Dawes at Maxwell’s, 12/7/2011 Review

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Well, this makes two posts about the same band fairly close together, but you know what?  I don’t even care.  You want a wide variety of editorial content centered around pop culture and bands who dress like homeless crackheads set loose in a party store, then go watch Morning Joe.  OK?  Glad we’re past that.

After the Dawes show at Webster Hall, two very small shows were announced at Maxwell’s, one of the 3 greatest venues in the New York metropolitan area.  If you have never been, Maxwell’s is a hidden gem in Hoboken, NJ, a mile square city of dudes in white baseball hats who work in finance.  It became famous in the 90’s, hosting bands like Nirvana, Sonic Youth, Yo La Tengo, and approximately 2 billion others.  Hoboken had a vibrant music scene at the time, yes, I know it’s surprising if you look at it now.

Maxwell’s has a feel like no other.  It is not filled with pretentious people, the food is actually good, and the drinks are not expensive.  On this particular evening, I trekked the 12 blocks north in the pouring rain from the PATH, and Joe Strummer’s “Coma Girl” was on the juke box.  I took this as a good omen. I had an extra ticket, and the doorman found me a person looking for one.  That’s not going to happen in Manhattan.

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The feel of the show was a bit ragtag, in a good way.  The band seemed relaxed, maybe they had enjoyed a few beverages, not over rehearsed, again, all in a good way.  It was like seeing your friends band play a local bar.  But not like that friend’s band who takes themselves too seriously and just wants to rip 15 minute solos over “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”  More like those guys you think “I feel kind of lucky to be seeing this”

One thing I seemed to have missed at the recent Webster Hall show is what great technical musicians these guys are.  There were quite a few guitar solos by Taylor Goldsmith, but none were gratuitous, all supporting the melody, not just mindless shredding.  Great interplay between all of the musicians, lots of listening going on.  Also great bass lines.  Almost reggae sounding – not in the bouncy Bob Marley way, but in the “the bass feels like a giant blanket engulfing me with happiness” way.

Also, I’ll bet that bass player listens to a lot of Lee Sklar, the famed LA studio musician, most known for his work with Jackson Browne.  Browne has been hanging around with Dawes recently, they played a song at Occupy Wall St together.  I mean, that relationship is probably good for all involved.  Browne gets an excellent young group of musicians, Dawes learns from one of the master American songwriters, we all get to hear the results, and I’m sure the environment and foreign economies benefit as well somehow.

I’d love to see what the future holds for a band like this.  They put on a great live show, and their first album was fantastic (I haven’t fully explored their latest release.)  Maybe a collaboration album with Browne?  A random cover?  I feel like a live EP would be a great idea, just record it at any of these shows, the entire crowd singing “When My Time Comes”  you can’t feel left out.  Thats just my two cents, I’ll send you an invoice for the consultation fee.

On the way home, I wasnt going to walk the 11 blocks in the rain once again, so I hailed a Hoboken Cab ($5 flat rate anywhere in the city!)  Annnnd….this was the interior:

Hoboken Cab

You really can’t ask for more than flashing Christmas lights inside your cab on a rainy Wednesday night.

Dawes at Webster Hall

We all get discouraged from time to time, at the lack of amazing young songwriters.  We troll the music blogs, hoping to hear something other than the frantic yell/sing dance type vocals, so watered down with reverb its like a white wine spritzer.

When historians look back at this generation, for the books they will write on some unforeseen invisible tablet type device, it is my opinion that they will focus on the technical prowess, rather than songwriting skills.  Can you think of any truly beautiful songwriter type albums in the last 5 years, that weren’t overly produced/auto-tuned to tell (either for effect or necessity?)  There are less than a handful.

So despite my traditionally Jewish and cynical outlook, I would like to talk about Dawes, their Webster Hall show last night, and how good it feels to know they are out there making music.   This band is made up of 4 young dudes, the singer/guitar player and drummer are brothers, the drummer has a FANTASTIC afro, which bobs as he plays.


I heard about them a few years back on WFUV, at the time of their North Hills album.  Something was said kind of like “here’s a new band, they recorded this album all together in the same room”  which is always a lovely thing to hear.  The single “When My Time Comes” is pretty much perfect.  I don’t care if it’s a bit cheesy, I’m singing along to it, god damnit, and if you don’t like it, you can come back to Webster Hall on Halloween club night and catch chlamydia at a foam party.

So Webster Hall is an interesting venue.  Its used most nights of the week as a dance club for underage guido/guidettes and the various shiny new jersey types.  Occasionally Bowery Presents books shows there, and you can hear thumping bass from other rooms in the building.  Lets start off with a few problems before we get to the music.

First, if you leave during the headlining band’s set, don’t expect to return to your spot.  If you try to get through with 3 beers while wearing a backpack, I hope one of those lions from Ohio miraculously escaped capture, somehow made its way across the Ohio Tundra to New York, and bites off your dick.  The problem with the live music experience is that you have to interact so closely with so many people you have no interest in being close to.  Where is Steve Jobs to solve these problems, we truly need him.

But enough of my whining, let’s discuss the music.  Blitzen Trapper opened. Some people love this band, some people also love unflavored rice cakes, because they’re not necessarily bad for you, and there are much worse things out there.  All I’m going to say, is that someone needs to get Blitzen Trapper a metronome, and turn it to something other than 86bpm, ok?

Seeing Dawes, felt as though all of the well dressed and slightly annoying people in Webster Hall suddenly disappeared, a cool breeze began flowing, and an easily accessible bar without 8$ bud lights was lowered down.  They were so fucking tasteful.  Just four people, drums, bass, guitar and keyboards, with some lovely harmonies.  No one threw too many notes out there, every solo was well placed, and the harmonies were like the ice cream sandwiches at the Meatball Shop.

The Goldsmith Brothers, on drums, guitar, and vocals are just so complimentary to each other.  Griffin on the drums has this slightly nasal voice which fits so well behind the slightly gruff lead, kind of like the Graham Nash of the band.

What came through most though were the songs themselves.  I had not heard about half the songs played, but still, the melody and lyrics carried weight.  You could tell the songs meant something to Goldsmith (either that or he’s the world’s most convincing performer.)  By the end of the set, his voice was a little shredded, but no one seemed to mind.  Fantastic lyrics, delivered with sincerity and not too much flash, I was all about it.

The next show will probably be at Terminal 5 or something equally as cavernous, so if it is by chance a smaller venue…I encourage you to go, but also to buy tickets after I do, because lets be honest, as the great Rodney Dangerfield once said…we all need to look out for number 1, and don’t step in number two!  (RIMSHOT!)

Sorry about that last one.  Really.