Feature photo courtesy of @teishi
Tei Shi’s listening party at The Dance NYC was a lush, ethereal experience
If I’m going to be completely honest, waiting for Tei Shi was kind of a drag.
I was very excited about her listening party for her new album, La Linda, as I’d been following her since her early debut days. Held at The Dance on Lafayette Street, the event felt like the perfect chill way to end a hectic week. Arriving at 8:30 (which was already half an hour later than the doors were meant to open) and having to wait until 9:30pm in a dark, foggy, sweaty room filled with loud voices bouncing off the ceiling wasn’t exactly my ideal beginning to a listening party situation. We always tell ourselves that beginnings are the hardest part, but when it comes to a concert, they’re literally always the worst part.
In the hour that we were waiting for Tei Shi to come out, my friend Carolyn and I stood as close as we could to the stage and caught up on our day (despite having just seen each other the day before) and complained about having to wait so long for it to begin.
We were so caught up in the stuffiness of the venue and how tired we were that it took me a while to realize that the venue was actually pretty perfect for Tei Shi. Three chairs and mic stands sat in a row apart towards the back of the stage, drenched in the blue hue of the stage lighting. Surrounded by white walls and a white floor, it was apparent that the moodiness of the stage would compliment Tei Shi in the exact way you’d think it would.
Towards the right of the stage was a spiral staircase that extended into the second floor. If we cranked our heads just a little bit, we could see the bit of light that was in the room upstairs, but nothing more. The concert hadn’t even begun yet, but we all clearly knew that this spot was exactly where Tei Shi would emerge. We waited anxiously as that moment seemed to inch closer. Finally, it did.
As the music dimmed, so did the lights, and with that, everyone turned their heads to that one slim corner of the staircase. The feet of her backup singers emerged--first Zalma, then Kittie. Then, followed by a slight pause, Tei Shi. Inch by inch, her velvet-covered long legs caught the light of the stage as she made her way down. She made her way to the center seat, and opened with “Addict.”
Inch by inch, her velvet-covered long legs caught the light of the stage as she made her way down.
I’d known that the album had been released at 12am that day, but I hadn’t listened to it, opting instead to experience it for the first time live. I was not disappointed in any form. First off, Tei Shi’s powerful but angelic voice was just as good live as it was on CD. She was exactly as I would have imagined her to be --the way she moved and danced in front of me echoed moves I’d seen in her music videos. Carolyn agreed, saying, “everything she does--the way she moves, dances, talks--is just all just so.. her vibe.”
I was even more than excited when she followed “Addict” with “Alone in the Universe” and “How Far,” and for the rest of the concert she alternated between old releases and new ones. I will say that this formula was the perfect balance in keeping us on our toes. Will she sing an old favorite or one off the new album?
From little choreographed dance movements in “Twilight” to full on dancing in “Matando,” Tei Shi’s dancing was definitely a highlight of an already ethereal night. Both “Matando” and “No Juegues” are entirely Spanish songs, and though I don’t speak the language, I still enjoyed every bit of it. While she had songs with a faster beat, she slowed it down too, with “When He’s Done,” a heartbreaking track about loss and giving yourself away to a lover. It was as heartbreaking to hear live as it had been to hear alone in my apartment.
Yet she also performed my favorite pre-released singles: “A Kiss Goodbye,” “Even if it Hurts,” and “Red Light.” I still listen to those songs almost every day, and when I say every day, I mean *literally every day* since they were released. “Red Light” was aptly performed under red lighting, and Tei Shi’s attitude was more or less perfect for a song with lyrics like that. This was the song that was meant to be last, but she nonetheless came back for an encore (thank god). A cherry on top was that the final finale song was “Bassically,” the first song that I’d heard by her. I still remember the cover photo of the music video, of the way she looked with beach blonde hair and a red beret. She killed it.
Apart from an otherwise disappointing moment of Blood Orange (Dev Hynes) not surprising us when she performed “Even If It Hurts” (at least they used orange lights during this performance--a homage, perhaps?), La Linda’s listening party was exactly as I imagined it would be--a mismatch of all that makes Tei Shi her. From the Collina Strada pieces she and her backup singers wore to the various changes of lights that complimented each song, everything about the night felt rightly Tei Shi. I’ve never been quite able to classify her music, and I don’t think I want to.
I only discovered later, when downloading the album, that she hadn’t performed every single song off La Linda, but, as much as a shame that is, I guess some songs are best left to blast within the privacy of your bedroom walls.