Music discovery. I feel sorry for those that don’t keep their ears open to new sounds. As the calendar flipped over to 2010, I knew nothing (or next to nothing) about Dawes or Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros. Last night at the sweltering Clubhouse Music Venue in Tempe, I enjoyed the hell out of these two great bands.
It started with the Coachella webcast back in April, when I watched E.S. & TMZ ‘s set. Freaky, folky, hippie vibes – something refreshing and different. So when I saw their Arizona date (and no boycott – woo hoo!), I was all in. So then, just last week, I got curious about the opening band, Dawes, and checked out their web site. I watched a couple videos (“Love Is All I Am”, “When My Time Comes”), really enjoyed the sound and the harmonies, and promptly snatched up their full length debut, North Hills. And what an impressive debut it is – I’ve been enjoying the hell out of it since.
So it was with this frame of reference and mind that I went to the Clubhouse last night – getting there nice and early to catch both full sets.
Dawes are a four piece folk-influenced rock band from the Laurel Canyon area of Los Angeles. Led by brothers Taylor (lead vox, guitar) and Griffin Goldsmith (drums), they have something special going with their brand of catchy melodies and three-part harmonies. Man, the harmonies! They filled up the room from the onset, with the great opener “How Far We’ve Come” – where Griffin took the first line of the verses, Griffin and keyboardist Alex Casnoff on the second line, and Taylor joining in on the third. Great stuff. Harmonies abounded on tunes like “Love Is All I Am” and the crowd favorite “When My Time Comes”. They also showed a harder edge with a nice new one, “Fire Away” and “My Girl To Me”. Their set had us drawing comparisons to The Band at times, and they obviously grew up listening to a lot of Byrds and CSN.
Great all around musicianship and singing with Dawes, but a special tip o’ the hat to the singing voice of Taylor Goldsmith. The guy can flat out sing. And when he gets way up there, there’s a soulful growl that wouldn’t sound out of place on an old Stax record. Great, great live band and great album. You’d do yourself good to pick it up.
On to Eddie and his Zeros, also formed out of the fair city of Los Angeles (the Silverlake section). By the time the band came out, the Clubhouse was a stuffy, unventilated sweatbox. I got some reprieve by being directly under a fan behind the soundboard, but man, this venue clearly does not care about the comfort of its patrons.
After watching a live set online, I had a good idea of what was in store. And though the Polo Fields of Indio, Calif. have absolutely nothing in common with the Clubhouse Music Venue, the group’s vibe and spirit were intact. Some early microphone issues almost jeopardized that good overall vibe, turning frontman/leader/messiah Alex Ebert a tad grumpy – but all was sorted out.
And so the band played on – mostly tunes from their solid 2009 album, Up From Below. They kicked things off with “40 Day Dream”, “Up From Below” and “Carries On” – a trio of catchy sing-along songs that hooked in the crowd. Edward’s muse, Jade Castrino, was the sole female Zero of the show. Usually, Nora Kirkpatrick is along for the ride (*cough-hotblonde-cough*), but sadly she missed this gig in the desert. If you’ve watched Jade on stage, you’ve probably noticed she’s a little unorthodox as far as live performers go. She won’t face the audience – she sways and faces to the side, shyly smiling, with her eyes locked in on Alex 90% of the time. If you’re questioning the messianic quality of Alex Ebert, you’ll be convinced after watching Jade for a while. But anyways, she seems like a sweetheart, and she got some lead vocal duties with a song called “The River Won’t Flow”.
“Janglin” and “Home” were the feel-good highlights of the evening. It’s hard to not like these songs, paraphrasing my buddy Trevor. The gang of characters there on stage – keyboards, percussion, a trumpet, guitars, bass, and lots of smiles – the band clearly enjoys playing these tunes for the people, even in a 110 degree steam room. The band then wrapped up the evening in mellow fashion, singing “Brothers” while seated on the floor amongst the crowd.
It was short but sweet set, although a hot one. I got the feeling the band was good n’ ready to jump in the bus and make haste for L.A. Can’t blame ’em.
The experience was worth the heat though – two new, fantastic bands with tons of promise. Lucky for me, they’re both playing the ACL Festival this year, so I’ll be seeing them again in October.
Here’s a nice series of moments from the evening, courtesy of Rand LeSeur Photography.
Clubhouse Music Venue, Tempe, AZ
June 22, 2010
40 Day Dream
Up from Below
Come In Please
The River Won’t Flow (sung by Jade)
Om Nashi Me