting. Songs like “Jealousy”— which ended with a breakdown that was somehow ten times more explosive than the breakdown on “Morning Comes”— “Free”, and album closer “Pacify My Heart” were instantly intensified, starring walls of fierce, brutal, and roaring electric guitars. By contrast, the more restrained moments were made even more introspective and biting— on tracks like the yet to be released “Take Care”, “Adult Contemporary”, and “I Was A Window”, her voice veered into wistfulness, sounding mature, delicate, and revealing throughout.
Standing at the very front of the stage, I could see that SASAMI was wearing a pair of socks with the words “She Fucking Shreds” printed on them. The socks are from She Shreds magazine, a publication focused on women guitarists and bassists (SASAMI was featured in their most recent issue). Not that there was ever any doubt that she could do so, but at this show, SASAMI did just that— and then some.