Genre-bending musician Jean Dawson performed at The Foundry in Philadelphia, Pa., on Oct. 29 with support from LA-based rock group Junior Varsity. Dawson is currently on a 24-stop North American tour fresh off of his newest album “CHAOS NOW*,” released Oct. 7.
As The Fillmore’s smaller addition, The Foundry provided the audience with an intimate setting to experience this show. With only one opening act, the night was concise and energetic. Throughout Junior Varsity’s time on stage fans were moshing and shouting to their songs. This pairing of acts makes a lot of sense if you look at Spotify; they currently occupy top spots on each other’s pages in the “Fans also like” sections.
Junior Varsity performed with two electric guitars, one electric bass, a drum kit and a vocalist (Greg Aram), who actively covered the stage and made the most of his lengthy mic cable. He also appeared to have some sort of auto-tune control on stage that could be toggled in for artistic effect during parts of their songs.
At 9:03 p.m., Dawson’s band took the stage and the lights dimmed. Similar to that of Junior Varsity, the band consisted of two electric guitars, a drummer and a bass player who also played synth bass occasionally throughout the set. Once Dawson appeared on stage he was suited in a brown oversized poncho jacket, thick white and gray pants and the classic Navy Vans Old Skools. His blonde hair peeked out from underneath his colorful stocking cap and hood.
Dawson’s mic was an interesting component of his stage presence. It was clamped to the end of a short red mic stand which he carried with him during the whole show. Dawson used it like a boom mic to point at the crowd and amplify their voices, although it didn’t make much of an audible difference.
The first half of the show was filled with notable tracks such as “Devilish” and “Triple Double” from his sophomore album “Pixel Bath,” the latter of which is an A$AP Rocky-accompanied single. From his newest album he performed hits “PORN ACTING*” and “THREE HEADS*” before delving into the album’s deeper cuts.
During the first two tracks, two fans (one in Yoshi costume) began crowd surfing which prompted the staff to quickly discourage this behavior. Despite Dawson’s less interactive style of stage presence, the crowd brought the chaos his tour and album suggested. His emotional vocal delivery was often hard to understand, making it difficult to connect directly with his personality and more with his overall image.
Other tracks from “CHAOS NOW*”, such as “0 HEROES*,” “GLORY*” and “PIRATE RADIO*” were played, and for a select few one of the guitar players switched to an acoustic guitar to fit the studio versions of the tracks. Before “POSITIVE ONE NEGATIVE ONE*” Dawson stated that this track was his favorite from the new album, which surprised some fans who expected fan favorite “BAD FRUIT*” to be played. In spite of being his most popular track on Spotify currently, this song was left off the set list completely. One possible reason for this could be the stripped-back nature of the track, which cinematically builds from mellow acoustic guitar into a string arrangement, then falling away to feature the elusive Earl Sweatshirt in uncharacteristic form, singing vulnerably over the atmospheric instrumental. That being said, Sweatshirt would not have been available to provide his crucial part each night on the tour.
The last two songs of the night were early hit “Power Freaks” and “Ghost*,” the second being an Apple Music exclusive track written for their Juneteenth “Freedom Songs” collection in 2021. The set capped off at 10:04 p.m., and fans flocked to the back of the venue to pick up merchandise. Both acts had clothing available, although no physical albums were on sale. The CHAOS NOW* tour continues its high-energy action through mid-November, ending on the 18th at The Roxy in Los Angeles.