Show Review

Brian Ahnmark
Much has changed in the world of California quartet Dawes in the time since they last visited Columbus in February.

Let's just say their calendar has been full. A network television debut, courtesy of Craig Ferguson. High-profile gigs at virtually every major U.S. music festival, including South By Southwest, Sasquatch and Bonnaroo. Shout-outs in Rolling Stone and Spin magazines.

Best of all, there weren't 30 inches of snow on the ground outside the Rumba Cafe last Tuesday.

But one thing hasn't changed: The purity of passion that Dawes brings to the stage.

To be fair, the band itself has changed in the five short months since their first headlining show in Columbus. They've gotten better. It's a blessing to behold a band at this stage in a career; just one album in, bursting with new material that sizzles with a sense of hunger and purpose, playing to ravenous crowds that scream lyrics in unison – and improving, always improving.

A lean, 13-song set was accentuated by the performance of three new tunes, two of which the band played in February. The road has been good to these hatchlings, transforming their baby fat into a confident muscle – so confident, in fact, that Dawes boldly opened with the most immediately appealing of the new songs, “How Far We've Come.”

Drummer Griffin Goldsmith handled lead vocals from the kit, delivering an appropriate motto for the evening's festivities: “Why we all are here tonight / Is to see how far we've come.” His insistent snare set the pulse for a three-part harmony eruption, guitarist/lead vocalist/brother Taylor Goldsmith and keyboardist Alex Casnoff layering crystalline soul in the upper ranges.

“Time Spent in Los Angeles,” an ode to Dawes' hometown, bruised with a ragged edge of desperation. “Fire Away” will undoubtedly be the centerpiece of the band's forthcoming sophomore album, featuring an extended instrumental finale duel between the Brothers Goldsmith.

The rapturous response from the Columbus faithful earned a nod from Taylor (after he stole the mic back from his brother), who noted, “We're realizing right now why Columbus is fast becoming a favorite stop of ours.” The subsequent reward – the flawlessly executed trio of “That Western Skyline,” “When You Call My Name” and “When My Time Comes,” cherry-picked perfection from the Dawes debut North Hills – left the crowd reeling. Main set closer “Peace in the Valley” was almost too much to handle after The Big Three, its symphonic crescendo punctuated by frantic Griffin fills on the skins. An audience too exhausted to applaud was left to ponder if the band had anything left in the tank for an encore.

They did. But bless their hearts, they took it relatively easy on the poor listeners. The Otis Redding groove of “God Rest My Soul” helped settle the roiled atmosphere, and Taylor implored to crowd to join him in singing the simple gospel standard “I've Got a Feeling (It's Gonna Be Alright).” The encore felt like a soothing kiss on the lips after the main set's uppercut to the chin.

Even the beloved songs from North Hills smoldered with an intensity not evident on the record. Taylor reinterpreted many of his vocal melodies into fresh, unpredictable arrangements; Griffin's drumming was less rhythmic and more bombastic; Wylie Gelber's distinctive lead bass lines fed off his adventurous, risk-reward style of weaving around Taylor's voice; and Casnoff has never been more spot-on with his vocal accompaniment.

With upcoming appearances scheduled at Outside Lands and Lollapalooza, Dawes shows no signs of breaking momentum. Sessions for their second album get underway in September.