Sensory Overload: Teen Fiction

  • Photo by Chris DeVille
From the April 26, 2012 edition

Lots of amazing Columbus musicians performed on Saturday at events of many shapes, sizes and styles. In pursuit of exploration, I saw Teen Fiction at Hal & Al’s instead.

Sorry, everybody else.

Also: Sorry, me.

Bob Dawson might have a bright future as a producer for other artists or as the silent, brains-behind-the-music half of a partnership, like Derek Miller’s role in Sleigh Bells. The electronic beats powering Teen Fiction’s performance Saturday were relentless, and they showed Dawson has an ear for pop songwriting. The guitar work was fluid and raunchy when it needed to be. He had the modest but fervent crowd moving all night.

That’s a lot of positives, right? If this was a DJ set or even a strictly instrumental production, it would have been damn near respectable. But alas, Dawson was on the mic and at the center of attention, which rendered his one-man band something like a punchline from an Adam Sandler movie or a nightmarish flashback to a high-school talent show.

Perhaps technical difficulties played a part in the debacle. Dawson didn’t seem to have any monitors, which explains why vocals that were passable on his recording of “The Weekend!” were downright unacceptable Saturday night. He was terribly out of tune throughout.

That wasn’t the only reason I wished they’d turn Dawson’s mic down. Even for a connoisseur of terrible puns like myself, Dawson’s pairing of “misdirection” and “Mr. Action” seemed forced. Kindred spirits like Nine Inch Nails and locals The Town Monster might offer him a crash course in how to amp up the camp without stumbling into creepy wedding DJ territory.

Dawson’s presence was immensely physical — Travolta-inspired hand gestures to the max, feet blurring into a manic hopscotch fit during guitar solos. He was fearless, shameless and not ironic in the slightest. Those are all noble qualities, but they do not make for a dazzling concert when your band is this hokey. You know who else was fearless, shameless and unironic? Zachery Allan Starkey.

By the time Dawson inquired, “You guys want some more, don’t you?” I couldn’t endure it any longer.