Date: March 14, 2005
Author: Travis Estvold
Headline: Tegan & Sara
There's a certain quality about Tegan and Sara Quin that is left out when you read their biography, look at their pictures, or even see them from a distance. It's that quality you can't teach, that certain sparkle you see in someone's eye that you know has been there from birth. Sure, that may sound like a load of crap when a reviewer says it, but talk to the pair for five minutes, and you'll know what I mean.
Sizing up the popsters before interviewing them is a lesson in the time-taught trial of judging the book by its cover. The girls are totally cute Canadian 24-year-olds. They have rock star haircuts. They have released music videos and four amazing albums. Transcripts of interviews by far more qualified inquisitors than myself litter the Internet. But they are sincere, and their hearts pour out when they talk and when they sing.
The duo played twice in Boise on Friday. An acoustic set entertained an avid small crowd at The Record Exchange around 6:30, and then they took the stage at The Big Easy at 9:30. The two sets nicely contrasted the sounds of what they do acoustically in a small venue versus how they sound with electric and percussion support.
As twin sisters, one might think that the rockers frequently act identically. Well, there are similarities, but more often than not, what they seem to do is branch off in their own ways while complimenting one another.
Tegan describes Sara as a snob, but in a good sense. "You won't catch Sara jumping on the mainstream bandwagon for anything," she comments. Sara thinks of herself as an opposite to Tegan in many ways, and finds being labeled as the more outgoing of the two interesting: "It's a tricky way to describe somebody, because I always thought I was perceived as an extrovert, because I had lots of friends and I used to go out all the time. But I think that's a way for an introverted person to not have to connect with people is be in a large group of people all the time. Whereas, Tegan; everybody thought she was introverted. She was always having these one-on-one dates with people, and I find that very extroverted because you have to commit to talking to people."
Additionally, Tegan takes a larger roll in the band's business and banking. "There's a lot of calculator punching and stuff like that, and that drives me crazy," Sara said. On the state of music today, the pair pointed out, "There's a great movement coming from Canada right now," dropping band names like Chaos, Death From Above, Metric, and Broken Social Scene. They still love the classics, though. Listed among their "can't live without" albums are releases from The Smashing Pumpkins, Sinead O'Connor, and Bruce Springsteen. The girls paid homage to one of their favorites by reeling off an amazing cover of Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark" in their encore, just before leaving The Big Easy stage for the night. Tegan claims it's important for them to maintain balance in being "successful, but also [being] really happy and satisfied," and so far they seem to be on the right track. "It's a very isolated industry," Sara said, pointing out how many overly-rich stars are unhappy deep-down and feel cut off. Perhaps that's where the family angle plays in. The two maintain residences on opposite coasts of Canada, but come together to produce and tour. The banter they utilize on stage and the offhand glances they shoot each other while talking, scream that there's a power in having a sibling, or at least a friend, by your side to share the musical experience with.
If you missed this pair (and their three amazing support musicians), you're in luck. Tegan and Sara are returning to Boise in short order. They will be opening for The Killers when they visit The Big Easy on May 1. Take it from me, any chance to immerse oneself in the company of these girls or their music is time well spent.
Providing a contrast to the headliners was opening act The Ditty Bops. Another pair of girls supported by talented musicians, Amanda Barrett and Abby DeWald displayed their own brand of what could easily be described as pop-folk music. They have a hard time labeling their own material, so Barrett relayed that they have fallen on calling their music "Ditty Bop." The duo somehow managed to wear smiles throughout their performance, which certainly was a direct product of their upbeat personalities and the type of music they play. A light, bouncy mix of guitar, fiddle, mandolin, and upright bass, most of their songs sound about a half step away from being pulled off of the "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" soundtrack. Barrett's and DeWald's voices seamlessly blend together to form a superior sound. A surprising lack of percussion didn't detract from The Ditty Bops' presentation. The upright bass maintained time, while Barrett used a washboard for scratching and thumping out a bit of a beat for selected songs.
The Ditty Bops are a wonderful breath of fresh air for music fans. Stepping outside of conventional genre labels, they look a lot like a modern take on talented country fair performers of old.