By Quinn Donnell
Several months ago, NPR’s popular music-based podcast, All Songs Considered, aired an episode themed “Bands That Should Be Bigger.” The first artist featured on the episode was Telekinesis, whose music co-host Robin Hilton described as “perfect pop.”
The man responsible for this “perfect pop” is Michael Benjamin Lerner, whose third album, Dormarion, displays percussion-driven tunes with nostalgic lyricism and explosive transitions. In support of Dormarion, Telekinesis has been on the road for the past month, and on Wednesday, Lerner and his band made an appearance at Lincoln Hall.
Telekinesis was supported by fellow Seattleites, Deep Sea Diver, the latest musical project from Jessica Dobson, known for her work as a member of The Shins ever since the band’s lineup rearrangement before 2012’s Port of Morrow. Although Dobson’s work with The Shins best exemplifies her talent as a guitarist, her role in Deep Sea Diver demonstrates her abilities as a songwriter and a frontwoman. While a number of Deep Sea Diver’s songs involved Dobson playing her usual Fender Jaguar, others featured appearances on the keyboards, creating a sound reminiscent of Beach House’s synthesizer and vocal pairings.
After a set of material from their debut album, History Speaks, Deep Sea Diver handed the stage over to Lerner and his band composed of Say Hi’s Eric Elbogen on bass, The Globes’ Erik Walters on guitar, and Wild Flag’s Rebecca Cole on the keyboards. The supergroup’s interpretation of Telekinesis’ material resulted in unique renditions of certain songs, most notably through Walters’ crafty guitar riffs on tracks like “Dirty Thing.”
Situated front and center, Lerner’s responsibilities involved an uncommon combination of lead vocals and percussion. While drummers aren’t generally known for their contributions as singers, Lerner’s high-hanging mic allowed him to comfortably exhibit his heartfelt lyrics while performing his signature fast-paced fills.
Midway through the set, Lerner stepped away from his drums and picked up an acoustic guitar. As he began tuning the guitar in preparation for a solo performance of Dormarion’s “Symphony,” Lerner looked into the crowd and asked if anyone had any questions in a manor not unlike a professor concluding a captivating lecture. The Q&A session provided stories involving backstage songwriting sessions with Dana Carvey from Lerner’s experience on “Portlandia the Tour,” the name of his favorite Seattle bar (Sun Liquor), and comparisons between Eric Elbogen’s appearance and that of Montez Walker from Comedy Central’s Workaholics.
Telekinesis’ mid-song banter was a common theme throughout the show, as Elbogen often told the audience one-liner jokes, which he prefaced as being personally written on long bus rides from tour date to tour date.
While Lerner’s Q&A session also produced a number of song requests from the audience, the frontman explained that the recently formed band simply didn’t know any of the songs that were asked to be played, most of which were covers. Telekinesis was able to play a version of INXS’ “Don’t Change,” however, after which Lerner announced that the band would be playing one more song. “Like, actually one more song,” he said, describing encores as “super strange and awkward."
Although Telekinesis didn’t make it back on stage for an encore, chances are they’ll be returning to Chicago in no time. As they continue to tour throughout the U.S. and promote the latest release, Telekinesis will grow their fanbase and start to gain more and more recognition. The next time they come through Chicago, Telekinesis will no doubt be bigger, just as they should be.