Written by Jesse Silbert
A couple of friends and I arrive a few minutes late to the Williamsburg venue Baby’s All Right, having regretfully missed the opening acts and the first song or two of main act SALES. We start to feel a tinge of guilt, like we’ve somehow tainted the experience by coming late, but as we settle into the already amassed and attentive crowd, the band begins their next song, and the inclusive atmosphere of the room melts away all our worries.
The Orando-based duo Jordan Shih and Lauren Morgan are both playing guitars and smiling widely and their music washes over the crowd spreading contagious grins and good feelings. The sound is loud, but the music being played is itself soft, which creates a seductive, raw, intimate feeling, as if we are witnessing a basement jam session so good it should be recorded. By the time the third song ends, the venue’s signature back wall, covered in a diverse set of lights, has shifted color to a soft pink. Shih chuckles and in a mellow voice comments on how he’s glad that he could see all the attractive faces of the audience in the newly pink light, and on how lucky he is to be surrounded by so many good looking people. This comment is made a handful of times throughout the night, adding to the sweetness of the duo’s demeanor. The inviting nature the band exudes is appreciated by the audience and creates a great performer-audience dynamic that seems to be somewhat unique to SALES and its amiable style. In the same fashion, between songs, Shih and Morgan endearingly banter with each other and the audience, making subtle jokes and generally having a good time. Although apparent on their EP, the duo makes it even more abundantly clear in concert that their music is meant to be relaxed, dedicated to spreading a good time and goodwill. And the crowd, searching for a feel-good Friday night, complements that atmosphere precisely.
At one point in the show, Morgan announces that they are about to play a particularly emotional song, and Shih mentions that the audience should reach out and touch the person next to them, then lightheartedly adds, “but consent!” In a different audience, at a different venue, with a different band, the joke may have awkwardly hung in the room, but here the crowd laughs warmly, nodding in approval.
Although it’s generally true that most bands that use a drum machine could benefit from an actual drummer, Shih’s use of the sampler did not leave me wanting so much regarding percussion. Perhaps the most impressive part of the band’s musical performance was Morgan’s vocals. On their debut self-titled EP, the vocals displayed a wide range in pitch and tone, presenting themselves as confident and soulful while singing vocals which fluttered above the band’s soft guitar melodies. She successfully recreates this approach live, without hiccups or discontinuities. On the song “renee,” Morgan’s vocals jump from register to register; on the studio version, this is done with two vocal tracks, but on stage she seamlessly executed the jumps live.
The band played a few new cuts in addition to their previously-released material, which drew mass excitement from the crowd. About thirty-five minutes in, the band announces that they will be playing their last song — the band is still young, and their repertoire short — and before anyone can bemoan the length of the set, the band launches into their single, “chinese new year.” In the band’s final musical statement of the night, the drum samples come in louder, with more bass, and the audience’s feet move to the music with newfound electricity.