By Victoria Roxanne Hill
One month ago, I received a message on GroupMe from a classmate saying that she was starting a group message for tennis. The text was extremely confusing because I thought that I had accidentally signed myself up for an intramural somehow. I then remembered talking to her about our shared love for Tennis, the indie dream pop band from Denver, Colorado. We waited outside Emo’s for about an hour, shivering without any heavy overcoats and talking about how excited we were about the tennis match that wouldn’t happen. Thankfully, I brought some fried chicken to keep me warm.
After I finished my chicken, we went in to hear the opener, the band Overcoats. They are a precious duo composed of Hana Elion and JJ Mitchell. The two came out and stared down the audience for a good thirty seconds. It was a bold statement. Before they performed “The Fog” they asked if it would be okay if they could dance. No one in the audience said no so they danced throughout the song. “Leave the Light On” was what they closed their set with. While they were performing, the crew of Tennis came out, all wearing all red, and started dancing with them. Eventually, they all ended on the floor, only to erupt in more explosive dancing to this high-spirited electronic beat. The dancing provided the audience with a huge burst of energy that helped us prepare for the next act.
The ever so anticipated Tennis started their set off with “No Exit.” Alaina walked on while the lights were dimmed and an elongated version of the intro was playing. The lights were slowly raised when she started singing the first verse, revealing her stunning ‘70s inspired look. She took a well needed break in between songs to apologize for how amazing she looked. You would have never guessed that she was recovering from a crippling case of the flu. Throughout her illness, Patrick (the band’s guitarist, and also Alaina’s husband) tried to ease her worries by saying that he would become an accountant if needed. Audience members expressed a great amount of thanks for that not being their reality.
There was a mixture of young & old tunes, and I don’t just mean the album. One of the most touching moments was when Alaina took a moment to step away from her identity as an artist and show us more of her as a person. About a week prior to this concert, the Riley family went through a devastating loss. Edward Riley, Patrick’s father, had been struggling through cancer for quite some time and as his condition worsened, Ed’s Wife and daughter thought it best for him to be taken off life support. Patrick and Alaina were facing the most difficult decision of their life: continue the concert, or go to be with their father in his last moments of life. In a rare lucid moment, Edward caught them on the phone and said that he would rather them finish out the concert than be with him. This stuck with me the rest of the concert. The next song they played was “Origins” and it was dedicated to Ed Riley, their musical inspiration. Before starting the song, Alaina said that she hoped she could get through the song without crying. It wasn’t my father-in-law, but the emotions she had made me miss this man I had never met.
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pt 1: There are moments which make apparent that goodness and badness are not things in themselves, but categories we impose upon the world. The mind is quick to forget that experience is fluid- without distinctions or boundaries- and so defaults to value-judgments. Goodness and badness cannot be confined to a moment, the quality is assigned, not inherent. For example. Your band books a tour and most of the shows sell out. You play the biggest rooms to the biggest crowds you’ve ever known. You think, this is good. But you are plagued with sickness, hospitalized. You are forced to cancel shows. Every night is a struggle with your voice, your nerve, your focus. You think, this is bad. But you are with your husband. You are bonded through your struggle. He is with you at your worst and you feel a powerful surge of intimacy that surprises you after nine years of marriage. You think, surely, this must be good. Then you get a call. Patrick’s father has been rushed to the hospital. He’s lived with stage four neuroendocrine pancreatic cancer for the last three years. It’s been a slow, painful decline. Now it seems he’s at the end. You are about to play the biggest, most anticipated show of your career. Instead of celebrating, you sit with your husband backstage and discuss your options. Do we cancel the show? Do we cancel the tour? Since the diagnosis, we have flown out almost monthly to be with him. Patrick and his father have been saying goodbye for a long time. While struggling to make a decision, his father experiences a rare moment of lucidity and is able to speak with Pat over the phone. He says he is proud of us. He would rather think of us in our triumph than see us in our grief. I hold Pat’s hand as we walk onto the stage, wondering how our songs will sound while our hearts are breaking.
An overwhelming amount of love was shared throughout the night. Audience members hugged, kissed and danced the night away. The love between lead singer Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley was what blew me away. It’s baffling how two people can still be so in love after spending every waking moment together, be it through touring or their ocean voyages. Before they started their final song of the tour, drummer Steve Voss and bassist Ryan Tullock left the stage, and Alaina went over to Patrick and kissed him on the shoulder. They ended the concert with the song “Bad Girls.” When Alaina sang the lyric “That’s why I chose matrimony” she looked diagonally behind her to see her husband, who had been looking lovingly at her throughout the verse.
While Overcoats were still performing, JJ Mitchell stepped aside and went off on a tangent about the tour and thanked Tennis for being such genuine humans. After seeing them live, I couldn’t agree more. Intimate moments were shared that couldn’t be faked. This concert was the last of Tennis and Overcoats touring together. It was an emotional experience and I felt honored to be let in on their journey.
Featured image by Victoria Roxanne Hill.