Tessa Violet sits in her bedroom, wearing sweatpants and a tie-dye crewneck, and picks up a guitar. There are technical difficulties and the gig has only just started…
With the excitement as to what a Tessa Violet digital gig can offer, this seems a little lacklustre from the singer. Of course, as a long time fan I have the patience, but is she going to do a whole concert in her pyjamas in her bedroom? A seed of doubt is planted in my perception of her usually perfect visuals.
She strums her way through a prelude that seems almost too high quality for a supposedly live concert and no one thinks anything of it… But that’s when the scene starts to shift, her door starts glowing a bright white and BOOM! It was a trick, just a clever introduction leading us into the meticulously crafted world of “Bad Ideas”.
Tessa’s “Bad Ideas’” experience is a white void that she fills with colour through her music… And a variety of scenery dressings, backup dancers and her own slightly uncanny looks.
Though the set was only three-quarters of an hour-long, it was an extremely well-produced and thought out 45 minutes. Tessa managed to fit in fan favourites, whilst also sprinkling in the tracks she promoted into public consciousness during lockdown but hadn’t seen their ‘live’ debut yet. The set was great, actually, and a lot of fun to be watching from home- but that might just be because she has a small but strong selection of songs. Her voice is so clean that combined with a lot of DI’d instruments it’s hard to tell the difference between the recorded tracks and the live ones. There were brief moments where you were reminded that she was singing live, making everything feel slightly more real again, but for the most part, it felt like you were swimming in the misty, ethereal fever dream of Tessa’s imagination.
Branded as an “experience”, the show did thread that fine line between an experience as a live show. Often taking more elements from a meticulously created music video than a traditional live gig, at times to the detriment of the feeling of a gig. Each song bringing a complete scenery and outfit change, and a near-perfect audio mix. Maybe it’s the Americanisation of pop music, having clear choreography and really heavy production, that makes this preferable, but the sweaty fun of what a gig is was lost until pretty far into the set due to the focus on perfection.
Each time the scenery made a dramatic change, although it ruined the illusion of a live gig, the audience was given intense sensory stimulation- with a whole new world being created around every song. A positive of this was that we all got to experience a variety of Tessa’s infamously bizarre and surrealist outfits, with massive headpieces, vibrant colours and her knack for playing with proportion, she threw us into the fun end of the uncanny valley that her songs also seem to inhabit.
Performance-wise it was very clean and cool- she had an awesome female drummer, and during the solo in ‘Wishful Drinking’ I let out an audible “wow” as Tessa performed and ripped out a badass solo. The lack of crowd interaction once again helped serve that music video feel, a small “Hello internet” could have helped break that fourth wall bringing us back into the gig mindset, but this can be an awkward barrier for artists to broach during livestreams.
Regardless, the experience was extremely well produced and thought out, with everything mellowing out around ‘Not Over You’, feeling more like she was having fun during a live gig, both sonically and visually. Even the Afterparty offered, where Tessa live-streamed a small encore and talked with fans, was a special touch.
The weird thing about Tessa Violet is that she is a “small” artist. There seems to be a dissonance between her popularity within the scene she inhabits, and how well she is known within the music canon in general. She more than deserves a bigger audience, and it feels bizarre that she isn’t well known in Western Pop Cannon already.
Either way, Tessa Violet still delivered a whimsical, ethereally-misty, unworldly hallucination of a live experience, and I’m glad I got to experience it.