When I was younger, I didn’t really like going to concerts. I wanted my favorite bands to come in, play all of my favorite songs and get out. I wanted their songs to sound just like on the record, and I hated when they jammed. Performances, like the one Dawes gave Tuesday night, were the reason I outgrew that opinion.
The band, known for its folky, sentimental take on americana, hails from Los Angeles (lead singer Taylor Goldsmith is married to Mandy Moore, for you This Is Us fans). I had listened to some of their music before, on the recommendation of a friend, but I was not prepared for how much fun the concert would be.
Being cheap, I had gotten a seat back in the balcony. It was not ideal, but it gave me a good view of the band and the crowd. State Theater is beautiful, with ornate walls and comfortable, red leather seats, but it seemed more suited for The Nutcracker rather than a rock and roll band. Fortunately, Dawes are far from rookies and they quickly filled the place with energy. They opened their first set with “Quitter,” an upbeat, funky song from their new album We’re All Gonna Die. Though the song (and the album as a whole) diverges a great deal from the band’s nostalgic folk rock past, its lyrics echo the poeticism and honesty from their four previous albums. Despite this new sound, they played a good deal of their earlier music, including the cheeky “If I Wanted Someone” and the crowd-pleasing “Right On Time.” To be fair, I was not as familiar with their new album as their old ones, but some of my favorite moments from the night were during their new songs, including “Roll With The Punches,” a spirited, enthusiastic song and my favorite off of the new album.
The emotional climax, at least for me, came at the close of the first set, when they played my two favorite songs in succession. The first, “A Little Bit Of Everything,” is an emotional powerhouse from Nothing Is Wrong. If I have one critique of Dawes, it is that their lyrics sometimes stray towards limp truisms (“things happen, it’s all they ever do”). With this song, however, they really nailed it. The crowd felt the same way, and many started to leave their seats and congregate at the front. As they played the last song, “When My Time Comes,” the crowd was more excitement than it had been the whole show. The band and the crowd fed off each other’s energy until the last chorus, when Goldsmith swung the mic around towards the crowd and let us sing, which we were more than happy to do.
I really have to praise Dawes for their set list. After a high-energy end to the first set, they took full advantage of the crowd’s attention. With everyone congregated in front of the stage, Goldsmith walked out with just a guitar. He played a new song, “Crack the Case,” inspired by the political turmoil of the past year. It was the first time during the concert that I saw him really slow down; the whole night he had been working the stage, never letting up his momentum. In this song, Goldsmith called for a dialogue full of understanding, singing, “I wanna sit with my enemies and say, ‘we should have done this sooner.'” With the lighting down and the audience close together, it was a touching moment, and it displayed the full range of emotion that the band could reach. After another stripped-down song, I thought they were going to continue that way for the rest of the night, but they soon returned to jamming and kept it up for the rest of the night.
I will admit that I have not been to many concerts (Mobile, Alabama is not exactly a music hotspot), but Dawes did the best job of any band I have seen in really connecting with the crowd — and it made for a really special night.
Noah Harrelson is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.