About two years ago, I went to a three-day music festival in DeLuna, Florida while interning for Paste Magazine, where I got to see artists like Big Boi, Girl Talk, The War on Drugs, etc. While there, I planned on seeing a band named Telekinesis because several of my friends had nothing but good things to say about them, but alas, I missed my chance. About a week later, one of my friends gave me Telekinesis’ second album 12 Desperate Straight Lines and I fell in love with the Michael Lerner’s brilliant band. So basically every day since then, I’ve listened to at least one Telekinesis song, and I always kick myself for not seeing Telekinesis.
So finally, Telekinesis came to D.C., at the Black Cat Monday night to a sold out show, and I couldn’t have been more excited. Michael Lerner has created three incredible pop albums that are as catchy as they are beautiful.
Opening for Telekinesis was Deep Sea Diver, a band I knew nothing about, but seemed familiar. It wasn’t until right after their set that I realized that I had seen Jessica Dobson, lead singer and guitarist of Deep Sea Diver, at that same festival in DeLuna, but performing with The Shins.
Deep Sea Diver also have a great collection of pop songs that feel like sort of like a combination of the various bands that Dobson has performed with. The songwriting style of The Shins, the occasional sounds that make you feel like something is a bit off like Spoon, the little aspects to each song that snag into you and hook you like Beck and the power and fun of Karen O and Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
But then it was time for Telekinesis, who started off with “Coast of Carolina,” a song that starts off slow and builds to an easy-to-chant-along finale and the synthy ad ridiculously catchy “Please Ask For Help.” When they started the first single off their newest album Dormarion, “Ghosts and Creatures,” I’ll admit to thinking it didn’t sound as good as it did on the album, but by the end I was sold as Lerner jumped on the drums and sang the final verse while slamming on the drums.
Oh yeah, Telekinesis’ lead singer is also their drummer. Which is incredibly badass.
When you listen to a Telekinesis album, each song is so well polished and gorgeous, each a little perfect pop gem, that it almost surprised me to hear these songs live. There’s seemingly more improvisation and a dirtier sound to these songs as Lerner and co. tool around on stage, yet each song is just as good as their original incarnations.
Most of the songs from the night were from Dormarion, which I haven’t spent enough time with to fall in love with as I did with 12 Desperate Straight Lines, but hearing songs like ‘Wires” and “Ever True,” Lerner’s ode to New Order’s Bernard Sumner, made me appreciate the new album so much more.
Around “Imaginary Friend,” which Lerner dedicated to Telekinesis champions Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton, the band became much more open and quite hilarious with the audience. After performing “Empathetic People,” probably the band’s most drum-heavy track, Lerner said “fuck me for writing that fucking song,” and that whenever he finishes that song live, he’s always covered in a “Bruce Springsteen amount of sweat.”
Once they knocked two 12 Desperate tracks, “Dirty Thing” and “Country Lane,” Lerner decided to have Q&A time with the audience. This period included questioning what Lerner’s favorite song is (right now, “Waterloo Sunset” by The Kinks), a game of Fuck-Marry-Kill with John Stamos, Rosie O’Donnell and Oprah (Kill Rosie, Marry John Stamos, Fuck Oprah, because she’s rich), a request to sing harmony on the next harmony-less song and the singing of “Happy Birthday” to a person in the audience.
Once the Q&A was concluded due to it just getting weird, Lerner said it was time to get quiet like naptime, as he took up an acoustic guitar for a sweet version of “Symphony” and the band’s first song on their first album “Rust.” Lerner went on to say that his acoustic songs each night were the scariest part of each concert for him.
After two more Dormarion songs, “Power Lines” and “Dark to Light,” Telekinesis did a fantastically fun version of INXS’ “Don’t Change” before claiming that encores were sort of dumb and ending the night with a sing along to “Tokyo,” and true to their word, that was their end since they said they didn’t know any other songs.
But frankly, I wouldn’t have minded if they just started over again and performed all the songs once more. The wait for seeing Telekinesis live might have gone on for far too long for me, but they were absolutely worth the wait.