The first time we saw Dawes, there couldn’t have been more than 100 people crammed into the Mercy Lounge. Sunday night, they packed the 1000+ capacity Cannery Ballroom and delivered exactly what both the veteran and rookie Dawes fans expect: a night of pure, unadulterated rock and roll with all of the emotion that so many bands in America hope to cover up with smoke and lights. On the contrary, Dawes consistently delivers one of the most refreshing live music experiences touring the United States today, and Sunday night was no exception The evening opened with the unique personality of Simone Felice, whose brothers (The Felice Brothers) also carry a genetic disposition towards menacing facial expressions and potentially distressing lyrics. The especially dark opener, “New York Times” met squarely with our expectations based on our familiarity with Simone’s former band of brothers as did the deceptively twisted “Shaky” despite its seemingly fun lyrics like “C’mon and shake that country ass!” But it was the sequence of covers from The Band that closed Simone’s sequence that set the tone for the night’s headliner as Simone and his ensemble paid tribute to the late Levon Helm with “Atlantic City” and “I Shall Be Released,” which featured the accompaniment of Nashville favorites – and fellow Gentlemen of the Road tour guests – The Apache Relay.
The scene was set for Dawes to bring out their own special guests, as an extra microphone was placed rather inconspicuously in front of bassist Wylie Gelber, who has no singing credits on the band’s albums. Indeed, it would be Deer Tick front man, and Taylor Goldsmith’s close friend and cohort from side project Middle Brother, John McCauley, who would join the band for “When My Time Comes” and “Million Dollar Bill” sandwiched around Deer Tick’s “Baltimore Blues No. 1.” Simone Felice himself would even make a brief cameo adding backing vocals alongside Griffin Goldsmith as Dawes would close their encore with the radio hit “Time Spent in Los Angeles.”
But it was the tracks in between that are what make a Dawes show so memorable. It was Taylor Goldsmith’s guitars on “Fire Away,” the reference to playing in Nashville where Taylor claims “we all know each other already,” and the heartfelt line of “… pile on those mashed potatoes and an extra chicken wing” that really engaged the Cannery crowd this Sunday night and left us anxious for their third album, which we understand recording for to begin next month.
Dawes has certainly benefitted in Tennessee by playing premier spots – opening night of Soundland 2011 at War Memorial, opening for Mumford & Sons w/Apache Relay at the Ryman this past spring, and just the night before in Bristol with the Gentlemen of the Road tour – but its simply at these shows where they continue to win over music lovers. And if all that wasn’t enough, Dawes, along with The Apache Relay, Simone Felice, Nikki Lane and a cast of others made their way down 8th Ave for a late night after party at The Basement that lasted until at least until 2:00 in the morning. We couldn’t be more excited to see the growth Dawes has made as a band and to see the amount of hearts they continue to win over in Music City. Count us among the many who have been completely won over.
One of my goals, if you will, of 2011 was to travel to a city I had never been to before. Naturally, my inclinations were to go to a place that had a killer music scene so Austin, Boston and Seattle all made the list of possible destinations. Turns out that I didn’t end up in any of those wonderful cities, but accomplished my goal in a way that I hadn’t anticipated at the start of the year, by going to Newport, Rhode Island, to experience the legendary Newport Folk Festival.
Newport Folk Fest 2011 was my first festival experience despite living within two hours of Bonnaroo and there were several times over the course of that July weekend where I thought to myself “I’m coming back here every year if I can.” From the gorgeous port city of Newport to the water taxi ride each morning to get to the festival at Fort Adams State Park, from the super laid back, perfectly friendly crowd to the dozens of boats pulled up to the harbor to catch the music for themselves, it was hard not to fall completely in love with George Wein and Pete Seeger’s brainchild.
So now it’s 2012 and just yesterday the lineup was released for the festival, taking place July 28 and 29, and the folks in Newport have made it waaaay too easy to honor my words from last summer and make this an annual pilgrimage. Headlining the festival are My Morning Jacket and Jackson Browne, who are both playing NFF for the first time ever. Conor Oberst, Iron & Wine, Patty Griffin and Guthrie Family Reunion (Arlo Guthrie, Sarah Lee Guthrie, Johnny Irion, etc.) also received top billing for the festival, but that’s just scratching the surface.
Highlights for me are The Head and the Heart playing for the second year in a row (the only band returning this year, I think), and a plethora of bands on my “Bucket List” that I will be writing more about in the coming weeks. 2012 buzz bands, Of Monsters and Men and Alabama Shakes will be performing, along with Blind Pilot, Preservation Jazz Hall Band, Gary Clark Jr, Deep Dark Woods, New Multitudes (Jay Farrar, Will Johnson, Anders Parker and Yim Yames), and The Tallest Man on Earth, who I’ve been dying(!) to see perform for years. It’s going to be an absolute pleasure getting to cross them all of my list. And I’d be remiss to share how ecstatic I am to see Nashville’s own The Apache Relay take to the Newport stage. There’s honestly not enough space in this post to do justice to all the wonderful acts playing at the festival this year.
So, dear readers, what’s your festival experience been like? Anyone else been to Newport before? Who wants to join in on this brand new tradition of mine?