Story and photos by Sabeena Singhani, Contributing Writer
On Tuesday , March 21, Tennis took the Bowery Ballroom by surprise. They were was accompanied by their Australian friends Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever — who were a combination of unhinged rock screeching and pop melodies. While their instrumentals were strong and truly warmed up the venue, the vocals were dipping and exhaustive from the beginning. Half of the audience was aware of this, while the other half seemed too excited to even acknowledge anything other than the purple flash of lights across the stage.
Tennis’s arrival could not have been more different from their opener’s. Guitarist Patrick Riley stepped onto stage with a look that only meant he was about to get the job done. His sparkly shirt brought the crowd to roar, and they continued giving the mellow band an energy that could only be found in truly passionate and dedicated fans. Once Alaina Moore came on with “In The Morning I’ll Be Better,” the crowd was stunned into a shuffle of feet and grins. As the concert went on, they only danced more and those grins grew into smiles and giggles.
With age, Tennis’s sound has evolved, moving away from the simple feel-good instrumentals that Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever crashed out with to more complex, still-groovy tracks that accompany Moore’s sweet vocals like no other. Their first album “Cape Dory” set the scene for their success, and since they have only persistently produced warm, profound music.
With “Fields of Blue,” the bass in the drumbeat was a high contrast to Murphy’s high voice and the soft lyrics, “Follow me into infinite blue / All of the meaningless interludes.” The swing of the rhythm guitar with the drum hitting the offbeat, mixed with the clear-cut rising and falling of her voice. The sensation was mirrored in “Matrimony,” which the crowd wouldn’t stop bouncing to. Their jives didn’t escape the band’s notice.
“I know New York has the reputation for not stopping the dancing, it’s like dance, dance, dance, just, it’s obnoxious. You can dance to this one!” Moore said.
That line brought her into “I’m Callin’,” off their 2015 album “Ritual In Repeat,” including “Mean Streets.” That album remains their breakthrough, as it was produced by The Black Keys and the band toured with the powerful sister-trio HAIM.
Alaina Murphy dedicated “Modern Woman” to her friend River, and she shared a touching story about how he taught her all this amazing music and took her to her first show. The lyrics seemed to sit with the audience, “All I want is comfort in a touch or a look / All I want is to forget the way you mistook / No, I’m not asking for forgiveness / I’m just getting tired of living with this.” Leave it to New York to be able to flip from dancing their hearts out to “I’m Callin’” to swaying and sobbing at “Modern Woman.” Regardless of the tone of the song, the undying love of Tennis came through with the consistent declarations of love by audience members, including one in the front row clapping aggressively to each song that Alaina recruited on “My Better Self.”
Tennis may not be the head-banging band of this generation, but the lyrics and production of duo Alaina Murphy and Patrick Riley are unmatched in our modern music landscape.
Email Sabeena Singhani at firstname.lastname@example.org.