I was absolutely thrilled to attend the Dawes concert on Saturday, January 23, 2016 at The Theatre at Ace Hotel (formerly known as the United Artists Theatre). I last saw Dawes in October as part of the Bluegrass Situation Festival. Since that time I had added the album Stories Don’t End to my music collection, which already contained the recent album All Your Favorite Bands and Nothing is Wrong. It always feels good to be fairly familiar with most of the music an artist is likely to play at a concert, as it enhances my appreciation and interest level for the show.
The opening band was called Vetiver, fronted/masterminded by Andy Cabic. Being unfamiliar with this band, being distracted by people still entering the theatre, and possibly also because I was seated pretty far back in the orchestra section — almost at the soundboard, I had a difficult time getting into their music at the beginning. The seating location also explains the lack of close-up photographs. The musicianship was good and the sound was decent at the back, but the first few songs all seemed to be at a similar walking tempo and one blended into the next. All three songs came from the same album, Tight Knit. They were “Rolling Sea,” “Everyday,” and the repetitive jam band-like song “Strictly Rule.”
I felt the last few songs were more varied and so that was a nice build up to Dawes coming on. “Wonder Why” was a tasty little pop number from the album The Errant Charm. I liked the chill out song, “Current Carry,” from the recent album Complete Strangers, as it had an appealing slide guitar in it. There was a song played that I haven’t been able to identify and the only lyric I could catch was, “This kind of feeling,” which I’m not even sure I heard correctly. The band finished their set with a tribute to Lemmy by covering Hawkwind’s song, “Hurry On Sundown,” which is on Vetiver’s album A Thing of the Past.
Dawes opened their set firing on all cylinders with the first song from their latest album All Your Favorite Bands, “Things Happen.” This is such a bittersweet song and a fine example of the thoughtful, introspective lyrics that first attracted me to this band. The first verse of the song shows how well the writer conveys the complexity of relationships.
“I could go on talking or I could stop
Wring out each memory ’til I get every drop
Sift through the details of the others involved
The true crime would be thinking it’s just one person’s fault.”
The first time I heard the next song “Don’t Send Me Away,” also from the new album, the backing guitar part immediately reminded me of a style of guitar playing that I had previously heard from musician Blake Mills. It was only later that I learned that Blake Mills had in the past played with front man Taylor Goldsmith as part of the group Simon Dawes. This was followed by the song “If I Wanted Someone,” from Nothing is Wrong.
“Somewhere Along the Way” (link Hollywood cemetary if there isn’t one from the night) was the first highlight for me in the concert. This song has incredibly well-thought out, emotionally aware lyrics, with a beautiful, rich and full, but not over the top, musical accompaniment. Then at the end Duane Betts played an extended guitar solo at the concert that made the heart soar along with the melody he was extracting from his gorgeous Gibson Les Paul Goldtop . I really can’t say enough good things about Duane Betts, just watch the video link of him playing or even better, catch him live, and you’ll see what I mean. Personally, I feel strongly connected to these final lyrics of the song, as I am in a relationship transitioning point and I am finally reaching that stage where I am feeling happier and it feels like things are going to be okay.
“But somewhere along the way
I started to smile again
I don’t remember when
Somewhere along the way
Things will turn out just fine
I know it’s true this time.”
Taylor took a break from playing to introduce the band: Duane Betts on lead guitar, Wylie Gelber on bass, Griffin Goldsmith on drums, himself on guitar (sometimes he takes lead too) and they have a utility player (didn’t catch his name) filling in on keyboards after Tay Strathairn left the band last year.
North Hills is the earliest Dawes album and the only one I don’t own yet. They played the song “My Girl to Me” from it and I may have been one of the few people on the main floor of the audience who wasn’t singing along. This suggests to me that the audience was made up of a lot of long-time and/or dedicated fans of this band. It is great to see this level of support for this band and I can only see it growing. The band has responded with a superior level of musicianship, enthusiasm, and confidence. With Duane Betts on board, I am pretty eager to hear what their next album is going to sound like. I believe this band is going to be as huge as a band can be in this era of bracketed genres in music and multiple listening platforms. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are Grammy-nominated in the coming years.
When I first bought Stories Don’t End a few months ago, I remember running and listening to the album on my iPod when “Bear Witness” came on. It struck me that the song was about visiting people in the hospital and chatting to pass the time. I have certainly spent some time in my life in hospital rooms and nursing homes visiting my elders and the lyrics of this one capture that. That is the maturity and beauty of Taylor’s writing, that he can write a song about love for family and people that inspire and help us grow, yet these characters seem oddly absent from rock and pop songs as if they don’t exist (other than the odd “mom/dad told me” lines that are sometimes sprinkled into songs). Taylor confirmed at the concert, “This song is about being stuck in the hospital.” Sometimes you are stuck in the hospital not because you are being treated, but because your love for the patient holds you there (this I know from the month my son spent in the NICU and a few other times he has had surgery). “Oh, that’s the love that I came to bear witness to, oh, and the love I’m taking with me when I go.”
Next up was the song “From a Window Seat,” also on Stories Don’t End. This is a fun uptempo number and again I like the lyrics, the idea of being on a plane and imagining what other people’s plans involve and why they are traveling. My favorite line of the song is, “‘Cause if you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.” Indeed.
Then the band eased into the ballad “Now That It’s Too Late Maria,” which closes the album All Your Favorite Bands. This paired nicely thematically with the song that followed,”Coming Back to a Man” from Nothing is Wrong. A lyric that resonates with me from that song, “‘Cause some people were just meant to be a memory, to be called upon to remind us how we’ve changed.” Though the latter song is on an earlier album than the former song, it feels like a reaction to the situation — the break-up and the response after the passage of some time.
If the band didn’t have the audience firmly in its grasp before they played “Fire Away,” it certainly did by the end of this song. Taylor kicked off this tune from Nothing is Wrong by announcing, “This song is about real friends.” He proceeded to bounce all around the stage as he was playing, then led the audience in two-part harmony on the lines, “When you need someone to walk away from; when you need someone to let you in.” Everyone in that audience was in union at that point and Taylor Goldsmith was not just a leader, but a member in this wonderful musical communion. It was the most joyful moment of the night.
Dawes played another older song, “That Western Skyline” from North Hills, and another fine example of Taylor’s storytelling prowess. Taylor introduced it by saying that it was a “song about coming back to Los Angeles,” seemingly after it didn’t work out with a girl that he followed to Birmingham. This tune was followed by the rocker “Right On Time” from All Your Favorite Bands.
Pedal steel player Greg Leisz joined the band on stage at this point and continued to play with the band for the remainder of the concert. The band covered The Waterboys “Fisherman’s Blues,” and thank you to Taylor for introducing it by name as it is unfamiliar to me. Then the band played “From the Right Angle.” Duane Betts played another awesome guitar solo, after which I wrote in my notebook, “Duane Betts for whatever ails you!” because every single one of my cares and worries from the day melted away at this moment. This dude is magic on guitar!
I borrowed the song title “It’s a Little Bit of Everything” for the blog title, because lately in life, it really has been a little bit of everything. But it isn’t just me, the entire audience connected with this closing song from Nothing is Wrong and everyone was standing (in this seated venue) singing along word for word. It was another special moment from the night and was followed by more communal singing, this time on “When My Time Comes” from North Hills. Everyone was singing the refrain and doing so loudly! An immense level of sound filled the cavernous theatre. It sent chills down my spine to be among all this camaraderie. I felt connected to every soul in the house and took a moment to look around and thought about how lucky we all were to be sharing this synergy.
Luck features in the next song Dawes played, “Most People” from Stories Don’t End. Taylor Goldsmith once again demonstrates what he has discovered in life, which feels so applicable to myself. Here’s the chorus,
Most people don’t know what it takes for me to get through the day
Most people don’t talk enough about the love in their hearts
But she doesn’t know most people feel that same way.”
Taylor addressed the audience again, remarking how back in 2008 you could have seen Dawes playing at the Silver Lake Lounge (a local bar with a stage). He spoke of his appreciation for the fans helping them along on this road (to a sold out 1600-seat historical theatre). Maybe the band would have liked to play all night. I think they would have. But Taylor commented that this was going to be the encore (they didn’t even bother to leave the stage).
Dawes closed with the title song from their latest album, “All Your Favorite Bands.” This had many members of the crowd linking arms or with hands around shoulders swaying to the beat and again, everyone singing along. Then as the song was ending they transitioned into “All the Young Dudes,” written by the recently departed David Bowie and made famous by Matt the Hoople (whose drummer also passed away in January). This was a celebratory tribute and an appreciated one. It made for a perfect conclusion to an evening of excellent music.
I’ve created a YouTube playlist of all the Dawes songs from this concert at Dawes Jan 23 2016. If you would like to see more photos from this concert, check out the set of photos L.A. Weekly has available online from photographer Mathew Tucciarone. Dawes is next scheduled to play in L.A. as the opening act for Grammy Award-winning band Alabama Shakes at The Greek Theatre on August 9, 2016. Get your tickets now, because this show is going to sell out! The link for tickets already says sold out, but there were still a few pairs and singles available if you go into the ticket finder section. I can’t wait for the next show. The band just posted a photo on Facebook showing their equipment in the studio as they work on album #5. That next concert is going to be awesome!
UPDATE: A second show for Dawes and Alabama Shakes has been added at The Greek Theatre on August 10, 2016.