You might recognize them from the Gasparilla Music Festival in March or as the opening act for Alison Krauss and Union Station in 2011, but on Wednesday night at the State Theater in St. Petersburg, they were the guys everyone came to see: Dawes.
By the looks of the crowd, it was the type of show you'd bring your boyfriend or girlfriend to, and maybe even dad or grandpa. The alt-country soul/folk rock style appealed to everyone.
Some have likened them to Jackson Browne, or Steely Dan. Maybe it's the actual organ on stage played by Tay Strathairn, or the controlled vocals of Taylor Goldsmith, where he lets his voice go just enough until you want more, but their whole schtick can make you forget what decade it is. It's not necessarily the type of sound that makes you jump up and down or dance all night, but more so, the kind that you want to listen to, and mentally marinate the lyrics and meaning.
That's where I found myself, amidst a crowd mostly comprised of couples soaking in the poetic lyrics on love, heartbreak and living in Los Angeles. Like the courage of telling a girl he's falling in love in Someone Will, or the difficulty in letting go of love in My Girl to Me and Something in Common.
Despite the sometimes depressing content, couples swayed, danced and seemed generally uplifted by the young-lovers rock. Highlights included the popular When My Time Comes, where Goldsmith announced during his guitar swap, "This particular guitar gets played only on one song, so you'll know next show"; the slow and slightly somber Just Beneath the Surface; the extended version of Peace in the Valley complete with the instrumental showcase solos by each member in the quartet; and the organ-centric From A Window Seat.
Those with a keen eye may have noticed that Goldsmith performed alongside the opening act Caitlin Rose as a guitarist and keyboardist. Rose called her set "story time," as she provided the background stories to her songs before playing them. Her sound reminded me of a country Bic Runga and it complimented Dawes' style.
Their whole set was rather simple and no-frills; it was quite a relief to watch a band that relied solely on artistry and music rather than distracting visuals and gimmicks. But I think that's part of their image, a vintage vibe embodying the simplicity of how music used to be made. It worked.
After almost two hours and two encores, Goldsmith closed by saying, "Thank you for the truly special night, we needed this."
Me, too, Dawes. Me, too.
-- Stephanie Bolling, tbt*