Dawes is quickly becoming one of our favorite bands.
Brian and I made the 90-minute trek to Kalamazoo, Mich. last night to see the Los Angeles-based indie folk rock quartet play two powerhouse sets at the State Theatre for about 1,000 fans.
Called “An Evening with Dawes,” the 2.5-hour show served as the band’s first headlining performance at Kalamazoo’s historic 90-year-old theater and included 25 songs that spanned their eight-year career.
The show is part of Dawes’ current 51-city North American tour and most recent album, “We’re All Gonna Die,” which came out in September.
Frontman Taylor Goldsmith (guitar and vocals) and bandmates Griffin Goldsmith (drums and vocals), Wylie Gelber (bass), Lee Pardini (keyboards and vocals) and Trevor Menear (touring guitarist) kicked off the first set with “One of Us,” the opening track from “We’re All Gonna Die.”
“This is a beautiful venue,” Taylor Goldsmith said. “This is amazing, and to have all you guys show up really means a lot. We put out a new record a few months ago, and it’s called ‘We’re All Gonna Die,’ but that’s not news to any of you.”
What’s news to Dawes shows attendees are the band’s dynamic live performances, which feature extended guitar solos, acoustic mini sets and audience sing-alongs.
Brian and I first saw Dawes live at the 2012 Ann Arbor Folk Festival in Ann Arbor, Mich. The band played about five songs from their first two albums – “North Hills” and “Nothing Is Wrong” – and blew us away with their incredible live sound.
While Dawes wasn’t the headliner at the Ann Arbor Folk Festival that night, they should have been. Their short energetic performance immediately stood out to us, and we were excited when they snuck in an extra song before wrapping up their set.
After that performance, Dawes instantly joined our regular concert rotation of artists we see each time they come to Michigan or the Midwest. It’s one thing to enjoy Dawes’ five solid studio albums, but it’s a whole other experience to see them live.
Dawes captures an undeniable musical energy during their live performances, which we also enjoyed at Lollapalooza in 2012 and Royal Oak Music Theatre in Royal Oak, Mich. in July.
For us, Saturday’s Kalamazoo show was the band’s best live show yet due to their tight arrangements, multiple sets and growing stage presence.
What we love best about Dawes is their current take on the 1970s Laurel Canyon singer-songwriter sound, which was made famous by the Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor, Carole King, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and others.
Taylor Goldsmith and the band are iconic musical storytellers who capture the shared essence of everyday life relationships and experiences for listeners.
“Some of my favorite songs are written by people who are exploring a world that is otherwise foreign to them,” said Taylor Goldsmith in “Dawes Q&A: A Conversation with Taylor Goldsmith” by Steven Church that’s featured in the band’s current tour program.
“Guys like Warren Zevon or James McMurtry are creating little universes that go way beyond our shared experiences – whether that’s getting into the head of a dead celebrity or into a part of the world you’ve never been or whatever. Their writing suggests a power of observation that I would assume every writer is always working on and trying to improve.”
During Saturday night’s show, Dawes’ musical stories were told best through “Right on Time,” “From a Window Seat,” “Things Happen,” “Time Spent in Los Angeles,” “Fire Away,” “Roll With The Punches,” “A Little Bit of Everything” and “All Your Favorite Bands.”
At one point, we loudly sang one of our favorite Dawes’ lyrics from “A Little Bit of Everything” – “So pile on those mashed potatoes/And an extra chicken wing/I’m having a little bit of everything” – and proudly raised our fists along with the crowd.
The crowd also strongly showed their appreciation for the band during their closing number and title track of their fourth album, “All Your Favorite Bands.”
In response, Taylor Goldsmith turned his mic around to face the audience and beckoned them to sing the following lyrics in unison: “I hope that life without a chaperon is what you thought it’d be/I hope your brother’s El Camino runs forever/I hope the world sees the same person that you always were to me/And may all your favorite bands stay together.”
We could tell Taylor Goldsmith and the band were touched by the crowd’s strong sing-along to those lyrics.
“We promise to come back to Kalamazoo,” he said.
We sure hope Dawes returns to Kalamazoo, Royal Oak and other Michigan cities for future shows.
Their incredible live performance made the trek to Kalamazoo worth it, despite the flat tire on the way home.