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August 11, 2007

Tegan & Sara; International House, Philadelphia, PA 08.05.07

If you haven’t been paying close attention lately, there’s been a lot of talk about Tegan & Sara, the Canadian identical twin singing sensations, though most of it amounts to what what some in the biz call a “nontroversy” -– in short, a controversy that doesn’t actually exist. The majority of the fuss centers around a critic's decision to use the term “tampon rock” in a recent review. Feminists around the country have been calling her out, the cries ranging from being anti-female (and perhaps, a glib reference to their sexuality, which they have preferred to keep out of the spotlight) to “setting women back”. (I mean really, is the phrase “tampon rock” tying the apron strings back on, more so than say, the policies of a certain political leader?) Personally speaking, I don't see the big deal, as I fully agree with the writer's point that they've evolved light years beyond the genre they typically (and quite unfairly) are lumped into.

I saw T&S once before –- sometime back in 2002, opening up for Neil Young. Now, if the writer had caught these performers on this particular performance, I’d understand the need to label their then-brand of bleating, sub-Indigo Girls, quasi-Lilith Fair nonsense as “tampon rock”.

Yeah, I’ll totally admit it -– my reintroduction to the band was “Walking With A Ghost”. I didn’t want to believe this burst of cyclical, tightly wound new wave was the same group I despised years back. It seems that in the time since I wrote them off artistically, they managed to turn their whole game around, churning out a couple of really great pop records. Their newest release, The Con, is not so different in that sense either, a collection of songs tearing their world into abstracted, splintered, pieces --  yet it's music that anyone can easily empathize with.

On this steamy, drizzling Sunday night, T&S presented The Con in full to the audience, pushing the abstraction motif further by reversing the order of the songs –- giving listeners the opportunity to pick apart the record not only front to back, but back to front. (I've been totally hook, line and sinkered by the single, "Back Into Your Head", BTW.) That is, if the sisters could quit bantering about and get to the business of playing. Just kidding! One of the most endearing aspects of the group is their penchant for chattiness –- a holdover from earlier, less material-heavy years. It’s not the kind of intense, emotional wrought banter best left for one’s LiveJournal, but it’s certainly convivial and polite –- defying the edginess of their all-black outfits and asymmetrical haircuts. While I doubt they’ll be giving up the music part anytime soon, they might have an alternate career as a comedy duo, judging merely by the interplay between the sisters, especially when one takes too long to tell a story. (Ahem… Sara.)

Once they were done previewing the record, Tegan & Sara played a second set of old material (Ladies I applaud you for your stamina!) including “Where Does the Good Go?”, “Monday Monday Monday”, “Take Me Anywhere” and dedicated “Walking With A Ghost” to a couple of kids following the band around (and brought T&S flowers). Because the group’s strength lies in keeping things firmly entrenched in a nice gray area, it’s easy to see the universal appeal –- even though it has a tendency to be mistaken as bland. Make no mistake, this intimate, unique performance stood out like a sore thumb, but in the best way possible.



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I've heard the term "cock rock" for years! Isn't "tampon rock" just equal-opportunity, in that sense? :)...Maybe when they get older someone can call them the less gender-specific "depends rock"...

Raised By Bees

I agree with what Jeanne Fury said that they aren't really tampon rock, L7 is/was for throwing a tampon out into the audience at a show. With that said, I HATED T&S when I first heard their first album. They've totally improved since then.


I think the best song that describes "tampon rock" is Lily Allen's "Take What You Take", since it was constantly played in the background of those annoying Aerie commercials during Gilmore Girls last year. The new T&S record is really fuckin' fantastic -- especially when I think most records release this year totally blow.

muhal richard abrams

I hated the one T&S album I heard, though this is making me think I should return for a second listening.
I also really like their contribution to Against Me!'s shockingly not shitty new album.


Actually, it was a guy that brought them the flowers. I should know...it was me who brought them. The song was dedicated to myself and a girl named Ali that had made a custom T&S t-shirt to show support.

I was hooked before this show but, this sealed the deal. That night was really amazing as it was my first official show(free half hour at World Cafe Live doesn't count for me)and I plan on seeing them 2 more times this tour.
I would label them "good music." Period.

- Matt

tiffany silver

When I was in my late teens a friend of mine, an elite athlete, gave me the most profound yet simple advice that changed the way I would view myself forever. He told me "You yourself have to think you're great because no one else is going to tell you that you are."

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