Concert Review: Dawes

Biltmore Estate – Asheville, NC

Date: Friday, August 12, 2011

By: David J. Simchock /

This proved to be a night of “firsts”. For starters, as a very recent transplant to Western North Carolina from the Northeast, it was my first proper music outing to cover one of the many national acts passing through Asheville.  It was also my first visit to the world-famous Biltmore Estate and, it turns out, it was also the first time for Dawes to hit the stage on the picturesque stately grounds.  As the performance unfolded, Dawes treated the crowd to a couple more “firsts”, turning a warm-up gig into something special.

I have had the pleasure of seeing Dawes headline in Philly once or twice in the past year or so, but this is the first time I was to see them as an opening act. The line-up’s top slot was held by Alison Krauss and Union Station, but that didn’t stop the venue from filing in early to catch AK’s supporting cast. Things kicked off with “How Far We’ve Come” (from the new LP, Nothing Is Wrong), with the Goldsmith siblings (Taylor on guitar and Griffin on drums) swapping off lead vocals. It made me think about how far these guys from L.A. have come since I first heard them on the radio in early 2010, now rubbing elbows on stage and in the studio with the likes of Robbie Robertson, Jackson Browne and, as I would soon see first hand, Jerry Douglas.

Next up on the set list was “Love Is All I Am” (from their debut CD, North Hills), one of the finer examples of the depth of Taylor’s lyrics, and one of my personal favorite Dawes compositions. In a world where there is no shortage of love songs fused with spirituality, this one always manages to move me no matter how many times it plays on my iTunes. And, it’s even more powerful live than on record, just as it was on this evening.

Returning to their sophomore LP with “Million Dollar Bill”, the SoCal lads were looking more and more comfortable in Appalachia. In fact, I had a chance to chat with Wylie Gelber (bassist) after the show, and he didn’t hold back his affection for Asheville and all it has to offer. As I am quickly learning, the people of Asheville have an incredible appreciation for music and all things creative. It’s no wonder Dawes feel so comfortable 3,000 miles away from home.

Switching back to their debut record with “Give Me Time”, I was in for another “first” on the night as Taylor swapped out his Telecaster for an acoustic guitar. Though Dawes’ sound can hardly be described as “heavy”, I had never seen Taylor don the softer six-string (and, as Wylie told me later, this was the first time he played an acoustic guitar during one of their performances), so this was quite a treat for me (and for anyone other Dawes fan who noticed).

And, if the night needed any more “firsts” to liven things up, it certainly climaxed for the final two selections as world-renowned dobro player, Jerry Douglas (of Union Station), joined the band on stage, belting out some slick slide on “Little Bit Of Everything” (Nothing Wrong), followed by Dawes’ harmonic signature tune, “When My Time Comes” (North Hills). Though the band has been touring with Alison Krauss, this was the first time Douglas supplemented the foursome, making the brief six-song set something extra special while providing obvious intrigue for the Alison Krauss fans.

Naturally, I was disappointed with such a short gig, but that didn’t make Dawes’ effort any less impressive.  “We are Dawes.  D. A. W. E. S.”, front-man Goldsmith reminded the crowd as the band left the stage.  Make no mistake – it won’t be long and Dawes will be a household name for Asheville’s music faithful. In fact, they already have their return scheduled for October as they pass through town once again, next time hitting Asheville’s premier music venue, The Orange Peel.  Only a couple of months away, I’m anxiously looking forward to whatever “firsts” the band manages to pull out of its hat in October.