Telekinesis played New York’s very own Bowery Ballroom on Wednesday night, but to an only mildly enthused crowd. Michael Benjamin Lerner sat front and center behind a huge drum set that was positioned toward the front of the stage, producing an incredible amount of sound for such a tiny space. Opening up for them was Say Hi, the one-man project of Eric Elbogen. With nothing but a MacBook and a microphone, he jumped around erratically onstage and leaned down to fist-bump those who had let go of their shame enough to mimic his cheesy dance moves. “This is a song about vampires,” he would declare before seemingly every one; his first record was written almost entirely about them.
At two different points Elbogen opened the floor up to questions, with his only rule being that you couldn’t put in a song request. Among the questions asked were why he moved from New York to Seattle or why the band’s name was changed from “Say Hi to Your Mom” to simply “Say Hi”. The former’s answer is that he was lonely; the latter’s is much more interesting – he was involved in a high-profile case and the band’s name was changed for his protection. At least, that’s the way he tells it. Having been around for over ten years, there were some die-hard fans in the audience who didn’t wait for a Q&A session to loudly proclaim their love for the music – who cares about the specifics of the singer’s life when there’s rock ‘n’ roll to be had?
Elbogen came back out to play bass with Telekinesis, but the band’s power flowed from Lerner and the way he beat on those drums like his life depended on it. Sweat sprayed from his hair and he had a pained look on his face as he launched into “Wires”, a song from their newest album that rivals the catchiness of “Please Ask for Help”. “Empathetic People” was a crashing mess of vocals and cymbals, and Lerner acknowledged it as such from the very beginning. The last two songs performed, “Coast of Carolina” and “Tokyo”, were fast-paced and upbeat, with real drumsticks being traded out for a maraca. Unfortunately we were robbed of an encore – as soon as the last note of “Tokyo” was played, the house lights went up and a hip-hop remix began booming from the speakers. As they broke down their setup, one look around the room revealed the truth – seeing Telekinesis live was satisfying, but not cathartic.