[Hey all! Eric here, but only for a moment. Darling‘s Jeff Schneider approached me not too long ago about preparing a guest write-up for Chicago Tunes. After zero hesitation, I said, “sure.” Below is his experience at Schubas about a week and a half ago when Family Portrait and Tennis came to town to play some tunes. Enjoy!]
Being the first concert review I’ve ever written, I entered the empty concert space with a detective-like stance. Seeing a handful of silver face fender amps and a stripped down kit made for a very pleasant welcome. The room filled up to capacity and I began imagining the stage as some sort of venn diagram of which equipment belonged to which band.
Having never seen Family Portrait play before, I was a little surprised to not see a band member playing drums. The band immediately took on a live band karaoke-style setup, making me a little nervous.
Luckily, the lead singer Evan Brody started the show with a drum loop dance beat, flashing sunglasses and feedback following. The prefabricated dance beat was then joined by a jangly guitar complete with oohs and ahs. Add drums and a roland keys part and the audience began to sway. The synth was like an ephemeral pre-programmed sound bathing the audience in a plastic sort of way; meanwhile, Evan snuck his head above and layered some boss vocal performer enhanced lyrics on the song. Following their performance, I asked the bass player for a set list and he said he had no idea what the songs titles were, but stated that the third song was about necromancy (magic which raises the dead). This paralleled the show quite well as Evan had been on the road with some new band members and had to decide whether to revisit old music and perform necromancy or write new tunes together. I left the set wanting more and was anxious to see what road this band would take sonically. Personally, I really like seeing the uncomfortableness of new arrangements and this segued perfectly into the following set.
Tennis started their show by saying it was the last performance of their tour, which instantly added nostalgic value and a sense of exhaustion. From what I have read about the band, the husband and wife team that is Tennis had used their life savings to charter a boat from the Bahamas to Baltimore, writing songs along the way. Shortly after arriving back on land, they attracted the attention of Evan Brody and the Underwater Peoples label. The rest is history and Tennis, with a 7-inch under its belt and a full length on the way, began their set as if they had walked into the venue straight from the dock. Lush tones from a trebly deluxe reverb powered telecaster combined with a stripped down drum kit and a Hammond XK1 setup a beautifully peaceful ambience. The lead singer Alaina Moore had prewarned the audience that she had a cold and would try her best. This proved to be unnecessary as she could really belt it out. Not only that, but her non-words were diligent in their ability to fill the cracks of the Real Estate infused guitar melodies played by Patrick Riley. The band swirled between songs, throwing in a slowed-down intimate Jackie DeShannon cover of “When You Walk in the Room.” One of my favorite parts of the set was during the song, “Pigeon,” when Patrick clicked the Distortion pedal attached to Alaina’s Hammond with his boating shoes. The tale of this married couple’s venture up the coast is beautifully orchestrated and interwoven in not only their song lyrics, but also the way the songs are crafted. I heard words of experience, slower than their thoughts, amidst peaceful telecaster undertones.
This show was as genuine as it gets and Schubas was the perfect venue for accommodating such an intimate show.
The video below captures exactly the trebly guitar and soothing vocals Tennis encapsulates. Enjoy!
Tennis performing “Water Birds” at Schubas