Live Review: SALES @ Comet Ping Pong

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On June 18, Florida duo SALES played an intimate and charmingly awkward set at tiny venue Comet Ping Pong with local Maryland band Go Cozy as the opening act. The DC show was their second stop on their small east coast tour in preparation for the band’s debut album out later this summer. Their understated music fit perfect with the low-key atmosphere of the space.

I’ve been to my fair share of live shows in DC but this was my first time going to Comet Ping Pong, a full-time bar and restaurant known for its handmade pizzas. It was out of the way from my usual music stomping ground of U Street, tucked away in Northwest DC that was far from a metro stop but at least had one bus stop in front of it. The low-set stage was at the back of the restaurant, partitioned by a flimsy curtain. To say the area was intimate is an understatement; the exposed brick and open ceiling beams made me feel like I was catching a secret show in a hidden barn.

The band – comprised of Lauren Morgan and Jordan Shih – shuffled on stage with their equipment, setting everything up by themselves. There were some shy waves and forced small talk as the members tried to make themselves at home on the personal stage.

Both Morgan and Shih seemed uncomfortable in front of the modest crowd but at times, there were real moments of ease and calm that hit both musicians once they really got deep into a song. Unfortunately, their set was plagued by technical difficulties but they pulled on through, even if they had to restart some songs several times. The crowd was generous and forgiving, encouraging the band to keep going and dancing along.  Morgan’s pizzicato vocals matched her precocious guitar playing and were a joy to hear live, her notes flitting up and down erratically but endearingly. At times, their songs felt one-dimensional – there’s only so much you can do with pre-recorded beats and two guitars – but the pair’s personal approach to songwriting translated easily to their live performance, making each track a sort of precious event. Both performers were focused on their music rather than the audience but there were moments of playful banter that seemed genuine. It was only their second show on this brief tour, and it seems likely that SALES will get more comfortable with each experience.

Lauren Morgan of SALES before she does her “famous” guitar switch.

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