Show Review: Dawes and Blitzen Trapper at First Ave

Dawes and Blitzen Trapper exposed the crowd at First Avenue to the soundscape of the mild, mild West Friday.


Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes performs Friday at First Avenue.

Sarah Harper


Audience members took part in an Americana triathlon of nearly four hours Friday night at First Avenue. After enduring the rootsy rocks and rolls of Blitzen Trapper and the Belle Brigade, they crossed the musical finish line with the triumphant third act, Dawes.

And what a sweet folk-rock finish it was: with a  voice as tender and raw as skin youâÄôve just ripped a band-aid from, the lead singer of the Los Angeles band Dawes served audience members a sonic slice of the Laurel Canyon with refreshing sincerity. And although the dudes of Dawes draw inspiration heavily from romantic images of the West, they still managed to stoke the midwestern audienceâÄôs hometown pride. Friday was DawesâÄô first performance in Minneapolis since the release of their sophomore album, âÄúNothing is Wrong.âÄù They say weâÄôve got a special place in their hearts âÄì front man Taylor Goldsmith  declared the Current the best radio station in the country and announced to the crowd, âÄúOur tours are all starting to feel like the road to Minneapolis.âÄù

The brightest highlight on the reel was GoldsmithâÄôs performance of the song âÄúTake Me Out of the City,âÄù for which the facial-haired half of the band  evacuated the stage, leaving the ever expressive Taylor Goldsmith alone with his brother, drummer Griffin Goldsmith. With the lead singerâÄôs gentle guitar as their only accompaniment, they sang in brotherly harmony. Their laid-back attitude shone through when Griffin let his brother take a solo line while he took a swig from his bottle.

Getting to that beautiful ending required endurance on the part of the audience. Co-headliner Blitzen TrapperâÄôs harmonies were as neat and crisp as you would expect from a band thatâÄôs been together through six studio albums, but the Portland, Ore. band fell into the quicksand of heavy instrumental interludes. Unlike DawesâÄô dynamic improvisations, Blitzen TrapperâÄôs were strenuous. 

Curiously, Blitzen TrapperâÄôs on-stage persona didnâÄôt match what their recorded music might suggest. Audience members who were expecting woodsmen who looked like they just climbed down from their mountain range cabins were instead greeted by altogether regular looking dudes. In spite of their clean, washed appearance, these guys still managed to woo the crowd with an extraordinary performance of their hit âÄúFurr.âÄù

The opener was Los Angeles band the Belle Brigade, whose six-member size begged the question of whether all those people were necessary. A few Brigaders seemed gratuitous âÄìcouldnâÄôt the band have done more with less? After all, the BrigadeâÄôs true stars were the fronting brother and sister, whose clear voices completed each other in a folksy clinch. Their unrelenting energy in spite of the talkative audience suggested that this band would probably play with the same vigor even if they were performing in a vacuum: they make their own fun on stage.

As Dawes was finishing up their set, Taylor Goldsmith announced that the band would take a victory lap with the knee-knockinâÄô Jonny Corndawg at an after-party in the 7th Street Entry.

Dawes will bring their California dreaming back to Minneapolis in December for two shows at the Varsity Theater âÄì Caroline Smith and the Good Night Sleeps will open for the band on New YearâÄôs Eve and the night before.