SALES’ sold-out Wednesday night show was highly anticipated among lovers of indie pop. Fans who'd missed the window to buy tickets flocked to the event’s Facebook page, hopelessly begging for a way in.
The band played First Avenue’s 7th Street Entry as part of the tour for their newest album, “Forever & Ever.” Unfortunately, the event wasn't as convincing as it could've been.
Seventeen-year-old sultry-pop singer Hana Vu took on the role of opener. She appeared on stage with a sheepish smile, wearing a vintage Timberwolves cut-off shirt and no makeup. Three charming high school-aged boys were in tow as her backup band.
Vu’s age had no effect on her mature voice, which she artfully allowed to cascade over the jingling guitar and drums. She seemed comfortable on stage even though it was only her third stop on tour with SALES, asking the crowd before singing her song “426,” “Do you guys like to slow dance?”
The youthful band had a type of synergy that made it feel like you were witnessing a good house show. The drummer played a bit too loudly, but that could be forgiven due to his youth.
The vitality and immersive nature of Vu’s performance was unfortunately not recaptured during SALES’ set. The Orlando-based duo, longtime friends Lauren Morgan and Jordan Shih, were joined by drummer Malcolm Martin on tour. Morgan, the band’s front-woman, is known for the signature dreamy vocals that have made SALES a staple on Spotify’s “Bedroom Pop” playlist.
Live, Morgan’s voice did not match its studio sound. Throughout the show her voice was so faint — almost as if she was gasping for air — that it was barely audible over the drum and guitar.
The lovely melodies featured in SALES’ recorded songs were also severed by Morgan’s punk-flavored speak-singing. This really took away from tracks like “Chinese New Year” — a song everyone in the audience knew the words for but couldn’t have the satisfaction of singing along to.
Shih’s stage presence also seemed completely removed. He dutifully played his guitar riffs but rarely looked up or reacted to the crowd. Martin, the drummer, was the most entertaining to look at and actually seemed involved in the music-making experience.
The best moments happened when Morgan dropped her awkward stage presence and interacted more with the crowd. It was fun to see her let her guard down more for the song “White Jeans,” where she danced amid screams of encouragement from the crowd.
Another pocket of joy came when Morgan instructed everyone to turn on their phone flashlight, creating a 2018-version of “Now put your lighters in the air!”
“You thought you were going to a quiet SALES show to sit back and cry,” she said.
But moments like these were too fleeting. No one wants to watch a band that acts like playing their own songs is a chore.
“This is our part of the set to have some fun,” Morgan said to the crowd before SALES played their final song of the night.
Why wasn't it the goal to have fun the entire set?
For a group that has played the Entry “like three other times,” their performance on Wednesday was underwhelming. SALES might be too comfortable making music from their bedrooms in Florida; live, they came off as inexperienced in front of a crowd.
The two super-fan girls in the front row might tell you something different, but for the rest of the audience there was often a big space between the musicians and the crowd — something that shouldn't have been difficult to navigate in the jam-packed, small room that is the 7th Street Entry.
The epitome of this lack of connection happened during the finale. The final chord ended ambiguously; there was a moment when no one realized the show had just ended. SALES should take a cue from their junior counterpart, Hana Vu, and not shy away from connecting with their audience.