It’s been a minute since I’ve been this stoked about catching a rising artist live.
I had the immense pleasure of catching Sasami’s headlining set at Lincoln Hall earlier this month, following a friend’s suggestion. Her latest sophomore record, “Squeeze”, had already been on my radar, with tracks like “Make It Right” and “The Greatest” pumping through my car speakers on the way to the pharmacy. I was told she’d put on a great show, and of course I had to go and witness it myself.
It was refreshing to see a more intimate, yet passionate, crowd of people slowly fill up the room. Dozens of college aged students who looked like they went to DePaul (as an alum I can say this), conveniently located right around the corner, were buzzing with excitement after enduring another week of classes. I briefly hung around the rest of the people-watchers in the back, most of them with a drink in their hand. Sometimes I still forget I’ll never be young enough to wear Xs painted on the backs of my hands with black Sharpie again.
This was all a rather spontaneous affair––I didn’t even know who was opening until the act hit the stage. “You don’t know who we are, but we’re Jigsaw Youth from Staten Island,” vocalist/bassist Maria Alvarez provided the introduction. I guess that answers that question. I may not have known who this trio was upon arrival, but I most definitely didn’t forget them after the house lights came back on. It can be tough being an opening act at times––like Alvarez said, lots of people don’t know you, and sometimes they don’t care to. Jigsaw Youth took it as a challenge, they didn’t care if anyone knew their name but they were damn sure everyone remembered it by the end of the night.
The energy these women emitted was contagious, it wasn’t long before kids were moshing and unafraid to take up space. With a little encouragement from the band, everyone was quickly on the same page. At one point, guitarist Nastacha Beck calls for us to open the floor into a circle pit, threatening to come down into the pit herself. A few minutes later we’re all asked to kneel on the ground, and Beck leads us through an almost-guided meditation of being stranded in the desert. As soon as the music picked up, we burst from the floor and shook up the venue. A brief pause ensued when someone dropped a glass, and Jigsaw Youth wasted no time chatting up the crowd like we’re all seated at the same bar. A round of applause erupted once the glass was swept up. I think I’d love to have a drink with Jigsaw Youth.
Following an intermission filled with much anticipation, out of a hazy bluish cloud emerged the woman of the evening. Sasami donned a dollhouse-like dress paired with fishnets and a leather-strapped corset. Much like her music, her style incorporates a sense of edge married with femininity. One end of this spectrum isn’t portrayed at the expense of the other; rather, Sasami’s grittiness is enhanced by her womanhood (and vice versa), further pushing the boundaries for what it means to be feminine. Perhaps she is redefining it for herself. I’m sure there’s another think piece about women in rock music somewhere in here.
Sasami has proved herself to be not only a captivating musician, but a true performer. Her stage presence is theatrical, allowing music to move through her and transcend into the audience. Sasami’s dramatic guitar solos, waving of cables like a lasso, and overall stage antics are that of a seasoned rock star. Many of her gestures and pantomimes are intentional, contributing to her storytelling in a sense that reminds me greatly of performers like Mitski. Sasami fully embodies a character during her sets like a stage actor, elevating a normal rock gig to the caliber of performance art.
She is, however, quick to bring us back to Earth and shed light on those that make the show happen. Sasami not only made sure to introduce her band, but she paid special attention to acknowledging the house engineers in charge of audio, lights, and sound––local crew members invaluable to the production of the show. “This show would be really awkward if it wasn’t for the work they do,” she said. Additionally, it’s clear Sasami feels a genuine respect and admiration for her supporting acts. She reminded the crowd to visit Jigsaw Youth’s merch table, going as far as to mention that tips from her own table would go to the trio as well. It’s this sort of camaraderie between artists that builds community.
Sasami and Jigsaw Youth are the kind of candid and cool we love and need in the music world. I always find it special when artists are able to put on the most extravagant performances but still make the audience feel like their friend in between songs. One minute you’re transported somewhere far away, the next, you feel like you’re sitting across the table from a familiar face. Instead of being capricious, shows like this are all-encompassing of the duality between art and humanity.
Words and photos by Weronika Koleda.