Thelma La Sotterenea, Montreal QC, June 9
Published Jun 10, 2019Natasha Jacobs' four-braided voice tugged bodies towards her from La Sotterenea's adjacent billiard bar. Feet planted, voice wobbling, she made out with the sound, the synths goopier live, glugging around like big jellyfish. The crowd's strapped shoulders and lit legs, having steamed in from Montreal's hottest day so far, bobbed and tapped, letting Thelma ease them into the sharper side of summer — what it means to move with a body in the heat.
The set fluttered open with "Chosen Ones," which is about a child's awakening to bodily shame — and which Jacobs has said is a favourite, but often gets missed because it ends her record, The Only Thing. From there, she sang to bodies as un-crossable barriers, as unforgettable murks in our own periphery. "No Dancing Allowed," as always, got this just right — a speechless drum pad palpitation blurted out into the kit's sparkling marching rhythm, leaving the song vulnerable to the sway. But even as she moved with them, Jacobs' lyrics were insistent: "My body will remind me: No Dancing Allowed / No Dancing Allowed / No dancing, no dancing."
This paradox is part of why Jacobs' art is so special: as much as her music is about trying and failing to work the joints of life, and how this is particularly complicated by her chronic pain, it's also just so beautifully alive, especially amongst the craggy obstacles, which echo back the sounds of her ghostly voice.
My own body doesn't always dance with me, so I saw the chairs set out for fans who needed them. I saw how she savoured the good, how a full, somersaulting laugh caught in her throat when she spoke. How she thought to finish her Sunday set with "Solitaire": "Sunday ends, I haven't yet / Sat down to play solitaire." Thelma understands the sugar vapour of the finite.