29th August | Louisiana
Photos: Jessica Bartolini
SASAMI, i.e. Sasami Ashworth of past Cherry Glazerr fame, worked as a pre-school teacher in a different life. Undoubtedly, she knows how to control a room. As it turns out, it doesn’t actually matter whether that’s a classroom or not: she’s a dominant force anyway.
Sasami shows up, and she’s wearing a frilly nightgown straight out of a horror flick. We wait in anticipation as she fiddles with her guitar on stage. We later learn she’d just changed her strings – and suddenly she’s blasting out chords, so we all fall silent. “We’re not playing yet,” she declares, and carries on fiddling, ignoring us once again. It’s uniquely comic.
‘Don’t Be Sorry’ is up first, drenching us with washed-out shoegaze from the start. The energy is turned up another notch: she starts bursting out screaming at random intervals. But it somehow works, and the noise just adds on to the track’s ordered, yet urgent, cacophony.
She has a certain eccentricity on stage. Although dressed like Alice, her role’s the Mad Hatter, and we’re the ones through the looking glass. Apparently, she’s come “long and far” to get here, “in a tiny box, on the shoulder of an old man… thank you, old man.” Even the cruellest Scrooge would find it difficult not to smile when invited into her world.
‘I Was A Window’ is more gorgeous than it ever was on the record. She alternates between wild gesticulations at the mic, and a peaceful sway, with shut eyes. And yet, it’s always accompanied by her clear, serene vocals. She chooses arrestingly unexpected facial expressions: baring her teeth and glaring at us during ‘Not The Time’, her otherwise dreamlike track (that could easily be by My Bloody Valentine).
Next is her new single, ‘Take Care’, released that morning, no less. Again, the recording pales in comparison to the live show: Sasami’s rocking out on her guitar, hair flying everywhere, bustling around the stage. She asks us if we’re good, (“Yeah!”), and oinks in response. Did I say she used to teach pre-schoolers?
Jamming through ‘Jealousy’, she bends over backwards with her axe, living for the moment. She swaps to a pure white one for ‘Free’. Intense concentration (“You don’t know…”) suddenly gives way to wild drumming and guitar, but it’s over as soon as it’s begun, replaced by renewed vulnerability. ‘Callous’ is a highlight. Tension builds as she whispers into the mic stand, staring downwards, as all true shoegazers should, then releases with “I can see myself… slipping down.” It’s followed by guitar to die for, the best of the night so far. You’d never know her main instrument was the French horn.
SASAMI has talent matched by her stage presence and (of course) accompanying humour. We’re invited to meet her at the merch stand afterwards, “if we want to come…if we want to come”. It turns out she’s very friendly and ‘normal’ in person, dishing out fist bumps. Of course, that could be the real act.
See the Sasami play ‘Not The Time’ live on KEXP here: