Author: Leanne Fessler
Publication: Lethbridge Insider
Headline: Ladies of the Eighties
Last Wednesday, the University Zoo and its patrons paid tribute to the era of the 80’s – minus the infamous hair and clothes (insert sigh of relief here). Actually, it could probably more accurately be described as a trip down memory lane than a tribute. All was instigated by two girls with guitars and their latest tour Born in the Eighties. Calgarians Tegan and Sara Quin, accompanied by band members Rob Chursinoff (drums) and Chris Carlson (bass), spent an evening sharing music, opinions, sibling bantering and stories of growing up in the eighties.
The night began with tunes from the 80’s being spun by a gal across two turntables as the crowd sauntered in. The crowd itself was slightly gender-biased with seemingly more females than males. To my left side, front row and centre, was a band of self-proclaimed groupies who had been following the tour, taking videotape along the way and adding enthusiasm to the crowd. For two girls of small stature, Tegan and Sara had a large space to account for with all areas of the Zoo being opened up. In speaking to Tegan after the show, she relayed how the band members had all stressed for hours leading up to the show about entertaining in such a large space and engaging a spread out audience (increasing the potential to lose crowd member contagion). Looking back in hindsight, reveals that such didn’t turn out to be an issue – it obvious that the people who were there truly wanted to be there for the music.
The twins began with the first track off of their new album If it Was You and people crowded around the stage. I found it humorous that a screen gate was put up I suppose to “contain” the audience who although excited, hardly moved and certainly didn’t make any efforts to mosh or rush the stage. At any rate, the girls’ stage presence was extremely unique in comparison to many of the performers I’ve taken in. It was very informal and the crowd was given insight into the sisters’ seemingly very different personalities. Tegan appeared to play the part of the storyteller, while the quieter Sara seemed much more introverted and to-the-point. Their stories were uncensored and humorous, tinged with a sibling love/hate relationship. Who knows, maybe the two will quit their music career and fans will see them move on to become the next Osbourne’s on reality TV. Most notable about the way they conducted themselves; the Quins acted like normal 22yr olds. They weren’t out to be sex symbols or Christina Aguilera, which we in the crowd were all thankful for. This lack of the need to portray an image was much more of a statement in itself than the outrageous efforts made to make a statement by many of the female “entertainers” seen today (we all know who they are and many of us wish we didn’t). Perhaps such is the difference between being about the music and being about the marketed product.
Getting back to the music, the majority of songs Tegan and Sara played were off their new album. To be noted was a lack of cover songs – I felt this was a pretty brave move, but certainly not a bad one. I don’t think anyone else necessarily even noticed, but it was unusual for a live show. In just listening to the albums, I had pictured in my mind what parts Tegan sang and what sections were performed by Sara. In watching them, these preconceptions were totally thrown out the window. It was obvious to me that unless I was physically watching them, it would be near impossible to tell as their voices are so similar and a person would have to listen very closely for the small stylistic differences.
The third song in the musical line-up, “Monday, Monday” was a popular tune with the crowd, while “Living Room” also gathered a number of cheers. Although this song was still excellent performed live, there was a definite piece missing for those of us who are used to hearing the song with the added banjo. The instrument adds a completely different dimension, giving the song a much more bluegrass feel, thus the song had a different feel to it performed live. Speaking to their stylistic elements, Tegan and Sara have a sound that is definitely unique to them. I feel a great deal of this effect is held in the quality of their voices. The two have a very throaty voice quality that fluctuates to a near-growl at points, yet still retains a melodic tone. They are not Kitty and they are definitely not Britney – the two find a nice balance perhaps due to their punk / rock influences. They bring a nice harder-edged quality to their music, which is typically not easy for females to do without sounding forced. In this spectrum, I would say they probably fit in and around where Janis Joplin would have been placed.
The type of music produced on the last album definitely has a different sound to it in comparison to This Business of Art. This distinction was most obvious when the group played an older tune “My Number,” which crowd members loved. Music from the album containing this track seems to be more folk-driven, while their latest album seems to be much more punk/pop influenced. The two also incorporated B-side songs off their website (eg “Come on Kids”) and other songs typically not heard. For example, a personal favourite, “Welcome Home,” was performed solo by Tegan. It wasn’t the fact that it was a solo that made it a favourite because I would have liked to hear Sara’s harmonies in it as well. It was because it really allowed us to see yet a different dimension of their abilities; a look into the more bare-bones version of Tegan and Sara, a form that they relied on much more a few years ago before acquiring a band. I think such stripped-down versions are always welcome and popular because of the contrast with the rest of the show – as a result, these songs are always sure to draw some attention.
The addition of the band seems to be something that Tegan and Sara are comfortable with. Bass player Chris Carlson was interesting to observe as he played. He didn’t move around a whole lot, except for his head and one could tell he was totally, quietly focussed on what he was doing. Drummer Rob Chursinoff brought in much more physical movement, though I suppose for obvious reasons playing the part that he was. He appeared to really enjoy himself and brought lots of energy to the band. Audience members were lucky to be treated to two encores – well, that is if you count the first one although Tegan did not physically leave the stage.
Overall, Lethbridge seemed to really enjoy Tegan and Sara and band, even though they weren’t overly loud about the fact. Hopefully Tegan and Sara felt the same and gave their parents in the crowd something to be proud of.