Dawes: Live at Cat’s Cradle, Carborro, NC 5/18/11

Thanks to the unbelievable shadiness of Carrboro’s finest vehicle towing company who found it in their best interests to make off with my Jeep while I ate dinner, I arrived at the Cat’s Cradle 30 minutes into Dawes’ headlining set, quite irked by the way the night had been proceeding.  Well, turns out the fellows onstage had some travel problems of their own, as a trailer issue caused them to leave some valuable gear behind and almost miss the show.  All hardship was soon put aside though, as the band tore through a tightly focused and stirring set of tunes.

Drawing heavily from their forthcoming album, Nothing Is Wrong, Dawes wowed the room, getting people shaking and pumping their fists and even inspiring a sing-a-long during the set-closing “When My Time Comes”, no easy feat as Cradle patrons are usually a bit sedate in showing their enthusiasm.  Taylor Goldsmith possesses great charisma as the band’s frontman, and his genuine pride in his work is evident.  We all know he’s got a great voice and writes sharp lyrics, however, he’s also a damn fine guitar player as he demonstrated by stepping out and soloing countless times throughout the set.   The rest of Dawes is also in select form as Taylor’s brother Griffin bangs away on the drum kit and adds eloquent backing vocals and the occasional lead, pianist/keyboardist Tay Strathaim grooves effortlessly across the keys (and is also a dead ringer for late 60’s era Levon Helm) and bassist Wylie Gelber locks in the low ends. 

Steady and assured on record, Dawes opens up live and can explode into a ferocious wall of sound reminiscent of some of Wilco’s recent live work.  This is best evident on “Peace In The Valley”, the album closer of off debut release, North Hills.  Already a lengthy song, Dawes turns it even more epic in concert, extending the jam and allowing space for each musician to get a turn in the spotlight.  It was a show-stopping moment and provided the realization that Dawes has morphed into a formidable outfit, demanding attention for more than just their finely tuned songcraft.  Judging from the performances, the new LP should be great as tracks “Time Spent in Los Angeles”, “So Well”, and “A Little Bit of Everything” (called “The Mashed Potatoes” song by Goldsmith) all proved unique and distinct in their own way, showing that Dawes are musical interpreters in the best way, taking what has worked in the past, crafting it even further, and growing with each release.  As a bonus, Goldsmith also played “Million Dollar Bill”, a standout from his work with Middle Brother and track listings have it included on Nothing Is Wrong.  Had my car not been towed, I would have been there to witness a few more songs, but that’s an argument for another day and another forum.  In the meantime, Dawes improved my night by leaps and bounds and sent me home happier than I had been when I arrived. 

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