There are a lot of labels that attempt to define Dawes as a band. Rock, Americana and folk rock all get tossed around in an attempt to define these musicians, and the terms all hint at the truth, but the fact is they're an amalgamation of many different types of modern and vintage music with an underlying root structure of raw talent and emotion that can't be taught or learned.
Touring behind their sophomore disc "Nothing Is Wrong" and co-headlining with Blitzen Trapper, Dawes came to Turner Hall Saturday night and handed in a performance worthy of a band who recently broke into the top 10 on the VH1 video countdown for their current single "Time Spent In Los Angeles." It's a lyrically gritty song about finding love, finding yourself and ultimately sharing compassion for the experience that is L.A. in all it's glory.
An enthusiastic crowd gathered before the dimly lit Turner Hall stage to greet the band, and Dawes broke into a rollicking rendition of "The Way You Laugh." Each member of the band has their own unique stage presence. Taylor's brother Griffin Goldsmith on drums is at times one of the most expressive and passionate drummers I've witnessed. His lips curl and with each pounding beat his entire body is put into the effort.
Wylie Gelber on bass has his own way of doing things. There's an intensity on his face, a deep concentration on each note played, and often a face that scrunches up during the focused delivery of his bass notes. Keyboardist Tay Strathairn is perhaps the least animated member of Dawes, but his focused demeanor shouldn't fool anyone – he's a man laying down a thick and textured layer to the Dawes onstage equation, a critical role for a band with only one guitarist.
And then there is Taylor Goldsmith. Taylor is a unique performer in the industry.
Lead singer and guitarist Taylor Goldsmith is the kind of vocalist that understands the dichotomy of the soft nuances between a verse and a chorus, and ultimately how to build a song to a peak. He's not the kind of singer to simply have one empty-hearted tone throughout the entire song. His songs demand more, and their power ultimately comes from his devotion to his craft. Taylor understands how to convey and reflect the sort of deep and dark poetic manifestations we all wish we could gather and solidify onto the page at our most vulnerable points in time. His lyrics often read like poems, starkly honest and deeply personal.
"Western Skyline" is a perfect example of what I'm getting at, and the song shifted the mood of Turner Hall into an intense and reflective state, all eyes focused on Dawes frontman Goldsmith as he conveyed a gut-wrenching and turbulent story about love gone wrong.
And then you have songs like "Fire Away," which showcase an entirely different vibe, one that ventures into that vintage category of nostalgic '70s rock tones. It's an uplifting song, and if I were forced to make comparisons, it's in the same territory musically as Springsteen in his prime with an almost Santana-esque guitar solo, and words reminiscent of Bob Dylan. But let me be clear, it's pure Dawes to the core, as genuine as music gets these days.
The show ended on a high note, with a successful onstage marriage proposal that prompted Taylor to exclaim "Best Dawes show ever!" and a pairing of their best known songs, "When My Time Comes" and "Time Spent In Los Angeles." After about an hour the Los Angeles-based band packed up their gear and headed over to their merch table where fans were able to buy CDs and records and get them signed. I love it when a band takes a few minutes to greet the fans. My only complaint is that they didn't play "Million Dollar Bill," but there's always next time.
Pick up the new disc "Nothing Is Wrong;" these guys deserve your hard-earned money. If you're the kind of person that needs a preview first, head over to YouTube and check out some videos. I think you'll quickly see my point of view.
I do have one more complaint, and it has nothing to do with Dawes. Turner Hall needs to upgrade their stage lights. The show was way too dark, as are all the concerts I've seen at Turner. There are too many red cans in the mix, not enough blues, greens and certainly not enough white light cast down upon the musicians. A modernized stage lighting system at Turner Hall would increase crowd turnout at every show, guaranteed.