SALES brings energy and finger-wiggling to the Duck Room
SALES, the Florida-based project of Lauren Morgan and Jason Shih, played their first St. Louis show Tuesday at Blueberry Hill. Hana Vu opened up the night with her bright, punky, garage band-style music, starting the night with infectious energy by dancing and jumping until she played her last song.
Shih and Morgan created weaving guitar melodies over a partially electronic drum set, played by touring drummer Malcolm Martin. The music escalated as melodies intensified and became more elaborate. Morgan crooned into the microphone with her characteristically sweet, high voice; using a complex series of pedals to give a layered, echo-y sound to her vocals. The show had a startling feeling of intimacy yet was also suffused with tangible love—the admiration of the audience and the passion of the musicians created an atmosphere of deep warmth. It was a truly remarkable experience to stand there and feel the liquid beauty of their music wash over the audience.
As far as genre is concerned, SALES is difficult to categorize. Their music has an undeniably dreamy quality, suggesting bedroom pop; it also contains elements of minimalist music, yet its intricacies remain stunning. At a certain point, categorization doesn’t matter—SALES is a unique group, and the only way to get a true sense of the magnitude and breadth of their work is by listening.
Jason Shih noted that it was an exceedingly high turnout for a Tuesday night. He dedicated their performance of “Renee” to us, the audience—Morgan said, “St. Louis is a good-looking city.” The audience let out an exuberant cheer when they started to play “Getting It On,” arguably their most famous song, and cheered again as Morgan did a bold solo with a shred that would have sounded perfect with a garage band.
When a song with a particularly long guitar intro began to play, Morgan suggested that we “do something mutually, to make the time pass.” Collectively, we decided to wave our arms and wiggle our fingers (usually, she said, she likes to do “something with cell phones,” but Blueberry Hill is apparently too bright of a venue). The audience responded enthusiastically, and the vast majority of the people in the audience waved their arms in sync with Morgan. For the duration of the intro, the performers and the audience seemed to be one interconnected unit, a synchronized superorganism.
It was an amazing show, partially because of the quality of the music, but also because SALES represents a fundamental part of the do-it-yourself ethos. Morgan remarked that she and Shih started writing music in their bedrooms, and they produced their newest album independently: “We put it out by ourselves. No PR, no label, no managers.” The DIY scene is an amalgamation of artists doing just that—anyone is welcome to create music and do it on their own time, in their own spaces.
SALES also reflects the diversity in the contemporary indie scene. Lauren Morgan is openly queer, and there wasn’t a single white male performer in the band. SALES truly represents the breadth of what a musical group can look and sound like—the DIY scene was originally formed as a space for people in the music scene who have traditionally been excluded (women, people of color, and people who are LGBTQIA*). SALES’ success—how they are able to fill a room with people on a Tuesday night—speaks to the success of the collective DIY community and how it is changing music and society.