Hotel Cafe announced a benefit for an employee battling cancer just a couple weeks before the date of the show, August 12, 2016, which would feature members of Dawes playing solo acoustic. The musicians waived their fees and the bar staff donated all their tips for the fundraiser. While not just being a rare opportunity to see some great songwriters in an intimate setting, it also was a night of feeling the love and support for another person as everyone involved in organizing the night showed their generosity and caring for one lady. Opening the night, Joe Purdy summed it up well, “This is the kind of night that reminds me of what’s good about us.”
This was my first time seeing Joe play live, though I did catch part of an online concert of his a few months back. He exudes a calm demeanor and an ease on stage as if he is simply telling stories at a table or around a campfire. He mixed a heavy helping of explanations into the presentation of his songs, which were like short stories themselves. He introduced the first one, “New Year’s Eve” from his latest album Who Will Be Next?, by noting that it was the last song he had written at the end of last year and that it was about his “hopes for the future of all of us.” It was a perfect song to begin with as it contained the line, “It only takes one to make a difference in another one’s life.” Though this night there was a crowd of people making that difference, but the idea must have sprouted from some one. Continuing with a song from the same album, he said “Kristine” was the first song he wrote this year and joked, “It’s gonna go in chronological order.” Some lines include, “Maybe I’ll play for all the people I can find…maybe I’ll change the world just like my momma said…maybe I’ll just get stoned.” Immediately after singing that line he quipped, “My mother doesn’t like the part where I get stoned.”
Joe then played a favorite of the lady of honor for the evening (I know her name, but want to respect her privacy); it was the first time he ever played it on stage at Hotel Cafe, “StompinGrounds,” from the album of the same name. He had some fast guitar work on this tune — check it out at the link to a video taken that evening. The following song also tied into the venue. Joe explained that every time he played a show at Hotel Cafe, he would write a song that day. He then played a tune he called “Mother’s Prayer,” (presumably written that day as I can find no record of it from before then). He also explained that his mother gave him some advice that if he wanted to make a positive difference with is lyrics, he needed to take the anger out of his writing and “see the world with more compassionate eyes.” That’s some advice that all of us could benefit from.
He prefaced his song “Outlaws” from his album Canyon Joe, with a don’t-try-this-at-home warning, “Falling in love is not a reason to go on a bank robbing spree.” Next was a forlorn song called “Can’t Get It Right” from You Can Tell Georgia, which he played on piano and added harmonica. He talked about how he had written the song at the Hotel Cafe on the old piano, noting that it, “Gets requested a lot; I don’t usually play it.” The lyrics drip with a heavy, heart-aching confession and upon finishing Joe stated, “I don’t have any happy songs.” Which was a perfect transition into his next song, “Ba Girl,” from Eagle Rock Fire, with opening lines “People often tell me that all my songs are sad…but good times, they don’t sound as good as things that make you blue.” He played one last song dedicated to the lady of honor, “Surgery,” another one from StompinGrounds. Joe Purdy is an absolute gem and I’m looking forward to another chance to see him play live and spending some time until then checking out his catalogue of music.
Dawes was represented by lead singer and guitarist Taylor Goldsmith, percussionist and background vocalist Griffin Goldsmith, and keyboard player, Lee Pardini, who also provided some harmonies. I had the good fortune to be seated right next to the stage by the piano. I like to be close where I can not only hear the music and see the musicians well, but also feel the vibrations coming off the stage. This allows me to feel fully immersed in and connected with the songs. I didn’t know that I needed to hear an acoustic set from these guys so badly until they started their set. Many of my favorite songs were rendered into beautiful acoustic versions with harmonies that came alive due to their increased clarity and not being buried under multiple instruments. For me, it was absolutely an exquisite experience.
- “My Girl to Me” from North Hills, Taylor played this one solo. He is one of those singers with a flawless voice, every note perfect, nuanced, resonant, and imbued with meaning.
- “Moon in the Water” from Nothing is Wrong, this one had come up on shuffle play on my iPod recently and when taken out of the context of the rest of the album, where more powerful songs seem to overwhelm it, it turns into a truly beautiful song, that I had overlooked before. I was hoping that it would turn up that evening as I thought it would be great for an acoustic set and I was so pleased when Taylor started singing it.
- “Hey Lover” a Blake Mills song that they cover on Stories Don’t End,
Griff got on the stage and the brothers shared singing lead on this song. Cool to see him out from behind the drum kit. He has a very quiet, watchful presence and I wonder if it is a little boring for him to not be drumming with these songs and just handling vocals and a shaker. Taylor commented after the song, “Straight back to the sad stuff.”
- “Something in Common” from Stories Don’t End, link to video from this show — what a gorgeous rendition of this song! “I find that sorrow I’ve been chasing way too often.” Indeed.
- “Somewhere Along the Way” from All Your Favorite Bands, this is one of my favorite songs by Dawes
- “Coming Back to a Man” from Nothing is Wrong, Taylor introduced this one, “This is a song about telling myself how grown up I think I am now despite all the evidence.” Some beautiful flourishes on piano from Lee on this tune.
- “Now That It’s Too Late Maria” from All Your Favorite Bands, again another song that fits well into an acoustic setting, so touching to hear this one
- “Roll Tide” new song from We’re All Gonna Die, with Griff taking the lead vocal. Beautiful song and a treat to hear live before the album release.
- “Million Dollar Bill” from Nothing is Wrong, another lovely rendition on this song. So impressed how just the bare bones of the song still sound so good — the mark of a well-written tune.
- “Just Beneath the Surface” from Stories Don’t End, Dawes writes some of the best lyrics, whether conveying a story or being introspective. Brilliant lines in that bridge, “Between the thoughtless words and the wordless thoughts, between my plot-less fears and my fearless plots, between the parts of me I keep from you and the things that I’m just not, the center keeps on drifting, the music never stops.” I was wishing the music would never stop that night.
- “How Far We’ve Come” from Nothing is Wrong, here’s a personal lyric to add to this song, “Why I write this blog tonight is to see how far I’ve come.” I love that this song acknowledges the markers in a person’s life. A lot of change has been going on in my life in the last few years and I can link time and place to concerts attended. What will I think when I look back on this entry in a couple years? What does time have in store for us? I’ve used the main line from the song for the blog post title.
- “Take Me Out of the City” from North Hills, surprised to hear this one from their first album live. Wasn’t on the set list either!
- “A Little Bit of Everything” from Nothing is Wrong, link to video from this show. This is one of my favorite Dawes songs. They can play this at every single live concert and I will not tire of it; though the buffet verse can trigger hunger pangs and by the end of the show I’m ready for a little bit of everything — the biscuits, the beans, the mashed potato, and the extra chicken wing!
- ENCORE: “All Your Favorite Bands” from All Your Favorite Bands, the audience sang along in full voice to this song. There was so much genuine appreciation and good vibes flowing through that room at that moment it was liable to make one’s heart burst. Check out the link to a video clip from that night. You can sense the camaraderie in the air.
- “When My Time Comes” from North Hills, link to video from this show. Given the cause, I think everyone in that room was thinking a little bit about when their time comes. I was anyway. At this stage in life, where it feels like many friends and family have been diagnosed with serious or terminal illnesses, I am ever grateful for evenings like this to escape into the world of music and witness the creative beauty that these gifted entertainers offer.
Thank you to Joe Purdy, Taylor Goldsmith, Griffin Goldsmith, Lee Pardini, and the Hotel Cafe staff for making this one of the more special and memorable shows that I have attended. As the young ones say, “All the feels.”