Monday, May 19, 2014

Breaking up with a band

There was a time when my husband and I would drive hours to see Canadian indie-rock duo Tegan and Sara. We traveled to Carrboro’s Cat’s Cradle in November 2007 to see a killer (by feminist, post riot grrrl standards, at least) bill featuring female hip-hop trio Northern State and the Quin sisters. It was a great show. We were fans. My husband owned 2002’s "If It Was You" when we started dating. I bought 2004’s “So Jealous” at a record store in Santa Barbara on our honeymoon. We remained devout fans through 2009’s "Sainthood" with nary a complaint.
Yet we never even discussed finally catching them locally when they came through the Fillmore in December 2013 and we aren’t going to Monday’s show there either. I guess we've broken up with Tegan and Sara.
It wasn’t sudden. First came the video for the hit single "Closer," which finds the sisters basically karaoke-ing at a teen house party. The blatant pop angle of the song bothered me a tad - the production is more polished and way less guitar-rock than anything they’d done before, but I think it was the sincerity with which they belted into microphones that bugged me the most. If the video had been tongue-in-cheek or if they looked like they were having fun, then I might have bought it.
I listened to the new album "Heartthrob" when it came out as well, but it didn’t resonate with me the way "The Con" or "Sainthood" had. I even held on long enough to watch the stream of the band’s performance at 2013’s Coachella Festival. Even my five-year-old could tell it was off. In comparison my husband and I enjoyed their 2005 set quite a bit amid a few technical issues.
It’s weird breaking up with a band. And I’m not saying it’s necessarily the band’s fault. It’s like a relationship. Sometimes you just lose interest, stop buying their new albums, and phase a band out of your life. Not that you don’t still go back and listen to the old records you loved or remember them fondly. Other times a band does something so off-putting - be it in their public behavior, live, or on record - that you just don’t want to listen to them anymore. I’m so glad I got to see Kings of Leon on the "Aha Shake Heartbreak" tour at Neighborhood Theatre, for instance. I was a fan of subsequent records, but gradually with the last two albums they lost me. Pigeon poop and cancelling an entire tour right before the Charlotte show didn’t help, but I still tried to embrace those later albums. I just don’t love them like I did earlier ones.
Other times I think you just tire of an artist. I was a devoted Ani DiFranco fan in the mid `90s traveling to Raleigh and Asheville any time she came through. But at some point I grew less interested - I think it was her jazzier phase. I continued to buy her records, but I no longer traveled to shows. But like love affairs you can’t shake, sometimes the romance does come back around again. When I caught DiFranco at Neighborhood Theatre in 2009 and 2010, I was completely blown away as was my friend Erin whose fandom of the feminist folkie had also lulled. It helped that DiFranco, who’d once played less intimate shows at Grady Cole Center and Ovens Auditorium, returned to clubs and that we’d done this great interview where she’d talked about the importance of raising feminist boys (I was due to have my first boy at the time). That show reminded me of everything I'd loved about her in the first place.
So I’m not saying I’ll never want to see Tegan and Sara again (who knows?), but setlists from recent shows list a whopping nine tracks from "Heartthrob." That should please new fans, but for now I’ll stick with the old indie-rock T&S.