Tanlines – Webster Hall – November 29, 2012
Scanning through Tanlines’ Twitter feed to do research, I repeatedly encountered a strange emoticon, the winky sad. Of course, I had absolutely no idea what Jesse Cohen (percussion) and Eric Emm (guitars and vocals) were trying to get across by using this weird symbol. I found it completely indecipherable—take, for example, this gem about taking the sticker off of an apple—and furthermore, utterly un-Googleable. The cynical New Yorker in me assumed that it was a weak attempt at ironic humor, which would have been an unforgivable offense in my eyes. But I wanted to give the celebrated duo a fair shot, so I asked my Facebook friends if they could figure out the answer. And as it turns out, the sad-winky is a thoroughly practical emoticon—it denotes making a joke about something that is decidedly sad.
Instead of using irony to deflect criticism and cover up insecurity, Cohen and Emm are embracing their lameness and displaying it for all the world to see. Essentially, they’re just two guys trying to have fun and make music free of pretension. That’s exactly how their debut full-length, Mixed Emotions, came off, and that’s exactly how they sound live. “This is our homecoming show,” Cohen told the absolutely packed house toward the beginning of the set last night. “We’ve been gone all year, and I’m glad everyone came.” You could truly sense the sincere joy they felt in being back in New York City. Later, Cohen even spoke about how nice it was to be able to walk down the street and get a bowl of borscht.
That happiness bled through into the songs throughout their short, punchy set. The hoard of rabid fans ate it up, singing along to “Not the Same” and vigorously nodding their heads in unison during “All of Me.” Finally, during “Real Life,” the last song of the night, the crowd erupted, transforming Webster Hall into a full-on dance club—the balcony where I stood undulated like Gallopin’ Gertie from the synchronized jumping of the audience. And if that’s my greatest work hazard, I know I’m in the right profession. —Alex Kapelman