We Saw It

“They don’t know even know what it means to be a fan … to truly love some silly little piece of music, or some band, so much that it hurts” – Fairuza Balk as Sapphire in Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous

I’ll bet that if you’re reading this piece or are a regular reader of this site, you can relate that quote, or, most likely, live it every day. In the scene, Balk’s character, one of the infamous Band Aids, laments that the newest generation of groupies aren’t into the music as much as Sapphire and the rest of the Band Aids are.
I thought about that speech and more from Almost Famous when I went to see Dawes at the reborn Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, New York, Wednesday night.

Since being turned onto them a few years ago (Thanks Pete, Big Money and Ken) Dawes have become me what Stillwater was for Penny Lane and William Mitchell. They are a hard working band (I’m not sure anyone else out there is working harder), and it’s been a delight watching them make good. I’ve met them at a merch table or once before a show, they’ve been incredibly gracious and appreciative. (That’s the other thing you will always hear about the band – Taylor Goldsmith, his brother Griffin, Wylie Gelber and Tay Strathairn, – “They’re good guys”).

I’ve done things I haven’t done for other faves of mine, not even Springsteen. I was visiting my folks up in New Hampshire a couple of years ago, saw they were opening for Alison Krauss and Union at the local shed and sprung for two tickets because the devil TicketMaster wouldn’t let me buy a single (saw them play their 5 or 6 songs, chatted them up at the merch table, and left). Later that year, I drove to see them in Boston on a Friday night and got back on the road to be home in CT in time for my kids’ soccer games and beat a freak winter storm. I finally saw Bob Dylan this spring not necessarily to see Dylan, but because Dawes were opening.

Once the Dylan tour wound down, Dawes are doing their headlining tour with Shovels & Rope (another fine band I’ve written about before). The Port Chester stop was the last of this phase before playing some evening shows during the Newport Folk Fest (yes, I’m seeing them again on Friday). Like a lot of last night shows, this was a treat. First, Blake Mills a terrific guitar player who was a bandmate of the Goldsmiths in Simon Dawes sat in with the band all night and did a few of his songs. I saw him open play with Lucinda Williams and if you know anything about her you know she only plays with great guitarists.

Then there was the show itself. It was a revelation. Not confined to the half hour or so that an opener gets, they were able to stretch out songs into longer jams. Mills added more muscle where needed and also subtler fills and nuances at other times. Dawes have always put on good shows but on this night they seemed to be even more energized. Taylor was spinning and dancing around the stage, Tay was all over his keyboards and Griffin still making the best drummer faces since Levon Helm. It’s a bit harder to tell with Wylie who reminds me just a smidge Bill Wyman, cooly and calmly laying down a groove.

There was one highlight after another. The opening four songs – “From A Window Seat”, “The Way You Laugh”, “Most People” and “Fire Away” were terrific. “When My Time Comes” was the sensational sing along pleaser it always is, and just check out the glee on Taylor’s face in the video below as he and the crowd feed off each other. Throughout the night Taylor and Mills traded or shared blistering solos, especially on “Peace in the Valley”, a song Taylor told the crowd the two had written when they were 17 or 18.

And then there’s A Little Bit of Everything, for me the best song written in the past few years. I’ve seen them sing it 4 times and probably played it 4 million, and dammit if every room I’ve ever heard it in hasn’t been a dusty one.

When the show ended, I had my last Almost Famous flashback to Stillwater’s Cleveland show where they pushed themselves into another gear and delivered the show of their lives. Nights like that and Wednesday night in Port Chester are one of the many reasons we all love pop music – seeing a band we love find something extra and playing on a different plane. The only coda that could’ve made the night better would’ve been to see Penny Lane gliding across a now emptied hall to Cat Stevens’ “The Wind”, still basking in the afterglow and not wanting the night to end.

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Most People

When My Time Comes

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