Tennis and Sleep Study at Triple Rock, 2/23/12

Categories: Last Night
Tennis_Erik_Hess.jpg
Photo by Erik Hess
Tennis
With Sleep Study
Triple Rock Social Club, Minneapolis
Thursday, February 23, 2012


For a slideshow from the concert, click here.

In the middle of "Origins," one of Tennis' better tracks from the charming, country club indie-pop collection Young and Old, we seem to get to the heart of what this band is/isn't about. Singer Alaina Moore, who is incidentally cute as a button, delivers the lyrics: "In a man you seem to be/ a picture of fragility/ what is it that you think of me/ is it a woman that you see?" She seems to, anyhow.

Lines raising more questions than they answer are common in Tennis songs, and their performance aesthetic is a similarly head-scratching experience. Moore is undoubtedly the picture of fragility herself. It seems that though the rest of the smartly dressed band of clean-scrubbed young men played with precision, each looked awash in their own pensive world in the early going. Even if the well-populated room had ostensibly paid to see Tennis and several were excitedly shaking their hips, the group didn't seem sure of any of it.
Sleep_Study_Erik_Hess.jpg
Photo by Erik Hess

Opener Sleep Study seemed similarly reserved, but they hid it well in Ryan Paul Plewacki's tender singing and repeated solos amid the retro-filled rock melodies. The extended guitar breaks sometimes cut like stiff prairie winds, and sometimes felt like they climbed over mountains. Plewacki, a wiry guy who moved all over the place in impossibly skinny legs and jeans, held fast for the ELO-ish "Split the Scene." It's a beautiful song deserving of more time -- and a quieter room -- and Sleep Study will hopefully get the chance to present it in those conditions many times in the future.

Either as a result of nerves or by design, Moore won over a Triple Rock crowd -- filled with a high percentage of shy, thoughtful kids -- with her own thoughtful shyness onstage. For most of the night, she stayed safely behind her red keyboard and kept her motions confined to jostling her legs a bit below her black velvet skirt when the music really grabbed hold. As people danced along, she smiled privately to herself, but never raised her head at these moments.
Tennis_Guitar_Hess.jpg
Photo by Erik Hess

Eventually guitarist Patrick Riley (Moore's husband) began to break out of his chamber of thought, and covered some ground onstage. Another new one, "Petition" proves itself to be the night's most expressive moment vocally. Still unclear on what it's about, but when Moore lays into a long, melismastic "oh" or "whoa," we don't have to try and interpret.
 
Up until "My Better Self," Moore's transparent blouse proved to be the most emotionally revealing statement of the night. Suddenly, she broke out from behind her red keyboard, wrapped the mic cord around her fist, and charmed. "This song is a dancing one if you feel like it." Some people took this to mean hopping around and pumping their fists. Moore tried on some sultry poses and came out of her shell for the duration of the song. It suited her well, but when the song was done, she admitted "I got out of breath."

Critic's Notebook

The Crowd: A lot of bespectacled twee couples content to sway into each other over and over and over again.

Overheard: "Space, the final frontier," during some electronic wizardry in the middle of Sleep Study's set.

Sighting: The comedic Sklar Brothers. No sign of Bjorn Borg, though.



Setlist

Deep in the Woods
Baltimore
Robin
Never to Part
South Carolina

It All Feels the Same
Petition
Pigeon
High Road
A Dimming Light
Traveling
Marathon
My Better Self
Water Birds
Origins

Encore:
Seafarer


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