I hate that I feel this way.
Honestly, I’m annoyed that I can’t shake this feeling – this sense that my ability to be objective and impartial was so quickly eroded by what could arguably be labeled as recency bias. But five shows in the span of four days is a lot for anyone, and even more so when you’re trying to listen critically and contextually to each act. And I hope you can all forgive me for what I’m about to say: Tei Shi’s show at U Street Music Hall on Friday night was fine. Nothing more, nothing less. Fine. And in a city where you can choose your own musical adventure pretty much any evening, fine simply doesn’t cut it.
I’ve been a big fan of Valerie Teicher’s music for a few years now, since seeing her do a thirty minute set smack in the middle of a showcase put on by All Things Go that included Vérité and Gems. Saudade, her first EP, was a collection of six songs that showcased Teicher’s powerful vocals and genre-bending melodic mastery, all strewn over hazy electronic beats. In those early days Teicher stood out in comparison to her tour mates – a relatively unknown quantity that bristled and crackled with electric energy. She performed either alone, or with one other band mate – the memory has somewhat faded – but I remember walking up the U Hall stairs back up to street level after the show, overcome with excitement and enthusiasm about this emerging artist. That night, much like this past Friday, she closed the set with “Bassically” – still one of the most visceral, cathartic anthems I’ve ever listened to. Unfortunately, it was the only moment that stands out from her performance that night, in contrast to the other shows which each featured at least a handful of moments that made my heart race or sink.
This is a wonderful problem to have, I’m aware – I love music, and am fortunate enough to spend a portion of my time each week thinking about this art form purposefully; I frame my life around the consumption and digestion of the thing that makes me happiest. And I’m a fan of Tei Shi as a musician, and respect her as a person – she seems thoughtful and charismatic, and I know she’s infinitely more talented in her medium than I am at mine. She took half an hour out of her day to chat with me a few months ago, and we discovered that we share a mutual admiration for Celine Dion. I was excited to see her live again, a thousand and something days removed from the first time stumbled upon her music. A thousand days wiser, with a solid full-length album, a hundred more shows under her belt, and a broader musical palette to paint with. But Friday felt like a mailed in performance.
Everyone has off days; we’re all allowed them. And I recognize that as a member of the audience, I’m not entitled to any specific songs or cheap parlor tricks for my entertainment. But I want to feel like musicians are putting it all out there, like they’re also in the room. Sadly, Teicher and her expanded backing band just felt…flat. The early show audience was checked out from the beginning – several groups around me took the time to pretty much share their life stories – and nothing about what was happening on stage did anything to pull them back in. An hour and fifteen went by with agonizing lethargy, an acceptable and uninspiring march. Three years ago might as well have been a past life for Valerie Teicher. I’m hopeful this was just a blip.
I hate that I feel this way.