The song that put Dawes on my “bands I love” list comes about halfway through the band’s 2009 debut album, “North Hills.” The songs preceding “When My Time Comes” were all sturdy, likeable folk rock songs, but then comes this song with a brisker, bubbling pace and a raw feel that grabbed me from the start. Then at the end of the second verse come these lines leading into the chorus:
“You can judge the whole world by the sparkle that you think it lacks;
You can stare into the abyss but it’s staring right back.”
That line sparkled for me, and when it comes back for a reprise, right before a spine-tingling a capella chorus with four-part harmonies, it’s like fireworks. I waver between interpreting it as faulting someone for not seeing the world’s sparkle and a jab at someone for thinking that sparkle is necessary.
A couple songs off the band’s 2015 album, “All Your Favorite Bands,” put Dawes on my list of bands I’d drive three hours to see live if they’d ever think to play somewhere that close on a Saturday night, practically on my list of bands I’d take a vacation day for.
The elegaic title track has a great chorus filled with hopes expressed for an old friend, climaxing with the wish that “all your favorite bands stay together.” That’s such a nice sentiment, don’t you think?
The album also has “Things Happen,” which struck me as a wistful rumination on trying to get over a failed romance, and it has this chorus that made me think a good alternate title for the song would be “Try a Little Less Bitterness”:
“Let’s make a list of all the things the world has put you through;
“Let’s raise a glass to all the people you’re not speaking to;
“I don’t know what else you wanted me to say to you;
“Things happen, that’s all they ever do.”
I love Dawes singer Taylor Goldsmith’s way with words. To me, he is a 21st century Jackson Browne or Warren Zevon.
I bring all this up because, as some might have heard, Dawes is coming to the Cavalier Theater on Oct. 17 to bring a big dose of sparkle to the lives of lovers of “dad rock,” as Goldsmith describes the music on the band’s latest album, “We’re All Gonna Die.”
This is the kind of band Cavalier Theater owner Jason LaCourse would love to have at his venue all the time, “A grade” touring acts that haven’t quite made the leap to arena shows (it should be noted that Dawes is playing arenas this year opening for John Mayer and Kings of Leon). La Course has been after these kind of acts — the kind that would play at The Majestic in Madison, for example — and typically gets told that they’d love to play La Crosse but don’t have any dates that work, but let’s keep in touch.
LaCourse actually contacted Dawes’s management last year and got the “sorry but let’s keep in touch” response, and they really did keep in touch, pitching a presentation at the Cavalier of “An Evening with Dawes.” This will be an all-Dawes show with two sets by the band, not an hour or so of Dawes music preceded by two hours of “singing dog acts,” as my mom likes to call them.
LaCourse said he was “scared shirtless” — or something like that — about the prospect of booking Dawes. With Dawes, LaCourse is doubling his previous highest investment for a band.
But it's worth the gamble, in part because getting Dawes at the Cavalier could help put La Crosse on the map for getting other bands on that level. This is a chance for La Crosse to show the musical world that, hey, yeah, we’re hip to the good stuff and we will turn out to support it, even on a Tuesday night. (Or a Thursday night … why not get out and see the fabulous Kristin Diable at the Cavalier next week?)
I have to give LaCourse a lot of credit for bumping up the performance schedule at the Cavalier during the past year, and I really hope the Dawes show does put the Cavalier on the map. We want Goldsmith and his mates in Dawes to be able to tell their friends in Deer Tick, Old 97’s, Son Volt, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong and all those other A-grade bands that the Cavalier Theater is all up-to-date but still with some great retro charm, an invigorating vibe and a delightfully fresh aroma.
But I have to say that if the Cavalier is going to host a better brand of band, the place could use a little more, shall we say, sparkle. On the other hand, if more people go to more shows at the Cavalier, upgrades might become feasible.
So let’s raise a glass to a sparkly future for our local music scene.
Rock on …