Tennis, In Tall Buildings @ Lincoln Hall (2/26)


You know, it’s real tough settling into a space like Lincoln Hall after a series of mostly Empty Bottle shows in the new year. I’d forgotten, apparently, the types that filter in and out of that place. I mean, you bump into your neighbor on accident and it’s like you might just have to buy them a drink to make things even again.

All around me were all these DePaul bros obviously on date night with their pretty young things. And the pretty young things were the ones who actually knew a thing or three about Tennis. Their bros, I imagine, merely wanted an excuse to stand shoulder to shoulder with their honeys.

And it was the oddest thing: For the amount of people on hand — a sell out, maybe? — the room was just so damn quiet. As if Tennis, and In Tall Buildings, would have been just as successful playing for no one at all. That end-of-song chatter, at times, seemed like charity.

Alaina Moore called us out on it a few times, and I was happy she did so. At one point she said we “were listening so intently.” Light laughter followed, and I realized not everyone — not many people at all, actually —  understood that it was a compliment of the back-handed variety.

Before a snappy tune like “Traveling,” Alaina encouraged us to party down. Something like: “Come on, people. You all can dance to this one, I swear.” It was a sad thing, really. Why do you do this, Chicago?

In Tall Buildings opened for Tennis, and man they’re a treat live. In between their Lincoln Hall show in December and the one last night, I’ve relied on their self-titled album from a handful of years ago. I like it enough — I like it a lot, actually — but the recordings do not compare to what Erik Hall and his drummer can do under sharp lights. Tunes are stretched; they breathe. Erik and his guy are in such control.

In Tall Buildings can play a quiet room just fine. Some awkward set in, though, because Lincoln Hall has you stand. Standing upright for a show grants you the freedom to bop around a bit. I had my right foot tapping and shaking a bit, and I kid you not folks at my side snapped pictures because it was that out of place.

This is why In Tall Buildings’ headliner at SPACE in Evanston last week was circled in red on my calendar until it was abruptly canceled a few days before it was to happen. At SPACE, at least half the room sits, and silence is appreciated. Musicians I’ve seen there have a way of playing off the calm. An In Tall Buildings show at SPACE makes a lot of sense in my head.

The stage cleared for Tennis, and gosh these guys are fun. Alaina has this lively mane of curls that just ricochets every which way when she breaks it down for the funkier tunes.

She’s mystifying, really. One moment she’s digging into a groove all her own, fleetingly lost in performance; the next she’s back behind her keys, straitlaced and on time. It’s this great dichotomy made stranger still because I somehow kept missing her changes from one to the other.


  • The Chicago-based In Tall Buildings plays The Hideout’s SXSW Send Off Party on March 10. It’s an all-day thing. | Tickets
  • Chicago Tunes contributor Jeff Schneider saw Tennis play Schubas over a year ago. | Review

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About Eric

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2 Responses to Tennis, In Tall Buildings @ Lincoln Hall (2/26)

  1. Seitz says:

    I think it’s just a Lincoln Hall thing with regard to the acoustics. I’ve seen 40-50 shows there since it opened, and no matter who is playing, there tends to be that eerie quality between songs. The place is just really quiet. In a way, it’s actually a good thing, because it tends to cut down on the annoying chatter during songs as well. I realize that concerts aren’t exactly movies, but some of us actually go to see the performance, not to listen to the conversations of everyone around us.

    • Eric says:

      I’m with you on the excessive conversations bit. That’s why I tend to dislike experiences at Subterranean ( I feel like the people who usually show up there appear like they have somewhere better to be, and so they loudly talk about that and other things with their friends.

      It’s interesting you mentioned “the movies,” because that’s what Lincoln Hall felt like. I wasn’t allowed to holler anything or bump my shoulders. The room coached me to just stand there idly as Tennis dished out material that they obviously wanted us to dance to.

      People are very intentional about going to shows at Lincoln Hall. They don’t stumble upon them during walks up and down Lincoln Ave. They buy their tickets early, they plan their dinners around them and then they go and compare how the live show relates to the record. They don’t want to, you know, distract themselves from missing anything.

      There isn’t much wrong with that — in fact, I think that level of focus is a good thing — but it’s awkward to have to do all this while standing (and while watching a group with rhythms as groovy as Tennis’).

      That’s probably why I like SPACE so much. Have you been? A majority of the room sits there, and so the silence feels right every time.

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