Washington DC's Tennis System have gained a certain amount of notoriety for their visually intense, high volume shows. While touring their way down to Austin for this year’s South by Southwest festival, two of their shows were shut down by local cops because of noise complaints. But stories of police intervention and hysterical sound engineers don’t serve as a solid foundation for establishing a band’s reputation. And while Tennis System concerts are wonderful experiments in sensory overload, it’s on record that the band really shines. Nowhere is this more evident than on the group’s debut full-length, “The Future of Our History.”
Unlike many musicians these days, Tennis System are not afraid of searching for “the sound.” A quick listen to the first few tracks reveals a group of young men who’ve spent countless hours coaxing the right tones and sounds out of their instruments. Yes, this is a very loud record. But there’s sonic dynamism that makes “The Future of Our History” stand out from other “nu-gaze” records. Guitarists Matty Taylor and Drake Eidson’s guitars shimmer, scream and shine across every song. And while the influence of a certain Anglo-Irish combo is certainly evident, Matty and Drake never let their love of Kevin Shields & co. oversaturate their sound. In fact, I’d say that Tennis System have a lot more in common with Ride or Pale Saints (and at times Swervedriver). But the most surprising aspect of this record is the strong presence of Tennis System’s rhythm section. Drummer Brad Fullilove and bassist Clinton Cool are never reduced to “drum machine & bass throb” status. Nor do they muck up the sound by being too flashy. In their playing you can hear the sounds of Led Zeppelin, Blue Cheer and and even go-go (Washington DC’s official sound, for those of you who aren’t in the urrrrrrrrrrrea)!
As I mentioned above, this band has no problem turning the volume up to 11. But at times, their love of noise can undermine the power of the songs. Interestingly, in the last few months, Tennis System have started to turned down a bit! They are still louder than most bands, but the decrease in volume has resulted in a much fuller and more dynamic sound. In venues with a decent PA and competent staff, they‘re a real pleasure to see. But in places where the sound guy is screaming at everyone or half asleep, things can get kind of hairy. Either way, you won't go home disappointed. Check them out, as they've got a very busy schedule planned for this summer.
Upcoming shows. PS DON'T FORGET YR EARPLUGS.
*Saturday May 8 Comet Ping Pong with (the sounds of) Kaleidoscope Washington, DC
*Saturday May 15 9:00P ESOTERIC VIDEO SHOOT Washington, DC
*Saturday Jun 12 8:00P Velvet Lounge with Asteroid No. 4 Washington, DC
Recommended tracks: Beautiful Mistake, FS, Demonator, Here’s a Thought
"Here’s a Thought”, live at Union Pool, Brooklyn, NY 2010
"FS" live at Done&Done, 2010 in Queens, NY
“Esoteric” live at For the Love of DC, December 2009
Matty and the author performing Spacemen 3’s “Walking with Jesus”