While covering High Sierra Music Festival, I like to hear from the band. It adds so much breadth beyond my glorious opinion. But some bands are so good, you publish their story even when you couldn’t seal an interview.
I blinked and Dawes is now six studio albums deep into their career. I was enamored with their first album “North Hills.” It’s poignant and exposed.
Since their debut, they’ve grown and changed. They even prepared a special contortion for their sophomore appearance at High Sierra Music Festival this weekend.
“We picked all the songs with the most breathing room,” frontman and guitarist Taylor Goldsmith said. “We thought a crowd like yourselves would appreciate it.”
He was right. They’ve possessed the vibe of coffee shop folk, to bar-side rock and now, a full-fledged jam band venturing into Allman territory.
On the topic of brothers, there’s always something to be said about the harmony between brothers. These Dawes boys punctuate the claim. Taylor’s brother Griffin plays drums and sings terrifically. Sometimes his arms, legs and face read as frantic, but his voice is smooth and level.
As a band, when they channel their inner Jackson Browne, they are unstoppable. Great songwriting is matched with compelling delivery, a driving rhythm section, amazing harmony and heroic guitar and keyboard solos.
The guitar tone during one of Taylor’s solos made an older woman behind me exclaim, “beautiful.”
He is just as good at telling beautiful, compelling stories through a guitar solo as he does while singing. His prose is often paired with playful pantomime, it’s both quirky and endearing.
What a band chooses to play is always their prerogative, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to hear their debut album in its entirety.
Their HSMF set was thrilling, even through songs I didn’t connect with immediately on record. Right before thinking they might be neglecting their earlier catalog, they dived into favorites like “Most People.” A song that’s ending is already a piece of brilliance, the brothers masterfully tie their words together in a round. This version cut to an expansive guitar solo. They ended with “When My Time Comes” from their first album, for me I think. During the final chorus, they even stopped singing and let me… I mean, the crowd finish the set.
I’ve seen them quite a few times and our years apart treated them very well. They’re powerful professionals, rivaling all the live shows I’ve seen. They didn’t surpass the Seger show I saw the other month, but give ‘um a few more decades and we’ll see.
— Tony Contini