Dawes at First Avenue, 11/12/10

First Avenue

November 12, 2010

Dawes is the epitome of a no-frills, stripped-down-to-the-bones band, and they illustrated that point perfectly as they opened their set on Thursday night: Lead singer Taylor Goldsmith and bassist Wiley Gelber began "My Girl To Me" as drummer Griffin Goldsmith and keyboardist Alex Casnoff were still sitting down and trying to get comfortable. They also showed how it's possible to have a crowd eating out of your hand in literally six seconds. Dawes was absolutely riveting from the outset and held the crowd in rapt attention for the entire 70-minute set.

[jump] Dawes is a band who clearly knows they're good at what they do, but they don't revel in it or let it go to their heads; they are there to put on a show for a paying audience and they seemed to be putting forth their very best effort Thursday night. "Are you guys sure you came to the right show?" Goldsmith joked. "Dawes has never played to this many people before."

Indeed, First Avenue seemed very close to--if not completely--sold out. While the heartfelt, thoughtful, sometimes outright crushing lyrics, mostly built around the premise of heartbreak and regret and backed by what is essentially stunningly-crafted classic rock. may seem to some like a con or somehow "too perfect" (whatever the hell that means), the songs dig a little deeper. At their core the songs are really about the damage the simple act of being alive may do to a person, and what you can choose to do with the scars. Dawes takes the stance that it makes you a better, stronger person and ultimately just a human being. We're all flawed and we all make mistakes, it's what makes people and ultimately, life, beautiful and engaging. If everything was perfect all the time, we wouldn't know what perfect was now, would we?


As the set wore on the band seemed to gather more and more steam. They trotted out several new songs from their as-yet-untitled sophomore effort scheduled for release this coming spring that are easily as good, if not better, than anything on North Hills. "Are you guys enjoying yourselves?" Goldsmith queried, "because that's our job." It was obvious that they were enjoying themselves as well, asking the crowd for help singing the closing chorus of "When My Time Comes," turning the microphone stand toward the crowd and cheering us on as much we cheered them on--they seemed to feel as lucky to be there as the crowd felt watching them. 

"You guys made this one of the most special nights Dawes has ever had," Goldsmith told the crowd late in the set, and it really probably was, but what he didn't know was that it felt special for a lot of us, too. It's exhilarating to see a band like Dawes, with their hooky, ever-so-slightly poppy brand of Laurel Canyon rock, hit on all cylinders at full-bore -- something that should never be taken for granted.

Critic's Bias: North Hills is in my top three albums of the last two years.

The Crowd: A thousand-plus people who all knew every last word on the album.

Overheard In The Crowd: Variations of "Oh my God!", "Amazing!", etc. from the crowd around me as Taylor Goldsmith wished local photographer Meredith Westin good luck from the stage (she's moving to Barcelona).

Random Notebook Dump: Goldsmith sort of seems like he's attacking the lyrics the way he spits them out sometimes.

For more photos: See our full slideshow by Steve Cohen, including shots of openers Peter Wolf Crier.