Maybe you aren’t familiar with this Los Angeles based four-piece, but I’ve got a feeling you may find them to be quite infectious. With an intriguingly vintage folk rock sound and the musical chops reminiscent of their veteran folk rock predecessors, this group of twenty-somethings is, as told to me several times throughout the evening, the real deal.
On a rainy early evening at Metro Chicago, I caught the guys from Dawes during load-in and soundcheck. Needless to say, they were pretty happy with their new-found microphone situation on stage. Later on that evening, I would bear witness to the sound they are so grateful for night after night. I first ran into Taylor Goldsmith (lead vocals/guitar) who shared his love of the SM7B on his guitar amp. He also made mention that Dawes used the SM7B to record the vocals on their debut album North Hills. With Taylor back on stage, I was greeted by his brother Griffin Goldsmith (drums/backing vocals), in the middle of some much-needed drum head replacement. He walked me through the rest of the mics on stage and their respective applications, including the Beta 91A, the ONLY mic he uses on his open front kick drum. We were soon joined by Wylie Gelber (bass/gear geek of the band) who rounded out the conversation regarding the rest of gear situation on stage. Keyboard player and backing vocalist Tay Strathairn would later share his love for the Shure PSM 900 personal monitor system, stating that they made such a difference in his performance. Another life changed by the power of the PSM 900.
Of course traveling with a veteran front of house engineer like Wes Delk, formerly of Wide Spread Panic and Waylon Jennings, certainly contributes to how good those mics are going to sound on any stage every night Dawes plays. Wes is also the real deal, this guy knows his stuff and knows how and when to use it. Most importantly, he knows this band. He alluded to the fact that he kind of came out of retirement to work with these guys.
Apparently, Wes was asked to sit in for a friend one evening and serve as engineer at a local listening room in Athens, Georgia. Dawes hit the stage, and about three songs into their set, Wes Delk decided he really liked what he was hearing. The dynamics and space and harmonies were almost sweet nostalgia to his ears. At the end of the evening he went and met the guys at the merchandise table and jokingly offered to get on the bus with them one day and hit the road together. No less than a month later he got a call from Griffin Goldsmith, explaining that Dawes was to hit the road with Alison Krauss & Union Station and they needed to have their own engineer. Knowing he had an old-time friend in Alison Krauss & Union Station’s engineer, Cliff Miller, Wes jumped at the chance and took that seat he had joked about upon first meeting the band. Dawes is more than aware of what Wes Delk brings to their sound on stage every night.
Showtime had finally come. This was a late one for a school night, with the first band, The Belle Brigade from LA, hitting the stage at 9:00 pm. By the way, this brother and sister act definitely had everyone’s attention, check them out, next time you go downloading. Dawes finally took the stage at 9:45 pm and the place erupted. I’m certain that I was not alone while marveling at the dynamics Dawes had on stage. Some personal favorites from the evening’s set list were “If I Wanted Someone,” “When My Time Comes,” “Time Spent In Los Angeles,” and “A Little Bit Of Everything,” which, for a moment felt like a church hymn ringing through the rafters.
After witnessing Dawes, the live version, something tells me that we’ll be hearing more from this band in the years to come, one can only hope. Dawes is a much-needed breath of fresh air in the music industry.