- Article by: Mackenzie Moore; Photos by Bryson Leach
- Posted: 09/23/2011
If it weren’t for the dimming lights, I might not have noticed that Dawes had taken the stage Wednesday night at Nashville’s War Memorial Auditorium.
As part of Next Big Nashville’s Soundland, lead vocalist Taylor Goldsmith and company discretely shuffled on, picked up their instruments and launched into “If I Wanted Someone,” the first track off their June release, Nothing is Wrong. The show was devoid of pomp or circumstance, or introductions for that matter – just a few guys who happened to all end up on the same stage at the right time.
If the disheveled ‘I just woke up with hair this good’ appearance of the foursome didn’t have many a boyfriend shifting uncomfortably in his seat, the music issuing from the soulful Americana group certainly did.
A driving beat courtesy of drummer Griffin Goldsmith and bassist Wylie Gelber, paired with powerhouse vocals from the elder Goldsmith, pushed from my mind any fear that these guys might not live up to their hype.
After setting every toe a-tapping during “How Far We’ve Come,” Goldsmith peered searchingly into the audience, and it wasn’t long before his eyes landed on just the person he was looking for.
“John,” he said, “ I know we didn’t plan this ahead of time, but I was hoping you might come sing ‘Million Dollar Bill’ with me.”
Moments later, a lithe figure emerged from the crowd clothed in a tattered camouflage tee and a backwards baseball cap. I stifled a girlish squeal as John McCauley, fellow Middle Brother member and Deer Tick frontman, stepped into the spotlight.
The two split vocal duties, each pausing to finish their beers when the other took point. When the song ended, the bandmates embraced amid tumultuous applause and cries of “Holy shit! It’s Middle Brother!”(Which reminds me, I have a serious bone to pick with you, Matt Vasquez).
A couple songs later, after a lively rendition of “A Little Bit of Everything,” during which Goldsmith adopted a gravelly storytelling persona, it became disparagingly obvious that the California natives were wrapping things up. The all-too-familiar intro to “When My Time Comes” rang out like we all knew it must. Happiness tinged with sorrow overcame me as McCauley meandered back onto the stage to lend his pipes to the hair-raising, now four-part harmony of the chorus.
It seemed an appropriate ending, made even more exceptional by the appearance of opening act Jonny Corndawg (clad in a ten gallon hat and snakeskin boots) clamoring on stage for the final chorus.
The ragtag bunch made their way to the wings, but the notoriously hard-to-please Nashville crowd wasn’t going to let them go that easily. They succumbed to the chanting crowd and encored with “Time Spent in Los Angeles,” the heartwrenching single from Nothing is Wrong about a traveling musician pining for a hometown girl.
And then, all too soon, it was over. As they bowed for the final time and the house lights rose, I was stuck for the first time by the bare bones nature of the stage. A few lights staggered intermittently on the floor, and a humble black curtain hung at a precarious angle behind where they stood. It wasn’t a stadium or an arena. It wasn’t even at capacity.
In the age of LED screens and costume changes, maybe – just maybe – all you really need to have a damn good rock show is a damn good rock band. Hmm, who would’ve thought ...