Sensory Overload: Plaid Brixx plays dress-up in covers-heavy Arts Festival performance

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Pop-punk trio Plaid Brixx arrived at the Columbus Arts Festival on a recent Saturday afternoon with about an EP’s worth of original songs at its disposal, which turned out to be a slight problem considering the set’s hour-long runtime.

To fill out the performance, the musicians — singer/guitarist Chris Duggan, bassist Cole Bradley and drummer Mark Smith — padded the set with a range of covers, tackling tunes by everyone from The Killers and The Black Keys to Katy Perry and, um, Jet, which would have felt like an iffy call even in that brief moment when the Australian garage rockers inexplicably dominated the airwaves in the early aughts.

While there was a workmanlike quality to even the least of the tunes — a take on The Killers’ “All These Things That I’ve Done,” for one, highlighted the band’s ability to deliver a hummable pop hook — more often than not the overreliance on covers served to highlight the musicians’ various shortcomings. Duggan struggled with his upper register on The Black Keys’ “Little Black Submarines,” and the singer couldn’t quite capture Julian Casablanca’s frayed desperation on a by-the-numbers reading of The Strokes’ “Reptilia.” Similarly, the trio summoned little of The Hives’ cartoonish magnetism on “Hate to Say I Told You So,” which built on a riff that whimpered when it should have snarled.

It’s a shame, too, because the original songs performed here revealed a band just starting to find its footing. “Chemistry,” the title track on the crew’s forthcoming EP, which is due out in early July, built on a fist-pumping riff and PG-13ish lyrics steeped in youthful heartbreak (“I can still smell her on my clothes … now it’s time to let her go”). Other tunes appeared to trace the arc of a doomed relationship from the first blush of romance (“Here I Go Again”) to its bitter end (“Quicksand,” a tightly coiled tune where Duggan’s defeated words made him sound like a long-caged animal).

Freedom arrived in the form of “Wanderlust,” a polished, breezy pop-punk ditty where Duggan sang in a crisp, clean voice about hitting the open road as a dozen or so bathing-suit-clad children danced along and played air guitar. In a set that too often doubled as musical role play, it was nice to finally see Plaid Brixx lose the camouflage.