ARTICLE & PHOTOS: Nick Gumas
Earlier today, while looking at upcoming concerts, as I have been told people who enjoy music tend to do, I noticed that the band Dawes was scheduled to play later this month in San Francisco, and was immediately reminded of a road trip I took to see them perform in Central California earlier this year. Anyone who has already done this will vouch, taking a long road trip to see a band you have never heard of, with a friend who has been openly obsessed with the band’s music for years, is an experience unlike anything else, and I hope sharing my experience will inspire you to do the same. After all, it’s not often I am given the opportunity to say “I went to Central California to see a Southern California band perform a song about jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge.” That sentence alone made this trip worth taking.
On January 13th, Dawes played at the Fremont in San Luis Obispo. The venue itself was a movie theatre that had been retrofitted to accommodate live concerts, but this unique venue proved to be the perfect setting to view a band that so successfully played to an auditorium as intimately as most bands would play to a Dive Bar.
Dawes, a Folk-Rock band from Los Angeles, kicked off their latest tour early this year to promote their newest album “We’re All Gonna Die”. Since their first album, “North Hills”, was released in 2009, Dawes has been a major presence in the Folk and Indie communities, and for good reason. Having never gone more than a few months without selling out a concert, and due to their reputation of putting albums out at a consistent rate, Dawes has made themselves out to be one of the most recognizable folk bands together today.
From the beginning, Dawes set out to not disappoint the audience once. They truly gave us everything we could have asked for. They played acoustic and unreleased versions of many of their songs, they played all of their hits, and in true recondition of their commitment to musicianship, even played two back-to-back sets, spending well over three hours onstage not including their intermission.
Dawes opened their show with their song “One of Us”, the first track on their new album “We’re All Gonna Die”. The song itself is an inviting and upbeat anthem that set the standard for the energy they planned to match the rest of the night. The first thing you notice about this band is their confidant presence. Every member of the group came out exuding the kind of energy you would expect from a group of men all wearing new leather work boots. In a way, they looked like the type of band you would almost be surprised to hear were from L.A. Their first set focused on playing their songs the way they were originally played on their albums, eventually ending their first set with “When the Tequila Runs Out”, leaving their second set to give a much more acoustic feel to it.
When the band came out to open their second set, they began by playing acoustic covers of some of their more popular songs, and redefined how I saw Dawes as a band. The first song they played was a chilling rendition of their song “For No Good Reason”, which made me feel as though I was hearing the song and lyrics for the first time. They then played several more acoustic songs before switching back to their original format, “Hey Lover”, and “Roll With the Punches” being two of the ones that particularly stuck out in their cluster of acoustic songs. The juxtaposition of the two unique sets being played one after another perfectly showcased the many talents that have made Dawes so unique.
They closed out their second set by playing their 2016 album’s titular song, “We’re All Gonna Die”, but of course added in something special, and after the incredible night they had given us so far, I wouldn’t have expected anything less. Before they launched into the song, they showed us an acoustic introduction to the song that illustrated their belief that no matter how we live our lives, we all have to die. A chilling realization that offered insight to the inspiration they clearly drew from to create this song. After the second set ended, I was ready to leave, thinking it would be greedy to expect an encore after they had already given us twice the music we had expected to hear, but sure enough they were back onstage before long to close out the evening with “Fire Away”, and, of course, “All Your Favorite Bands”, ending the night by wishing everyone well, and of course, wishing that all your favorite bands stay together.
Dawes gave a unique concert experience. I can honestly say they are one of the better live bands I have ever seen, and possibly will ever see, simply because they keep no secrets as to how much they truly care about their art. From the commitment they showed by starting the show exactly on time, to the onstage antics of Wylie Gelber, who I am convinced is the most animated bass player I have ever seen live, Dawes truly separates themselves from the heard and leaves no ambiguity as to what they have done to achieve their level of success.
For anyone who now feels so compelled to see “An Evening With Dawes” later this month, Dawes performs at the SF Fillmore Tuesday February 21st. Doors open at 7:00pm, with the show starting promptly at 8:00.