“Folk Rock” is a very ambiguous label, but implies that an artist has certain amount of influence from older music & musicians. This presents an interesting dilemma. If an artist or band relies too heavily on their influences from the past, they risk lacking an identity of their own or coming across as a nostalgia act.
Dawes, a quartet formed in Los Angeles, seems well aware of this fine line. On one hand, their harmony laden, organ and Telecaster drenched sound certainly brings to mind artists such as Jackson Browne, The Band, and CSNY. However, their music and lyrics, along with their creative use of social media and other modern promotional methods, shows that this is a band who is not afraid to look forward while also not forgetting the past.
On Sunday, June 16th, Dawes came through Columbus, OH for a headlining show at the downtown church-turned-venue, Bluestone. The night was kicked off by Shovels and Rope, an up & coming folk duo from South Carolina. The audience turnout for this opening set was stellar, and the group responded with a spirited, energetic performance.
By the time Dawes took the stage, the venue was nicely filled with eager fans. The band kicked off the set with their newest single, the uptempo “From a Window Seat”. They seemed energized and warmed up from the get go. The ending notes of the opener segued directly into “If I Wanted Someone”, a Crazy Horse-esque rocker from their second album Nothing is Wrong. Guitarist and front-man Taylor Goldsmith stretched out a bit, taking a slightly extended, confident solo in the middle of the tune.
Dawes’ “From a Window Seat”
Dawes’ current tour is in support of their third full-length release, Stories Don’t End, and their set leaned heavily on new material. The audience didn’t seem to mind, as many sang along with the new songs just as passionately as old favorites. About five songs in, Taylor Goldsmith introduced the next tune as the opening track from their first album, entitled “Western Skyline”. The slow, throbbing rhythm showcased the band’s rhythm section of Griffin Goldsmith and Wiley Gelber on drums and bass, respectively. Griffin’s hiccuping, laid back kick pattern recalled the understated, deep pocket grooves that Levon Helm was so famous for.
The next three tunes were all from the new album. “From the Right Angle” nicely summed up the band’s approach to their live sound. They faithfully recreated the vibe from the album cut, but changed around the chorus harmonies, while also adding an extended, guitar led outro section. This playful experimentation occurred often throughout the night, and showed what a tight unit Dawes is. Their music may not be chops-heavy or flashy, but these guys are very solid musicians with excellent chemistry.
Dawes’ “When My Time Comes” (Live)
A major highlight of the set came a few songs later with a great rendition of the fan favorite “When My Time Comes”. Brothers Taylor and Griffin Goldsmith spun beautiful, tightly woven harmonies with keyboardist Tay Strathairn on the epic chorus. The crowd was singing along so loudly that midway through, Taylor turned his mic around and the entire band cut out, allowing the fans to sing a full chorus by themselves.
Griffin Goldsmith took the lead vocals for a cover of Bob Seger’s “We’ve Got Tonight”, while his brother Taylor switched over to keys alongside Strathairn. Griffin’s energetic, powerful drumming and passionate vocals are a huge part of the Dawes live sound. His playing allowed many of the evening’s songs to take on a heavier, fuller sound than their album versions, while still doing justice to the originals.
After finishing the set with the long, narrative ballad “A Little Bit of Everything”, Dawes left the stage. A few moments later, they returned for a two-song encore. To finish out the night, Shovels and Rope was invited out to join Dawes in performing “End of the Line” by the Traveling Wilburys.
As the audience filed out into the night, it was clear that Dawes had made a great impression this evening. Their genuine passion for performing their music was evident from the first note to the last. On “From the Right Angle”, Taylor Goldsmith sang the line “I think there are a few of us who still belong out on the road”. On this night in Columbus, Dawes proved that statement to be true.
Written by Wib Schneider
OurVinyl | Contributor