Friday, September 28, 2012

Tennis/Spectator/Making Movies at Off Broadway 9/27/12

By Blair Stiles

Tennis, photo by Erin Algiere
Autumn in its adolescence incorporates rare warm nights and pumpkin ale in its bid as winter’s suitor. The combination muffles the senses, or heightens them in preparation of evening’s palette: bruised blue-black and dull, streetlight yellow. The evening’s dark colors worked their way inside Off Broadway. Comfortable darkness is a worthy backdrop for Spectator, who performed with lights down low. St. Louis’s dream-pop act is a midnight kiss on record, and anointed with a country balm live. The harmonies of vocalists Megan Rooney and Jeffery Albert coaxed the room with sultry pillow talk. When Rooney bid the audience farewell with a sweet “We’ll see you later,” it was impossible not to think, “Hope so.”

Off Broadway at half capacity gave enough room between scattered duos to navigate with ease. When Making Movies took the stage, they wrestled with a disjointed crowd, who didn’t seem ready for either the band’s Spanish-English lyrics or their Guadalajara-meets-Kansas-City aesthetic. Singer/guitarist Enrique Chi’s hands, body, and chords shook with the blur of an epileptic fit. His brother, bassist Diego Chi, marched around the stage on an ant-stomping mission, while percussionist and keyboardist Juan-Carlos Chaurand glided from instrument to instrument without a second guess. Drummer Brendan Culp supplied the sly rancor: when Enrique referred to a certain kind of romantic relationship as, “usually fucked up, and [hard to] get out of,” to smothered chuckles from the crowd, Culp whipped out, drier than the Sahara, “If you laughed, you’ve probably been in one.” After playing for an audience that would not bring themselves to clap or sing with the exuberant band, Culp’s snarkiness felt justified. 

Not a prettier picture was painted that evening than Tennis’s Alaina Moore. Her crystalline features, tousled blonde mane, and miniscule stature give her the appearance of a cosmic pixie. Though she and husband/bandmate Patrick Riley reside in Denver, CO, in person they look and sound like they could be a Swedish pop act. Feather-light keys and unobtrusive guitar have the pitter-patter effect of snowfall under Moore’s dainty coo. Moore claimed, unconvincingly, to “not know what [she’s] doing up here” and danced center stage with her eyes closed to “Petition.” 

Every song elicited jubilant applause from the audience. After the bleak response to Making Movies, the audience’s disposition needed to be rebuilt. Tennis guaranteed this turn, coiling their energy around the crowd. The audience was overtaken: they danced at last, and it was apparent they had been waiting for just the right moment to let loose.

When Moore introduced the last song, the crowd cried out in protest. Moore looked genuinely surprised; she looked first to the crowd, then to her bandmates with wide, astonished eyes before jumping them into a spontaneous two-song encore. Moore’s last words were, “Thank you St. Louis. You make other cities a drag.” It was the kind of audience reception that St. Louis should be known for.

It All Feels the Same
South Carolina
Deep in the Woods
Guiding Light (Television cover)
Never to Part
My Better Self
Water Birds
Dimming Light
Cape Dory

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