March 14th at The Sinclair
By: Dominic Yamarone
Tennis recently released their fourth album, Yours Conditionally, almost entirely on their own. For them, this is a new step in taking complete ownership of their music and their message. This authenticity to themselves not only adds to their album, but also to their live performances. Tennis played a packed house show at the Sinclair in Cambridge on Wednesday, March 15th even after delaying the show a day for a snow storm.
Parks, a local six-piece rock ensemble, opened for Tennis with a fun and loud set. They defied all my expectations for an indie band named Parks. Instead of reverb heavy guitars and airy synths, their sound consisted of fuzzy distorted guitars, three vocalists, an electric piano plus bass and drums. All three singers rocked some amazing harmonies along with killer guitar solos. They even mentioned that their song “Sweater Weather” is going to be on the upcoming Rock Band VR game.  This song was one of the highlights of their set, along with the song “Headache” a rocking song about nothing other than getting a concussion. They played a rocking set, showing signs of promise for more great music to come from this hometown band.
Tennis opened their set with “In The Morning I’ll Be Better”, one of the singles off their new album. To add dramatic effect to her entrance, Alaina–the frontwoman of the band–walked on from backstage with the lights low and the band already playing on stage. She had the audience’s attention from the moment she stepped out into the light, with her captivating voice and performance. Her stage presence allows her to completely own the stage and make it her own. She played across the stage from her husband and other half of Tennis, Patrick. While Alaina covers vocals and writing capabilities for the band, Patrick is the one performing the music by her side. In a complete reversal of the traditional (and outdated) separate spheres of marriage, Alaina is the public face and voice of the band, while Patrick plays the music in near silence. Ironically, on the song “Ladies Don’t Play Guitar”, which is a tongue-in-cheek statement about the expectation of a female performer, Alaina didn’t play guitar and Patrick played some absolutely killer guitar solos.
Tennis’ set consisted mostly of songs off their latest release and the album before it, Ritual in Repeat. These songs are some of their most popular and easily some of their best. During the show, there was never a dull moment, as the audience–consisting of dedicated fans–sang along to almost every song. The music was lively, and songs like “Never Work for Free”, “Fields of Blue” and “My Emotions are Blinding” had the audience swaying and dancing along. They even played “I’m Callin’” specifically to coax out of the audience “some of that famous, wild Boston dancing.” Luckily, this song was so good that no one could pay attention to the dancing. Some other highlights of their set were “Matrimony”, the touching true story of Alaina and Patrick’s wedding, and “Modern Woman”, a love letter to a lost friendship. The emotional intimacy of the songs on their new album creates and even closer relationship between performer and audience at the show. These “liner note” type introductions to songs offers a new perspective for the listener well after the show is over.
After a solid 14 song set, Tennis played a two-song encore to close out the night. Their first encore was the song “My Better Self”. This song is a groovy ballad off their second album, Young and Old. For their second encore, Alaina dismissed their backing band, consisting of Ryan and Steve who were covering bass and drums. They played “Bad Girls” starting sitting on the front of the stage and slowly building to belting out the song front and center on the stage. The crowd couldn’t help but sing along with Alaina at the top of their lungs, myself included. This song has one of the most dramatic builds of any and was a perfect end to the night. I personally can’t wait to hear more from both Parks and Tennis and look forward to seeing them again. In the meantime, be sure to check out Tennis’ new album, Yours Conditionally.