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What a Racket

SHOW #5 Tennis with Mike Marchant and Moon Tides at The Bluebird 2/16/12

One of the things I’m hoping to do with this 52 show experiment is expose myself to more local music. I’ve heard a great deal about the Denver music scene but I’ve never been that involved in it and I’d like to see if there is anything to the praise that people heap upon it. So when a friend suggested that I go check out Tennis at The Bluebird for their album release show I jumped at the chance. Unfortunately this show proved to be more than a little underwhelming.

The first band to take the stage was a local duo calling themselves Moon Tides. As you can see below they situated themselves strangely on stage standing about five feet apart and facing one another. I’ve been to a lot of concerts in my day and I’ve heard tales of artists that face away from the crowd due to shyness but I’ve never heard of musicians just facing each other. This odd arrangement was made worse by the fact that they kept exchanging very deep meaningful glances. I’m talking serious bedroom eyes people.

Hey guys I was looking for, uh, the...I...I think I'm just gonna go.

Or at least she had bedroom eyes. I was positioned so that I could only see her face so it’s possible that she was sending not so subtle messages to him about her feelings and he was looking at her thinking ‘Man, we’re a super good band!’ I can’t really be sure. What I can be sure of though it that her glances coupled with their arrangement on stage left me feeling like I was interrupting something. Kind of like I had walked into their bedroom at a party while trying to find the bathroom. It was incredibly awkward.

Despite all that how was the music? It’s actually kind of hard to say because every single act that night suffered from a terrible sound mix. Her drum work was great, and the guitar was decent but the vocals were all but washed out by the instruments. Which was too bad because they seemed to have kind of a cool duet vibe. Every now and then a snippet would come through but it was really hard to make out much of anything. It’s really hard to judge these two based on this show. Given the way the rest of the night went I’d like to see them again in a different venue.

This pair seems to be pretty new and there isn’t any footage of them performing online. I’ll link you to their bandcamp if you want to check them out.

The next band called themselves Mike Marchant’s Outer-Space Party Unit. They started out hard and heavy with intense drum beats and psychedelic guitar riffs both of which fed into the existing sound mix problems and resulted in a few songs that were little more than a cacophony. By the end of their third song my ears were ringing, my head was killing me, and I was deeply regretting my decision to attend concerts on back to back nights.

Then Mike introduced the next song as Mexico, things slowed down and the instruments became subdued. His voice and the lyrics took over and things got pretty damn amazing. During this stretch of the show I was enthralled. The lyrics were thoughtful and moving and the entire band seemed to be operating at a level it didn’t seem like The Bluebird was allowing. A subtle and moving level that allowed the vocals to shine and the songs to be heard.

By the end of their set though they’d returned to the psychedelic riffs and musical showmanship. Again the terrible sound just resulted in everything running together into a sloppy incoherent mess. That slow stretch in the middle was incredible though, enough so that I’m going to make a point of keeping an eye out for them again. Like all the bands that night they are local so it probably won’t be that long before I’m able to see them again. Hopefully with a better sound mix.

I hesitate to post the video below because it’s ten minutes long but it does an excellent job of capturing the essence of best part of their set and the best part of the night. If you don’t have ten minutes to devote to the live performance do yourself a favor and head over to their bandcamp page and give them a listen. I’d recommend starting with You Were a Runner.

Now we come to Tennis. More than just the headlining act they were the guest of honor at the CD release party for their second album Young & Old which came out on Valentine’s day. I really can’t help but feel that they deserved better than what they got. Maybe I’m wrong because I’d never heard them prior to this show but they suffered from the same problems as everyone else that night. The drums were absolutely overpowering, the guitars sounded messy, and the keyboards hardly seemed to be present at all. Worst of all the singer’s vocals were pretty much completely wiped out.

Part of the poor vocal performance may be the singer’s fault because as I’ve been going through their performance videos online it seems like she never really belts it out. As I’ve said repeatedly the sound mix was terrible but I think that maybe that just exacerbated an existing problem. She just doesn’t sing that powerfully. Now, you could say that the music doesn’t call for a powerful voice but if that’s the case the band needs to compensate somehow and they didn’t. She even asked for extra vocals in the mix about halfway through the show and there was a slight improvement but everything else was just too loud.

All in all I wasn’t terribly impressed with Tennis’ performance and in my opinion they were far out performed by Mike Marchant. It was also hard for me not to compare the show I’d seen the night before with this show, and to put it bluntly, Jenny Owen Youngs completely blew these guys out of the water. Everyone else at the show seemed to be having a rocking good time and I felt a bit like I was missing out on something. It is true that being familiar with a song can go a long way toward overcoming a bad sound mix so maybe my unfamiliarity was the problem. I’ll probably go see them again at some point to see if it really was the terrible sound that made them so bad.

*You can blame my friend Marcelo for the terrible pun that is the title of this post. Though really you should blame Tennis. If you’re going to name your band Tennis you’re going to invite a few puns.

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