Tennis at Rhythm Room Last Night

Rhythm Room
Tuesday, February 8, 2011

So it was -- a waif, diminutive indie chanteuse and her prim, penny-loafer adorned husband took to the stage last night. The local crowd came out in impressive numbers for a Tuesday night in February. People were dancing, nodding their heads in appreciation of the laid-back, effervescent music. And it was good.

There was nary a thing bad about Tennis on this night. Perhaps the best thing about husband and wife duo Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore? Who they aren't.

That would be Best Coast.

Oh, the comparisons run deep between both bands --  female lead singer who is the face of the band, male cohorts to round things out, songs inspired by the sea. Hell, Best Coast even played the Rhythm Room on a Tuesday night this past November.

That being said: Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino is no Alaina Moore. Thank God for that.

Describing Alaina Moore is like unexpectedly seeing a starfish on a trip to the beach. You're excited to get out and see the waves, smell the salty air and feel the sand between your toes. Then, all of the sudden, you see an outcropping surrounded by some tide pools. As you walk towards the giant rock, you notice something orangish affixed towards the bottom -- a starfish. It's cute, unexpected and spectacular all at once. That starfish made an already highly anticipated trip to the beach that much better. Such is watching Alaina Moore perform.

Moore stands no more than 5 feet tall and is paper thin with flaxen, curly hair down past her shoulders. Yet it's her voice -- that voice -- that encompasses her being. There's hint of 60's-era country mixed with indie/pop "oooohs" -- a flattering mixture that lends itself beautifully to her husband's stellar guitar playing. What's more, both Riley and Moore had their shirts tucked in for the night's performance, an attention to detail I haven't seen in quite a long time. If you make the effort to tuck in your shirt, people will notice.

Tennis' fantastic debut album Cape Dory clocks in just shy of a half hour, so the band is light on material to flesh out their set. Knowing this, Riley and Moore wrote three new songs for their tour -- songs written "a week ago," according to Moore. One of these new songs, "Hard Times," had a decidedly heavier, more rockish sound -- yet it worked perfectly in the band's tight, concise set. Songs like "Take Me Somewhere" and "Cape Dory" sounded great live, yet they suffer from the plaguing admission that both -- along with a few other songs -- tend to sound the same.

It was up to some of the more slower, downtempo songs to really shine throughout Tennis' set. "Bimini Bay," which, according to Moore, was the band's first song ever written, kept a pseudo-psychedelic vibe. Hearing Alaina Moore croon her indelibly decadent "oooohs" during "South Carolina" was one of the night's unfairly enjoyable moments. How can refuse such a sweet, genuine act like Moore's subtle yearnings? Set (and album) closer "Waterbirds" came as a perfect ending to the night, showing that the band had no trouble shifting gears towards a more downtempo feel.

Perhaps the greatest thing about Tennis last night is that they were not Best Coast. In my honest opinion, Bethany Cosentino can't hold a candle to Alaina Moore. Both bands have their obvious positives, but only one has Alaina Moore at the helm.

I was put under a spell by Moore's irresistible charm for the night, but who the hell wasn't?

Critic's Notebook:

Last Night: Tennis at Rhythm Room in Phoenix.

The Crowd: A goddamned solid showing from your typical flannel-clad hipster to a more basic fan of good music. Whomever was there got one hell of a show for a Tuesday night.

Random Notebook Dump: "Penny Loafers, tucked-in shirts." "Hammond XK-1," referring to Moore's keyboard/clonewheel organ of choice.

One More Thing: Hearing "Cape Dory" makes me daydream about being in Pacific City, Oregon, enjoying a delicious Doryman's Dark from the always spectacular Pelican Pub & Brewery. Because I do that sort of thing -- daydream about the Oregon Coast.

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Michael Lopez