Friday Night: Dawes At Fitzgerald's
Dawes front man Taylor Goldsmith does not have a beard. In fact, no member of the Los Angeles-based quartet sports any scruff. Such a discovery surprised us as the band played Fitzgerald's Friday night, considering the undeniable folk-laden, woodsy roots of their 2009 debut, North Hills.
Following the path made clear by acts such as Fleet Foxes, Monsters of Folk and the Autumn Defense, North Hills showcased Dawes' aptitude for crafting lush folk melodies atop layers of warm AM-radio vocal harmonies. But onstage Dawes instantly shattered any genre pigeonhole, proving they had more to bring to the impressive table North Hills had already set.
The spirited band - bassist Wylie Gelber, pianist Alex Casnoff and the Goldsmith brothers, drummer Griffin and singer/guitarist Taylor - kicked off their set (not to mention their first night on tour) with the endearing and, surprisingly, very rocking "My Girl To Me."
Unlike the stripped-down arrangements on their record, Dawes surprised us with an electric live show. Seems this is a band with tricks up their sleeves.
Taylor Goldsmith explored his wide vocal range, incorporating clear influences of soul, rock and alt-country. His lyrics are satiated with imagery displaying wisdom beyond his 24 years, as showcased in the tender "Love Is All I Am": "Love is not convenient/ It does not cease at your command/ You might take it and leave it/ But love is all I am," Goldsmith professes, as if addressing his disciples from the pulpit.
Currently recording their sophomore release (due out next spring), Dawes treated us to some newbies as well, including "Fire Away" and "How Far We've Come." Judging by the crowd's verbatim sing-alongs, both songs have already been well-circulated. "Peace in the Valley" led us through an Uncle Tupelo-esque journey of a piano-heavy build-up capped off by a blues-tinged guitar solo and full-on jam session.
After closing out their set with the crowd-engaging "When My Time Comes," Dawes exited the stage, leaving a solo Taylor Goldsmith on the intimate confines of the Fitzgerald's stage. He unveiled new track, "A Little Bit of Everything," a charming tune that displayed not only the songwriter's propensity for penning lucid folklore, but for incorporating his winsome sense of humor into the lyrics.
The near-psalm "God Rest My Soul" closed out the evening, rounding out the eclectic mix of influence present in the group's sound. Turns out this wasn't the bunch of burly, bearded mountain men we expected.
Ultimately and refreshingly, Dawes outdistanced any particular classification, making us eagerly await what surprises they might have in store.
Personal Bias: Already a fan of North Hills, Aftermath is always pleased when bands' live shows measure up to their worthy recordings.
The Crowd: Was refreshingly courteous and attentive. Hats off to you, Houston.
Overheard in the Crowd: Singalongs. Did we mention singalongs?
Random Notebook Dump: For those who haven't yet visited Fitz's since its recent renovation, the revamp appeared ideal: Just enough to prevent the upstairs patio from caving in, while maintaining the unassuming charm we've loved about the venue for years.