Alaina Moore, Tennis
After a calm week of Thanksgiving, it was good to hit the concert circuit once again. The destination was Mercury Lounge, one of the best intimate venues in the Manhattan, and a great spot to see an up-and-coming band. It was a pretty sprawling lineup, spanning the better part of four hours, although I unfortunately missed opener La Big Vic.
As they began setting up, it was clear that Miracles of Modern Science were not your typical rock band. They had a full string quartet: double bass, mandolin, violin and cello, along with drums. And while most pop groups use strings as a flourish, MOMS, as they're known by, use them to lay a foundation. On top was double bassist Evan Younger's baritone, a strong voice that was joined during particularly intense parts by the rest of the band. As the set progressed, things got looser, less reliant on vocals, and more beat-driven, culminating in one last blast.
There are a bunch of free songs on the band's official site, and as they told the crowd at the end of the show, they're raising money for the mixing and distribution of their debut full-length album on the website Kickstarter. So far, they've raised almost $14,000 of the $15,000 that they need, but if they don't hit their goal by next Thursday, Dec. 7, they don't get any of it. So, by all means, if you like them, support them.
After seeing Family Portrait over CMJ (has it really been almost six weeks?), I had a rough idea of what to expect. But their set was a total reversal of the raucous density of the Shea Stadium show. For one, there were only three of them, and the keyboards and electronics were front-and-center, with a sampler displacing the drum kit. I didn't even realize at first they had started playing after a looping beat entered the speakers, until I saw that they were, in fact, moving.
But I actually really enjoyed them more than the last time - the repetitious, woozy notes and Evan Brody's filtered voice really hit a sweet spot. Apparently a lot of this was new material - Brody called it the "death" and "rebirth" of Family Portrait - and I'm definitely interested to see where they go.
The good times only got better with Tennis. As the story goes, husband and wife Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley took a seventh-month sailing trip, and the experience influences all of their songs. Their set was a journey to a lush destination, with Moore's achingly pretty voice as buoyant as a sailboat. She was also sweet and personable, responding gracefully to random shouts from the crowd and helpfully naming most of the songs before the band did its thing.
On the other side of the stage, Riley and drummer James Barone kept pretty fixed positions, with the former in a perpetual crouch. When an eager person in the crowd wanted him to add some banter, he said, away from a mic, "I don't have a voice," but his agile guitar-playing created a nice dialogue with Moore's singing. The pace was mostly a brisk trot, although a few selections were set aside for "slow dancing," and a few in the crowd did just that.
The band played pretty much every song they had and covered Brenda Lee, clocking in at around 35 minutes with no encore, but the warmth lasted for hours, despite the freezing night.
Check out Tennis' fantastic Daytrotter Session and their MySpace. Also, someone was pretty awesome and recorded the entire Tennis performance. The sound quality is really good, too! Check out "Marathon."
More reviews and photos at BrooklynVegan, Death + Taxes and New York Press. Rest of the photos after the jump.
Miracles of Modern Science