Concert Review: Jean Dawson


Everyone’s experience in a concert is unique to them, but more often than not, they have underlying commonalities that tie them all together. That was certainly the case when three A&E writers attended Jean Dawson’s show at the House of Blues’ Voodoo Room and realized that there was something both longtime fans and completely new fans of his could entirely enjoy. From the intimacy of the venue to the energy of the crowd and the performers, there was something for everyone to like.

I had only ever heard of Jean Dawson in passing reference from a couple of friends before going to his show on Oct. 16, 2022 at the House of Blues in San Diego. I received an invite to attend the show and saw that he featured A$AP Rocky in one of his albums. This led me to assume that Jean Dawson would be a hip-hop style artist; nothing could have prepared me for what came next.

When I arrived at the House of Blues’ Voodoo Room, an extremely intimate venue, I was reminded of my early concert-going days: going to venues like the Teragram Ballroom and the Roxy in Los Angeles. After some standing around, the main lights dimmed, and the opening act, Junior Varsity, began to take the stage. It was at this point I began to realize what I had gotten myself into. Junior Varsity, with their bold stage presence — which included getting down from the stage to enter the mosh pit with the audience — and their even brasher punk sound, transported me back to a time when I attended shows for acts like Bleached and FIDLAR. This was a great start to the night.

After the chaos of Junior Varsity, we stood and waited again as the venue played some ‘80s classics. It was during this time that I began to digest the kind of event I was at and I came to realize that Jean Dawson would likely offer more of this chaotic energy that was still wafting through the air. As I stood, beginning to crave more, the lights dimmed once again and Jean Dawson and his band made their way out onto the stage. The crowd’s pent-up anticipation turned into cheers and screaming. What was once a dimly-lit venue was now a sea of phone camera flashes. I was so close to the stage that I could now see every detail on Jean Dawson’s face; he had on a metal jaw that was strapped around his head, which reminded me of MF DOOM’s metal mask. I had not listened to a song by Dawson prior to attending, but I was entranced by this unique sound that would be disserviced by simply referring to it as “punk.” Dawson had energetic songs that incited moshing, jumping, and the splashing of water on fans, but he also had slower, softer songs, that allowed for moments of standing or swaying in awe.

Both the intimate venue and the acts of the night brought me back to a time of carefree concert enjoyment, something that bigger venues often can’t encapsulate. Simply put, Dawson was a joy to watch and provided me with a much-needed fresh breath of air.

Hector Arrieta, Arts & Entertainment Editor

Jean Dawson can only be described as a crowd pleaser. When he’s on stage, you can’t help but be satisfied by his overwhelming presence and eclectic fashion taste.

It would not do him any justice to identify him by any particular performance or track. Instead, Dawson should only be remembered by moments — experiences that you know you would not be able to experience anywhere else. Fortunately, those moments were bountiful the night he performed at the House of Blues in San Diego.

As a natural crowd-pleaser, Dawson always knows what people want to hear, and he knows when to let the music talk. His carryable red microphone stand found its way into the swarm of people before him. They chanted the catchy lyrics of tracks like “MENTHOL*” and “SICK OF IT*.” His satisfied smiles were more than enough to let everyone know how proud he was to perform for such a lively and dedicated crowd.

Before his performance of “BAD FRUIT*,” he told the crowd he would try to get Earl Sweatshirt to sing his verse for the track via FaceTime. Most took this as a joke, but to their surprise, a quarter of the way through the song, Dawson was asking for his phone. He fumbled with it before telling the crowd Earl Sweatshirt didn’t pick up but said “hi” anyway. Regardless, not a single smile in the audience dwindled.

A little over halfway through the performance, Dawson mentioned that his mother was in the audience that night. As a native of Southern California, it seemed fitting for his family to attend the very first concert of his long tour. I couldn’t help but feel like the night was a little more special because of their presence.

After the show, Dawson took the time to sign merch and take photos — a luxury that may not be afforded his fans in the future as he grows in fame. However, the fact he is willing to do so now speaks volumes about his immense appreciation for the people who support his work. There is a special place for artists like Jean Dawson who create moments like these, and it’s hard to imagine any other person at his level who could create such moments. It seems he’d rather enjoy the “CHAOS NOW*” then celebrate later.

Fabian Garcia, Senior Staff Writer

Midway through his sold-out San Diego show, Jean Dawson directed the audience’s attention to one of its own members: his mom. Speaking directly to the crowd, Dawson slowly recited a line from his song “BAD FRUIT*”: “In my mother’s eyes, everything I did.”. “Do you guys know what that feels like?” he prompted the audience. No one answered. Instead, silence abounded as those of us in the Voodoo Room partook in this profound moment between Dawson and his mom, between his mom and the rest of us in the crowd, and between us and him.

That is the essence of Jean Dawson’s appeal; he proudly and enthusiastically practices his bottom-up approach to fame. He does not fancy himself a god (*ahem* Kanye), so removed from his fanbase that his persona connotes a certain detachment from the rest of the world. Jean Dawson, despite his fast-accruing fame, is a people person. He invites fans into the realm of his personal life, creating an environment of intimacy. When performing “PIRATE RADIO*,” a slower song about his distraught relationship with his father, Jean commanded the attention of his audience through piercing vocals and solid background instrumentals. Even with more classically pop-punk tracks like “Policia,” Jean matches the energy of his crowd, strengthening the often tenuous connection between audience and performer. Jean is able to simultaneously invoke the sonic gifts of an unhinged rockstar while fostering environments of intimacy and appreciation for those who enjoy his music. The ability to do both is often the key to distinguishing good artists from truly great ones

Sarah Delima, Senior Staff Writer

Image courtesy of Helix Creative Solutions