Camaraderie and friendship hung thickly in the air at last night's show at the Mercury Lounge. I missed La Big Vic, but I arrived in time to witness the "orchestral space pop" (their words) of Miracles of Modern Science. The (now) Brooklyn band formed when its five members were undergrads at Princeton. On the surface, their pedigree and jargon-riddled song titles may appear to alienate them from a wider fan base, but their performance was stripped of any signs of petty elitism.
"This song is not very good, but we're playing it anyway," one member joked, mid set. The band's sense of ease on stage is perhaps surpassed only by that of their jocularly ravenous fans. Many people in the audience seemed to know the band, or at the very least - drummer Tyler Pines. ("Show me your tits, Tyler" and "I'm horny for Tyler" were a couple of their choice lines.)
Though they've been playing together since 2005, they are just embarking on releasing their debut album... that is if they can afford it. They've already recorded it. Now it's just a matter of raising the funds to mix it, package it, and promote it.
Like MoMs, Family Portrait is also a made up of old friends. Its members have been buddies since high school (or college) and also maintain a closely curated record label together (Underwater Peoples).
For last night's show, they played a fair amount of new material, which more prominently features elements of electro-pop. They kicked off their show with just snyths, a keyboard, some prefab beats, and a bass. Guitars didn't come into play until later.
Though it was fun to see the band experimenting and branching out, I thought the electronic additions (intergalactic voice distortion, included) were a bit distracting at times. Of course, many of their songs are brand new, so it may just only be a matter of time before their fixation on their new toys wears off a bit and they learn to better integrate the new sound with the old.
The family affair continued with Tennis (who are also on Underwater Peoples). Thanks in part to their charming, publicity-friendly story, this husband/wife duo received a fair amount of hype early on, but they don't seem to be letting it get to their heads. Though their sound is more polished now (thanks in part to their new drummer - James Barone), they still put on a modest show.
Vocalist/keyboardist Alaina Moore was positively charming. Even her jab at one audience member was delivered sweetly. (After someone claimed to be from Coconut Grove of the song "Marathon," Moore demurely replied, "You can't live there. It's covered by the tide probably once a day. You'd drown. I called your bluff!")
Though she is undoubtedly soft-spoken by nature, Moore's vocals are surprisingly rich, which seems only appropriate for both her labor of love with beau Patrick Riley and for the Brenda Lee cover ("Is It True") that she chose late in the set.
My only big complaint was the brevity of Tennis' performance, which Moore herself referenced near the end of their blinkingly fast 11-song set. "We keep writing more songs, but they're all three minutes. So we keep adding and our set keeps getting just as short." They concluded their 35-minute set with a new tune, a love song entitled "Waterbirds." Though not as peppy as many of their more popular songs, "Water Birds" pleasantly drifts along at its own relaxed pace - kind of like the band itself.
Catch Tennis again when they open for The Walkmen at Terminal 5 tonight (12/2). More pictures of all four bands from Mercury Lounge with Tennis's setlist, below...
La Big Vic
Miracles of Modern Science
Take Me Somewhere
Long Boat Pass
Is It True (Brenda Lee cover)