“We’re glad you remembered us” Said Dawes Frontman Taylor Goldsmith halfway through the set. “We’ve all waited a long time to be here.” Dawes’s first performance in the legendary venue since 2013 drew a sold out show, and new sing-alongs.

Words and Photos by Casey Carlson

Many bands have released records in 2020, and without an immediate accompanying tour, it means that fans have had time to sit with newer records for a bit before seeing a band live. As a result, that meant more singalongs from the crowd, which is already an easy task for the typical Dawes fan. The belting of the chorus of When My Time Comes at the top of their lungs comes to mind. Every song Dawes has sounds like a hit song in one form or another. Adding to it, songs like the band’s opening number None of My Business and Who Do You Think You’re Talking To? From their last record Good Luck With Whatever which is just over a year old. With an eight record discography to pull from, including Good Luck With Whatever, that can make it difficult for a Dawes diehard to to get their favorite deep cut on the setlist.

Last night’s show seemed to be more focused about getting a casual Dawes listener a live experience than it was showcasing their catalog of music. During their last 2 full shows here in Minneapolis, At the larger State Theatre in 2017, and the larger-still Palace Theatre in 2018, Dawes performed two sets of songs, with a brief intermission, giving audiences a full scope of the band, their catalog, and their capabilities. Tonight’s show, at the smaller but perhaps more meaningful First Avenue, seemed to bring Dawes back to the roots of a live rock band. No set design, no extended solos, no intermission, Just a band on stage in front of amplifiers, drum kits, and a simplified, festival-like setlist. Evenstill, it was worth every second of being there. 

Familiar Dawes favorites have evolved quite a bit in a live setting a few years down the line than they did when they first came out. Songs like When the Tequila Runs Out from 2016’s We’re All Gonna Die elicited many fans yelling “When the Tequila Runs Out!” into eachothers faces, and felt much more loose and less technical than it was years ago, but more fun to listen and jam to, Especially with touring guitarist Trevor Meaner’s slide guitar fills on the song. Feed the Fire from 2018’s Passwords also featured a War-On-Drugs like intro on Taylor Goldsmith’s effect-ridden guitar, a stark contrast to the cleaner album version, and featured an absolutely mind blowing piano solo from Pianist Lee Pardini, switching from piano to organ halfway through. These kinds of incredible fills and solos from both Trevor and Lee were plentiful the last time I saw them as part of Theo Katzman’s band in early 2020, but seemed more restrained with Dawes last night at First Avenue. The brief moments where they were let loose were big highlights of the night. 

It’s also clear that the Grateful Dead Influence has hit many in the band as well, and I suppose playing with Phil Lesh will do that, as members of the band did weeks before. On top of more technical, adventurous guitar solos from Taylor Goldsmith, Dawes have taken on the fun task of making every setlist a little different than the night before, and even having some fun transitioning from one song to another. The encore number Things Happen transitioned to a snippet of the traditional Dawes sign-off song All Your Favorite Bands from the 2015 album of the same name. Tonight’s setlist even featured a new song from the band, yet to be released, called Someone Else’s Cafe or Doomscroller Tries to Relax, which was more of a “Help>Slip>Frank” style Jam than it was a traditional Dawes storytelling song. I believe it’s the first Dawes song to feature a drum solo from Drummer Griff Goldsmith as well. While Dawes doesn’t have the same kind of fanbase that follow the band from town to town or sell bootleg lot merch, I think many fans are appreciative of the crossover now that The Dead is also starting to have more recognition in a lot of more modern music, especially in a live setting. 

Thats what makes Dawes so compelling to see live now, especially if you’re someone like myself that has been to a number of their shows before. Being able to see the trajectory of a band, the differences in their playing, musicianship, and songs over the years, is what keeps fans of their music coming back again and again. Something both new, and familiar for the returning fans. “We last played First Ave in 2013” Said Taylor Goldsmith “Here’s a song we played a lot back then” before playing God Rest My Soul from their debut album, 2009’s North Hills
Throughout the pandemic, the Dawes lyric “And may all your favorite bands stay together” had become less of a supplication and much more like a prayer that our favorite bands would come out of this with us. Dawes, Thankfully, is still here. And while I dont think there was ever cause to worry about them, when we all took a moment to sing along to that line last night during the encore, I think everyone thought of a band that didn’t stay together, and ones like Dawes that had.

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