May 5, 2017
Over five studio albums, Dawes has consistently delivered the unexpected. With their roots in California folk music, they have dipped their toes in many waters and refused to steer their career down a straight path. With We’re all Gonna Die, released last year, their music has taken a sonic turn, sometimes resembling the experimental sounds of The Flaming Lips more so than the late 60’s southern rock and country bands they have been compared to in the past. One constant is the exuberant joy, humor and harmony conveying a true lust for life.
Wednesday night brought an intimate evening with Dawes at Charlotte’s Fillmore. In support of We’re All gonna Die, seven of the the 10 songs from that record were played, still only totaling less than a 1/3 of the night’s setlist. Early in the evening, during “Picture of a Man,” Taylor Goldsmith told the crowd they had “lost” the opening band for this tour. “We’re gonna spend the whole night with you, two sets of music. We’ve barely scratched the surface.” They went on to play material from their full catalog of music. Luckily, most of the crowd arrived early for the prompt 8:00 p.m. start time. Although smaller in size than I anticipated, the crowd made up for it in enthusiasm and the black curtain blocking the back of the room created a more intimate evening of music. If you closed your eyes during the piano intro to “Right On Time,” you might have thought you were in a small, smokey NY lounge, circa 1970.
Lead singer Taylor Goldsmith switched throughout the evening between acoustic guitars, a Telecaster and a custom made Gibson 345. After the show, he explained to us that the Gibson, although appearing to be a classic, was made for him in 2011. A buddy of his crafted it for him, freezing the paint then chipping it off to make it look old. He said that he has developed his own sound out of it through constant playing.
It’s refreshing to see a young band rooted in folk and the “Laurel Canyon sound” of their California home that doesn’t take itself too serious. Many of their songs contain lyrics poking fun at themselves, inadequate relationships and poor decisions. They don’t hover above and peer down down on their fans. They are right there in the mud with them, sharing songs of strained relationships reducing you to ridiculous pleas of reconciliation. Laughter was heard from the crowd throughout the night with requests to raise our glasses to all the people we’re not speaking to. Before playing “Don’t Send Me Away,” a song chronicling the potential trappings of angry text messages, Taylor explained, “This next song is about texts and fighting and how it goes to shit fast. The next time you find yourself in one pick up the phone. Call them.” Goldsmith began “We’re All Gonna Die” with a short preamble; a short, acoustic rendition of Shel Silverstein’s “Still Gonna Die.”
“Stop drinkin’ booze, you’re still gonna die.
Stay away from cooze, you’re still gonna die.
You can cut out coffee and never get high,
But you’re still gonna, still gonna, still gonna die.”
The band’s three part harmonies never sounded better than on “Roll Tide.” Taylor Goldsmith’s brother, drummer Griffin Goldsmith, left the comfort zone of his kit to helm singing duties for his only lead vocals of the evening. It seems evident that being front and center is not his natural forte. Still, standing straight and flat-footed, leaning slightly towards the mic and hands planted deep in his jean pockets throughout, Griffin delivered an exceptional rendition of the song, with backing vocals from the rest of the band.
In total, 25 songs were spread out over two sets, spanning nearly 10 years of music. Perhaps no song exemplifies the joy of music more than their closer, “All Your Favorite Bands.” If you recall, Dawes recruited friends, including Gillian Welch, My Morning Jacket, Conor Oberst, and Johnathan Rice, among many others, to film themselves singing the song. It ended with Taylor leading a group of school children singing, “I hope that life without a chaperone is what you’d thought it’d be, I hope your brother’s El camino runs forever.” Before they wrapped up with their last song of the evening, Goldsmith simply stated, “This song is you.”