The rain had cleared up by the time Tennis, the husband-and-wife-duo comprised of singer and keyboardist Alaina Moore and guitarist Patrick Riley, took to the Mohawk outdoor stage. Though they brought along a bassist and drummer on tour, the additional members lurked in the background, allowing the majority of the band’s energy to emanate off of the core pair.
Story by Max Friedman
Photos by Aaron Brock Dehn
Tennis released their fourth album “Yours Conditionally” on March 5, which debuted at No. 3 on Billboard's Alternative Albums chart and No. 2 on the Vinyl Albums chart. After tearing through the new album’s opening track “In the Morning I’ll be Better,” a groovy, hopeful ode of reassurance, and “Ritual in Repeat” highlight “Never Work for Free,” lead vocalist Alaina Moore beamed at the audience. “We have a whole bunch of new songs for you guys, so let's get right to it.”
And they delivered. The new album displays some of the band’s lightest, dreamiest work yet, which they translated to the live setting flawlessly. Songs like “Fields of Blue” and “Ladies Don’t Play Guitar,” perfectly exemplify the sonic range of the new album; the former is a drum-driven, guitar-lick heavy pop ballad, while the latter is more straightforward and piano-driven, letting the vocals cut straight through to the front. Both are wrapped in the gauzy, synth-pop filter that has made the band stand out among other indie pop acts of the 2010s. The crowd packed in tight after the first few songs, and Moore stopped the show for a moment to give a full address.
“We never thought we would play in front of anyone when we wrote this next song,” began Moore, the backlights pouring through her golden curls and outlining her bell-bottomed black-and-white striped pants. “When we set out to write this latest album, we really felt like we were just going through the motions. I realized we should be happy, and I wasn’t happy. So we took a break, went on a trip, and exploded out our whole process. When we came back, we decided to self-release this new album. We did it on our own terms. And we’ve sold more albums in one year than we ever have with our old label. So you should do what makes you happy. The universe will reward you.”
With a swell of applause, they broke into their now classic “Marathon,” the track from their debut, “Cape Dory” that more or less defined their initially beachy sound. Though they’ve evolved from that sound in all sorts of different ways since then, it blends in perfectly with their newer work, making it one of the many weapons in their arsenal. They seamlessly weaved in songs off of their stellar third LP “Ritual in Repeat,” like “Mean Streets” and “I’m Callin’” to round out the show.
For their encore, they broke out a slew of songs from their second album “Young & Old,” like “My Better Self” and “Origins,” a combination which shows just how perfectly they can oscillate between fuzzy head-bopping anthems and sweetly-escalating slow songs. For the finale, the touring bassist and drummer exited the stage, leaving Moore and Riley alone. Looking into each other’s eyes lovingly, they closed out the set with the undeniably adorable “Bad Girls.” Riley noodled through guitar lines as Moore worked through the song’s playful rhyming couplets. “You know I love a good ceremony,” sang Moore. “That’s why I chose matrimony.”
Here’s a playlist with a recap of the entire setlist from Tuesday night.