BY TIM HINELY
Strong double bill—and if it wasn’t sold out, it was darn close (Dawes have gotten a lot bigger since their humble beginnings a few years ago).
I had caught opener Sera Cahoone back in early November when she and her band headlined the Hi-Dive. On this night they were openers and she had part of her band which means her guitarist/dobro player Jeff Fiedler was there was pedal steel player Jay Kardong, but no bassist or drummer. Instead, on percussion she had her brother sitting down and smacking the tambourine and doing some harmony vocals. From her latest record, the gorgeous Deer Creek Canyon, we heard opener “Naked” as well as “Worry All the Time,” “Every Little Word,” “Nervous Wreck’ and even some from her 2008 Sub Pop debut (Only As the Day is Long) like “Shitty Hotel.”. Again, on stage Cahoone seems so humble and shy, but her confidence comes out in her songs and she’s a talented player, as are her bandmates who really help the songs come alive (though I’d pay to see Cahoone do a solo acoustic set as well). If you have never seen Cahoone live or heard her records, make it top priority.
After seeing Dawes several times in 2010-2011 it had been a while since I’d caught one of their gigs. In the interim they’ve released their 3rd record and gotten a lot bigger (I joked with my pal at this gig saying that Dawes was attracting soccer moms and soccer grandmoms… not far from the truth). Their new record, Stories Don’t End, has not resonated with me at all (though I think their 2009 debut, North Hills, is a classic and their sophomore effort, 2011’s Nothing Is Wrong was strong, too). Also, while singer/guitarist/leader Taylor Goldsmith still plays the howling preacher on stage, a lot of his moves these days seem really heavy-handed and trying to play to the crowd rather than it being spontaneous. With that said, the band is terrific: Goldsmith smokes on his instrument, as does his younger brother Griffin on drums, unique bassist Wylie Gelber and keyboardist Tay Strathhairn.
They opened with “Most People” (off said new record) and continue on to play for a little over an hour with most songs being from the new record. I was hoping for some classic off of North Hills but all they played was “When My Time Comes” (a crowd favorite) and “Peace in the Valley.” Off of Nothing is Wrong they played a few as well: “Time Spent in Los Angeles,” “Fire Away” and the killer “If I Wanted Someone.” Otherwise it was all the new record including “Someone Will,” “Just My Luck” and “From a Window Seat (Rivers and Freeways)” and ended the set with “From the Right Angle.”
When the set ended this crowd was not to be denied and cheered, no demanded, a few encores, and they got them which included “Hey Lover” and one more and they called it a night.
Despite what I said earlier, it was a good set and the songs from the new record that didn’t connect with me sounded a bit livelier and well, better on stage. I’m not ready to give up on Dawes yet; I’m hoping they regain the magic of those first two records on their next record and will always catch them when they come to town (unless the soccer moms crowd me out).