Audience members took part in an Americana triathlon of nearly four hours Friday night at First Avenue. After enduring the rootsy rocks and rolls of Blitzen Trapper and the Belle Brigade, they crossed the musical finish line with the triumphant third act, Dawes.
And what a sweet folk-rock finish it was: with a voice as tender and raw as skin you’ve just ripped a band-aid from, the lead singer of the Los Angeles band Dawes served audience members a sonic slice of the Laurel Canyon with refreshing sincerity. And although the dudes of Dawes draw inspiration heavily from romantic images of the West, they still managed to stoke the midwestern audience’s hometown pride. Friday was Dawes’ first performance in Minneapolis since the release of their sophomore album, “Nothing is Wrong.” They say we’ve got a special place in their hearts – front man Taylor Goldsmith declared the Current the best radio station in the country and announced to the crowd, “Our tours are all starting to feel like the road to Minneapolis.”
The brightest highlight on the reel was Goldsmith’s performance of the song “Take Me Out of the City,” for which the facial-haired half of the band evacuated the stage, leaving the ever expressive Taylor Goldsmith alone with his brother, drummer Griffin Goldsmith. With the lead singer’s gentle guitar as their only accompaniment, they sang in brotherly harmony. Their laid-back attitude shone through when Griffin let his brother take a solo line while he took a swig from his bottle.
Getting to that beautiful ending required endurance on the part of the audience. Co-headliner Blitzen Trapper’s harmonies were as neat and crisp as you would expect from a band that’s been together through six studio albums, but the Portland, Ore. band fell into the quicksand of heavy instrumental interludes. Unlike Dawes’ dynamic improvisations, Blitzen Trapper’s were strenuous.
Curiously, Blitzen Trapper’s on-stage persona didn’t match what their recorded music might suggest. Audience members who were expecting woodsmen who looked like they just climbed down from their mountain range cabins were instead greeted by altogether regular looking dudes. In spite of their clean, washed appearance, these guys still managed to woo the crowd with an extraordinary performance of their hit “Furr.”
The opener was Los Angeles band the Belle Brigade, whose six-member size begged the question of whether all those people were necessary. A few Brigaders seemed gratuitous –couldn’t the band have done more with less? After all, the Brigade’s true stars were the fronting brother and sister, whose clear voices completed each other in a folksy clinch. Their unrelenting energy in spite of the talkative audience suggested that this band would probably play with the same vigor even if they were performing in a vacuum: they make their own fun on stage.
As Dawes was finishing up their set, Taylor Goldsmith announced that the band would take a victory lap with the knee-knockin’ Jonny Corndawg at an after-party in the 7th Street Entry.
Dawes will bring their California dreaming back to Minneapolis in December for two shows at the Varsity Theater – Caroline Smith and the Good Night Sleeps will open for the band on New Year’s Eve and the night before.
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