Everything about Dawes is not what it seems. Taylor and Griffin Goldsmith write songs that quote philosophers while preaching life lessons that make them seem nothing if not wise far beyond their almost painfully young years. They play like seasoned veterans with Wylie Gelber and Alex Casnoff providing more to the music than you would ever guess from hearing the record.
To say that seeing Dawes live makes their album seem fairly bland is quite possibly the biggest compliment that could be given to the quartet. North Hills has quickly risen to the ranks of one of my most played albums of the past five years, not just my favorite record of 2009, but despite its magnanimity, Dawes brings forth an energy live that I’ve yet to see any band duplicate. Yes, I’ve seen Dawes before and I’ll see Dawes again but despite that fact, the moment it was announced that they boys would be playing Barn on the 4th of July, it was cemented that I was going. Seeing one of my favorite musical discoveries of my adult life play in a barn is something not be missed and Dawes, per usual, did not disappoint. It was truly Dawes’s crowd in Makoqueta, with everyone from 14 year old boys to 20-something hipsters to 60 year old men singing along to Taylor’s every word and taking them all to heart whilst doing so. When Taylor curses the western skyline, everyone in Maquoketa does too and when Griffin talks about how far he’s come, everyone in Maquoketa echoes in sentiments with bellowing devotion.
Peppering the set with new material off what is almost certain to become one of the best albums of 2011, Taylor, Griffin, Alex, and Wylie tore through the 4th of July with their usual virile passion for the songs they’ve penned, a type of fervor for their art that is so rarely exhibited by musicians after having played the same songs almost every night for well over a year. It didn’t matter to them, however, that the songs were familiar. If anything, it was bolstering and welcomed. “Western Skyline” found new power with a chorus of people who knew each lyric, who all understand just how special Dawes is and who all know that one day soon, these California natives are going to hit it big, real big, and will be playing to the likes of sold out crowds at Lincoln Hall, so they treasure the time they get with Dawes because they all know, it’s just a matter of time before the rest of the world understands the sublimity of Dawes.
It was said by more than one person talking about their Barnstorming experience that the powerful “When My Time Comes”, one of North Hills strongest and most immediately accessible tracks, was the best song of the entire night – And that was said after The Walkmen blew everyone away. While Dawes did have my favorite set of the night, I must give The Walkmen the accolade of best song but even if no secret headliner existed and Dawes had closed out the night, I still would be saying I had the best weekend of my life. Great friends, great music, and great beer in a cornfield in Iowa. If life can get more special than that, I’ll gladly live in ignorance of whatever comes next because what Daytrotter has given us with the Barnstormer experience is more than enough to let me live the rest of my life out contented.