The lights go down, the band walks onstage, and the Echoplex’s iconic overhead disco ball reflects tiny dots of dappled disco light onto the patiently waiting fans. Then, Tei Shi’s sultry, slinky voice emerges from the darkness.
27-year-old Valerie Teicher, known onstage as Tei Shi, originally hails from Canada, by way of Argentina. Her 2017 album, Crawl Space, is sexy, ethereal, and downright gorgeous, but it’s peppered with real recordings of the artist at 10 years old, earnestly asking for help using a tape recorder, talking seriously into the mic about being a “bad singer.” They serve as little moments of grounding reality between the more out-of-this-world tracks like “Keep Running,” and “Creep” and “Justify.”
Tei Shi uses her whole body onstage. When she performs the twangy, dazed “How Far,” she winds herself around the stage — using all the space given to her — clutching the mic stand at one moment, and tossing it aside like an ex-lover the next. Jewel-toned pink and green stage lights wash across her cheekbones, and seems to cover the stage in a dreamy gauze. Her wavy ‘70s shag haircut falls into her eyes, and in that moment, everyone in the crowd suddenly realizes they’re in love with her. Me included.
In contrast to her very modern-sounding hit single, “Keep Running,” her 2013 track, “Nevermind the End” has the lo-fi, throwback quality of a Generationals song, proving that Tei Shi has real range.
In interviews, she often refuses to allow herself to be categorized. In 2015, she told the Cut, “I understand the need in the internet world for people to have to label things and create [a brand] for people to catch onto. But personally it’s always hard for me to label it as a genre because it shifts and I try to make music that isn’t one thing or the other.” It’s a fair statement for her to make, especially when you hear the difference between tracks like the sweet, dreamy “Go Slow,” off her 2015 EP Verde, vs the multi-layered horns-heavy base-infused “Year 3k” off of Crawl Space.
Despite her sexy, almost waif-like presence, her vocals are strong, clear, and come from a place of deep emotionality, and when she lets loose in the animalistic, high-pitched wail at the end of “Bassically” during the encore, it’s especially evident.
The crowd stares, rapt, for the entire set, only dispersing when the house lights come on and Echoplex security hustles us out. People clearly want as much Tei Shi as they can get.
Words and photos by Stephanie Varela Rheingold