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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Friday, March 24, 2023

Husband-and-wife duo Tennis performs their encore jam, “Bad Girls,” for a packed crowd at High Noon Saloon Wednesday.

Tennis’ retro-pop beats charm at High Noon Saloon

Wednesday night, I think I may have stepped into a 1980s high school dance scene in a John Hughes movie. Tennis was the featured band, playing tunes that matched the retro vibes of their clothing and vocalist Alaina Moore’s voluminous curls.

The band did not pull any crazy stunts—no flashing lights or pyrotechnics—but simply played their music. They were the perfect background band for a crowd that would sway or hesitantly dance, but no one went too crazy, much like pubescent teenagers at a typical school dance.

Following the energetic folk-soul openers, Overcoats, Moore of Tennis walked onto the High Noon Saloon stage to the opening bars of “In the Morning I’ll Be Better,” the second-released single off the band’s latest album, Yours Conditionally. She joined her husband, guitarist Patrick Riley, and their bassist and drummer, to complete the dreamy hymn about writing a song while escaping with the one she loves.

The group seamlessly rolled through two songs, “Never Work For Free,” that got Moore’s foot tapping and the audience moving more, and another new song, “Fields of Blue.” This was followed by the group’s first spoken words of the evening from Moore. She plugged their new album, which will be released Friday, and joked about their long break from touring. She chuckled while saying they left to have an existential crisis, but were back and still in an existential crisis.

Tennis continued their quiet presence throughout the set. Their indie pop rhythms, which heavily highlighted Riley’s beachy guitar-playing, loudly vibrated through the room, but the four-piece group remained firmly in position behind their instruments. They showed no exaggerated emotions, but Moore’s connection to the songs she wrote were evident as she sang and beat on her keyboard, and Riley could be caught gazing lovingly at her often.

Moore crooned the crowd favorite “Marathon” off of the band’s first album, Cape Dory, as well as “Mean Streets,” another oldie-but-goodie off of their 2015 release, Ritual In Repeat. The latter jam showcased her vocal range. One second she she would release a series of notes that arose from deep in her chest, her lips curving half-opened into an expression stolen from Elvis Presley. Then, her voice would instantly rise and sound like a more sensual copycat of the delicate soprano of Susan Sarandon as Janet in "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."

During these few songs, Moore’s voice was nearly overpowered by the instruments backing her. The airy notes blended almost too well with the intricate playing of Riley’s guitar. However, when they performed another new song, “Matrimony,” she prefaced it by confessing the song detailed her and Riley’s wedding day and her powerful vocals pierced through the sound.

The band played six more ditties, only stopping to explain their most recently released single, “Modern Woman,” which Moore said was about a friendship she had lost. The highlight of the entire show for me, though, was the encore.

Moore and Riley returned to the stage as a duo. They prepared to perform a stripped rendition of “Bad Girls” and Moore told the story behind the lyrics, which she said she had never shared before. She explained she had left her parents’ church at a younger age, and how she was considered a “bad girl” for doing so but tried to communicate that “even bad girls can do good things, even bad girls have tender hearts,” as the song says.

“This is something everyone can identify with in a world that is extremely divided and polarized and our values seem conflicting or ambiguous or divisive,” Moore said. “It’s a really good time to turn inward and examine your own beliefs, and be really confident in where you’re at but also really good at listening to other people.”

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