Live Review: Dawes

The Independent // San Francisco, CA // November 20

Long before Dawes took the stage, the capacity crowd arrived early and excited to catch the opening bands. Filling in last-minute for LA folk-rockers The Romany Rye, DJ Britt Govea spun modern Americana tunes by bands like Phosphorescent, aptly setting the mood for The Moondoggies. An unbalanced sound mix that muffled frontman Kevin Murphy’s vocals didn’t discourage him from belting out fan favorites like “It’s a Shame, It’s a Pity” and “Ol’ Blackbird.” With a large, devoted following in attendance, this Seattle rock outfit could have headlined the event just as easily.

But Saturday night was Dawes’ night. Entering one by one in an array of long-sleeved shirts, the LA quartet led by Taylor Goldsmith screamed Ivy League Americana. They used all the tools in their arsenal to put on a rock clinic: a synergic rhythm pairing in Wylie Gelber (bass) and Griffin Goldsmith (drums), Alex Casnoff’s vintage Hammond organ, and three-part vocal harmonies clearly influenced by The Band. Griffin was even given the opportunity to channel Levon Helm, providing lead vocals for a new cut titled “How Far We’ve Come.”

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Dawes’ high energy never let up during their hour-long set, even as Taylor’s voice grew hoarse. Mixing beloved songs like “My Girl to Me” and “God Rest My Soul” with some from their forthcoming LP, they brought a persistent fierceness not entirely present on their debut album North Hills. Their live intensity was most apparent on the 10-minute jam “Peace in the Valley,” or the closer “When My Time Comes,” a sing-along anthem that left the audience more than fulfilled when it was time to head back out into San Francisco’s pouring rain.

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