Live Review: Tennis prove the value of touring; Brad Hoshaw, Travelling Mercies tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: — @ 1:54 pm February 23, 2012
Tennis at Slowdown Jr., Feb. 22, 2012.

Tennis at Slowdown Jr., Feb. 22, 2012.

by Tim McMahan,

Tennis (the band, not the sport) epitomizes the whole idea of bands coming through a town again and again, slowly building up a following each time. When they played here to 2010, there was maybe 50 people at Slowdown Jr. despite the fact that the band had already been reviewed in Pitchfork and other publications. The crowd grew when they returned last year. And then… last night. There was well over 200 people at Slowdown Jr. — it was packed.

Now a four-piece, Tennis came on a little after 10 and played about an hour’s worth of what can only be described as roller rink rock — cute, punched-up sock hop music with a 2-1 back beat. Most of the evening, tiny Aliana Moore with a waist no larger than a coffee can stood behind her keyboard and sang while her hubby bounced around next to her riffing on electric guitar. A third guy switched between guitar and a second keyboard. Their music was pleasant and hookless, easy to listen to and easy to ignore. Maybe that’s the appeal, though the band had its share of listeners doing a half-hearted grind near the stage.

So what explains the big crowd? Someone said it was a Pitchfork effect, which doesn’t quite work because Pitchfork gave their new Patrick Carney-produced album only a 6.3 (the debut garnered a 6.2) — well below the hipster must-see radar. They don’t have anything that you could mistake for a “hit,” and I’ve never heard their music used in a commercial or movie. The only explanation that I can come up with is the model in which all bands build their dreams — constant touring. That said, there are countless stories of local non-Saddle Creek bands (and a few Creek bands, too) that have toured consistently for years and still play to empty rooms (though they haven’t been reviewed in Pitchfork). Who knows, maybe Tennis also is hearing its share of crickets on the road, though I doubt it.

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For those of you who are wondering, my new column launched in The Reader two weeks ago. The latest installment came out in today’s issue, and takes you on a wondrous journey through fabulous Crossroads Mall. Pick up a copy at your favorite bar or convenient store.

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Tonight Brad Hoshaw and Travelling Mercies play at The Side Door Lounge, 3530 Leavenworth. Also on the bill are traveling folkies I Hate You Just Kidding, who count among their influences Mayday’s Old Blood album. 9 p.m., absolutely free.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2012 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


  • Touring as an unknown band only works in the manner you describe if going to shows is how people find out about new bands. But it isn’t. If a band had a financial supporter that said, “Hit the road non-stop, don’t worry about money, just get shows set up and play” that won’t make a lick of difference in building a fan base if people aren’t actually *there* to see them play. And let’s face it, people usually only go to shows to see bands they already know or bands they’ve heard are really good.

    Touring does not build fan-bases unless you’ve already got some momentum and name-recognition from some other means; usually online and via word-of-mouth, or occasionally through magazines and television. It’s almost certainly never because they’re regulars at a place and will see a show no matter who is playing. Clubs just aren’t the way to find bands any more.

    There was probably a decent turnout at Slowdown this time around because people read about Tennis in publications, heard they’re “cool” and felt like making an appearance. Maybe the nice weather brought the crowd out? Who knows, but I seriously doubt it’s because it’s their third time through.

    Comment by Meh — February 23, 2012 @ 4:38 pm

  • I remember the first time Tennis came through town (Aug 16, 2010) they were so excited because they told me that they never played a place with “a real sound system or a stage” before, only small coffee shops & basements. It was the first day of their first tour and they were super excited.

    yes, I think Tim’s right on this one…constant touring + a little bit of hype + press = good turnouts at their shows. (also, a tour with the Walkmen doesn’t hurt your exposure) I doubt that Omaha’s the only place they draw well….good band, great sound. Glad they’re doing so well!

    Comment by Lucas — February 24, 2012 @ 3:01 pm

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