Live Review: Dawes at Cannery Ballroom

Occasionally, there are certain bands you’ve heard about for years and all your peers enjoy, but you yourself have yet to take the time to check out. It’s not because you aren’t interested, but simply because sometimes it’s easier to stay under your respective rock than tackling a new catalogue. For me, Dawes is one of those bands.

On top of this, Dawes seems to be a polarized hotbed of discussion.  Our own Justin Wesley has sung their praises to me and has seen them “7 or 8 times in the past few years.” On the other hand, an army of commenters at AV Club have more or less decimated what was a standard AV Undercover holiday special featuring Dawes. So I crawled out from underneath my rock, made my way to Cannery Ballroom to see what the fuss was about and was pleasantly surprised.

Taylor Goldsmith

After a successful Gentlemen of the Road stopover in Bristol, TN/VA the night before, the mini-festival is taking a week break until their August 18th appearance in Dixon, IL. The Bristol show featured a solid list ranging from Mumford & Sons to Dawes to local favorites JEFF the Brotherhood and Apache Relay. During this week of downtime, Dawes has taken it upon themselves to fit a handful of shows in Ohio, Illinois, Colorado and, you guessed it, Nashville.

The opener for the night was fellow Gentlemen of the Road participator Simone Felice, former member of The Felice Brothers. He was backed by a full band, including a fiddle player who resembled the female equivalent of Dante Basco Rufio circa Hook. The group was energetic, paid homage to fellow New Yorker Levon Helm and even got Apache Relay on stage for a couple songs.

Dawes, who appeared to be just as happy on stage as the multitude of 20-somethings packed in the venue, started off the night with “How Far We’ve Come.” Although an appropriate measure of the group’s quick rise to fame since their 2009 inception, they were quick to also poke fun at themselves and the bane of always being an opener. After warming up the crowd, they got through a couple more songs, including “Fire Away” and a new track, before a familiar guest made it to the stage.

Dawes with John McCauley

The crowd erupted at the sight of John McCauley, frontman of Deer Tick, and he joined in singing “When My Time Comes.” This was followed by “Baltimore Blues No. 1,” one of McCauley’s better known tracks, and “Million Dollar Bill.” By the time McCauley left the crowd was ecstatic, but the night was hardly over.

Soon the group dropped the folk double bass for an electric and quiet keys for a soul-riddled ivory-tickling. Songs such as “That Western Skyline” and “From a Window Seat” instantly gained a groove previously absent with the acoustic-focused instrumentation. The show eventually came to a close, but was pleasantly concluded with an encore featuring tracks such as “Moon in the Water,” “Time Spent in Los Angeles” and the unmistakable “Little Bit of Everything.”

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