Los Angeles's Romany Rye started the night off and set the tone for this three-band bill. Every band brought a similar sound centered on excellent vocals. The five-piece belted out four-part harmonies about their native California in a '70s throwback style that was organ-heavy and featured Allman Brothers-style dual-guitar solos. Romany was so akin to Dawes that one fan was overheard referring to the act as "Diet Dawes." Despite this comment, the rest of the capacity crowd at the hi-dive seemed to appreciate Romany Rye's brand of music and the vibe the group was trying to achieve.
Seattle's Moondoggies kept the '70s-rock vibe going and likewise flexed their harmonic muscle as three of the four members crooned in unison with each other, conjuring moments of Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys. Whereas Romany Rye seemed intent on creating a pure throwback sound, the Moondoggies added elements of indie pop, Brit pop and jam band, pouring them all into a cohesive and pleasant mix.
Missing from the Moondoggies set, however, were any real lead parts: The guitar and keyboard served as part of the rhythm section for most of the set, allowing for little moments of separation from the group's all but absent stage presence. Despite a less than stellar live show, the Moondoggies are an interesting band, and Tidelands, the outfit's latest release, is certainly worth a listen.
Off the strength of its excellent debut, North Hills, Dawes wasted little time sound-checking and started its set with one of the album's deeper cuts, "Still My Girl." Vocalist-guitarist Taylor Goldsmith, who looked surprisingly clean-cut for a band that tours as much as Dawes, seemed to take a bit to get going, as his vocals wavered a little out of the gate and didn't appear to be fully warmed up to start.
This initially made his voice lack some of the depth that appears on the recorded version of the song and continued slightly into the band's next song, "Love Is All I Am," but thanks to the rest of the band's excellent musicianship, it was forgivable.
Dawes possesses a solid rhythm section of bassist Alex Casnoff and Taylor's brother, Griffin, on drums, while keyboardist Alex Casnoff harmonizes flawlessly with the Goldsmith brothers. Also impressive was Taylor Goldsmith's guitar playing, shuffling through solos that varied in style from Carlos Santana to Thin Lizzy's Scott Gorham while adding seamless arpeggios to the driving rhythms.
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Speaking of Thin Lizzy, the new tune that Dawes played next, "Time Spent in Los Angeles," was very reminiscent of a Phil Lynott creation, featuring an arena-ready hook about the rigors of loving someone in the City of Angels. Clever lines like "I used to think someone would love me for the places that I've been" offered an exciting preview of Dawes's next album, which, as Goldsmith told us, is already recorded.
By the time the group launched into the heart-wrenching "That Western City Skyline," Goldsmith's voice was fully warmed up, nearly tearing the roof off as he reached into his gut to belt out lines like: "The falling snow this time of year is not what Birmngham is used to/I get the feeling I've brought it here."
As a result of touring in winter, bringing snow to every town they go to may be something Dawes will have to get used to. On this night, Dawes created a storm of its own.
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: North Hills is one of my favorite albums of the past year. Random Detail: The hi-dive played Nathaniel Ratliff over the PA between sets. By the Way: The last time Dawes had a scheduled show in Denver, it was snowed out. This was only their second show in the Mile High City.