Walking into the back room of the Otus Supply in Ferndale, I was incredibly excited for the concert that was to come. Having interviewed the lead of Tenci, Jess Shoman, I was looking forward to meeting her in person and hearing their album “My Heart is an Open Field.” This anticipation was only heightened when I saw the stage, which was full with a lap steel, a saxophone, and a flute in addition to the expected drum set, guitars, and bass guitars (of which there were 6 and 3 on stage, respectively).
The opener for the show, pop band Idle Ray, transported me directly to an American Apparel fitting room in 2015. Their 90s-inspired jangle pop matched their hipster outfits as they rushed through their set with minimal talking (most likely due to their ghost drums they controlled using a pedal, though it felt as if the backing track was what propelled their set rather than the other way around).
During Idle Ray’s set, leading man Fred Thomas’ performance was peculiar. Thomas performed a song without the help of his two band members about losing a friendship, which he dedicated to the people in the crowd who had shitty friends–and immediately chastised us for pretending the situation wasn’t relatable. The song that followed was painfully personal and specific, proving the crowd right. While maybe many of us had experienced the pain of toxic friendships, not as many had shared cigarettes on the first day of art school. I was left underwhelmed from this set, but I would like to hear the band again with a live drummer and see if the performance is more enjoyable.
After a brief break, Tenci took the stage. I was immediately calmed by the demeanor of the entire band, as they all swayed back and forth, the lead guitarist cradling their guitar as if they were rocking it to sleep. In between each song the band would joke around, with the bassist asking the crowd if “there were any sock wearers in the crowd?” This show was the second to last of their tour, and it was obvious that the band was incredibly comfortable with one another and was truly a group of friends, as they would sometimes share a look and laugh just close enough to the mic that it would get picked up. The lead guitarist would intermittently pick up their sax for songs, and would always rare up for their solos. When performing the solos, they made the choice to include squeaks and breaks in the sound, mimicking Jess’s trills, yelps, screams, and breaks. This choice blended all of the sounds together, and made the emotions present in the songs much more raw.
The highlight of Tenci’s set was their performance of Blue Spring. With every hit of the instrumental each musician created such a release of energy, thrashing their heads and playing their instruments with reckless abandon. It was a beautiful sight to see, especially contrasting to their quiet and contained emotion that was displayed throughout. The joy of the band enjoying each other’s presence flowed off of the stage, while I danced like a fool with my friends.
Philly-based band Friendship took the last set of the night. Starting off with their guitarist playing a lap steel, the lead singer, Dan Wriggin’s deep vocals complimented their lyrics celebrating the mundane and earnest parts of life. I found striking similarities between him and Bill Callahan of Smog. By this time, the whole crowd had begun dancing, and it was a pleasure to see the looks of glee that crossed their faces. Dan looked straight through his brow and held a wide, solid stance in a way that contrasted the bright and full songs that he was playing. Curt and Jess of Tenci joined the band on saxophone and vocals, respectively, for What’s the Move Baby. While both held their own style, they effortlessly blended into the band to create a new sound. For me, the highlight of their set was their performance of Workhorse. The pure explosion of sound and emotion was a great high to end their set.
Review and Photo by Laura T.