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Tegan and Sara, Girl in a Coma
The Fonda, Los Angeles, CA - 10.19.08
Filter Grade: 88%
by T.J. Roe | 10.22.2008

"Are you going to stand there the whole show?", a girl asks me from the front row behind the security barrier. She has short, mousy brown hair, thick-framed glasses and can't be much older than 18. The headliner is about to start and she already seems worn out. But she's clutching her point-and-shoot camera and bouncing up and down like she's waiting to hear the last number on a winning lottery ticket. "No," I tell her, "We're just taking pictures for the first three songs." She smiles and I know that she probably belongs to one of the abandoned tents and lawn chairs on the sidewalk next to the theatre. You see, a certain amount of people have been camped out for all 4 days of Tegan and Sara's sold out shows at The Fonda, just so they could stand front and center before their idols for their final shows of the tour. After this show, the Canadian duo head home to make another record and these girls know it will be a while before they'll be back.

Opening the show for the Sisters' Quin on this tour was San Antonio-based Girl in a Coma, who I can only attempt to describe as a 3-piece power pop Tex-Mex grunge Ramones. Although I hate to drop the R-bomb and generalize the ample sound of this Raven-haired trio, the spirit of Johnny Ramone was channeled thoroughly in the rapid fire downstroke attack of singer Nina Diaz. But the true beauty of their sound is the patient way that Diaz' vocals ride over near-punk with an artful sophistication of Linda Perry or Siouxie Sioux. Accompanied by sister Phanie on drums and childhood friend Jenn Alva on bass, the trio's energy make the band greater than the sum of their parts. Remove or replace any element of Girl In A Coma and their subtle dynamic might not work.

Their 7-song set included mostly songs from their album Both Before I'm Gone on Joan Jett's Blackheart imprint which infuse hints of their Latin background. Behind every gorgeous vibrato phrase delivered in "Say" or "Clumsy Sky" from Diaz' mouth you hear a hint of accent filling her melodies with soul and substance not heard often enough in modern rock.

With just guitar, harmonica and voice, Alexisonfire frontman Dallas Green enraptured the crowd with his soft, emotive folk under the moniker City And Coulour. (Dallas and Green, get it?) Although I was told that his band was as huge in Canada as the twins are in the states, the moment he released his voice, murmurs of "Who is this? He's Amazing!" crawled through the Music Box. At the end of nearly every line of his relationship-based lyrics the predominantly female crowd turned into an episode of Full House eliciting soft "aaaaaw"s as if Michelle had just apologized for breaking the hallway lamp. The crowd began to chatter towards the end of his set eager for the main act.

Tegan and Sara's set began in a rush with their title track from 2007's The Con and the audience exploded in high pitched screams! Many of the songs over the course of the set were sped up. But by no means did these ladies slight the crowd of a good show. The band had become incredibly tight after a year and a half of touring and they blew through the early part of their set with "I Know I Know I Know", "City Girl" and "Where Does The Good Go" from So Jealous and If It Was You. Between song banter made up nearly half of the set which kept the show intimate and lowkey while maintaining the full attention of the crowd. Plenty of "I love you!" screams were launched ad nauseum to each of women prompting Sara to note, "This is probably the best crowd of all four shows!" ...and then more screaming.

Tegan and Sara acknowledged their fans' commitment with their story of tenting out for Smashing Pumpkins tickets (Mellencollie Tour) in a rough neighborhood while their Mom watched over them in her '86 Aerostar Van and administered therapy to runaways and addicts. "No more camping" Sara said of the last night of the tour. Playfully adding, "We love you... but you're fucking nuts!"

Much of the middle of their set was dedicated to The Con with "Relief Next To Me", the thunderous "Like O, Like H" and stories of Tegan running away to San Francisco to be a DJ after a harsh breakup leading them into "Nineteen" and "Hop A Plane" evolving into "Superstar" from their first album back in 1999.

Post Encore, Dallas Green joined Tegan for a reworking of "The First". The band rejoined with a bespectacled Sara bringing Tegan a pair of black rimmed Eastern Bloc-inspired glasses in honor of Rentals frontman/early Weezer bassist Matt Sharp who joined them for the remainder of the show as he did each night of their Music Box residency. Sharp asked the crowd to YouTube his performance of "Dancing In The Dark" so he could explain to his mother what Tegan and Sara is and the whole group ended the show and a year-and-a-half of touring with their indie-rock radio hit "Back In Your Head". After bows were taken, hugs were given and Tegan chose a worthy recipient of her setlist; I learned that a man of average height can stand anywhere at a Tegan and Sara show and always enjoy an unobstructed view.