Tuesday, December 31, 2013

When My Time Comes to See Dawes and Field Report

Field Report, opening for Dawes, Varsity Theater 12/30

Terry Goldsmith of Dawes
First off, I have to apologize to the young guy complaining about rude middle-aged women at the Run Westy Run show on 12/27. After having stood, as had all those around me, for the last 2½ hours in order to get our first and second “row” positions to the side of center stage—an hour prior to opening act Field Report taking stage, through their performance, teardown, and the following setup, until Dawes was clearly just about to take the stage—looky who comes quite literally pushing her way into the middle of said prime positions but…a middle-aged woman.

When I comment on her rudeness, her reply? “What’s your problem? I’m not in your way.” Well, yes, yes you are, not just in my WAY but in my SPOT. You’re standing where half of me used to be and the other half is where the guy on the other side of me used to be, and as you’re bopping around, you keep knocking into the guy’s girlfriend. You could see our interloper was sizing up whether she could push all the way through to true center stage, but apparently after a while decided against it. So apologies, young guy annoyed by obnoxious middle-aged women, and I’m embarrassed for my sex and my age group. Thankfully, like the stellar fan she clearly was, she left a good twenty minutes before the end of the show. Good riddance. Now on to better part of the evening….

Field Report
Field Report - The report is in, and it's good news for 2013 and 2014.

Maybe Goldsmith should try
Christopher Porterfield's
paper towel method of
remembering lyrics.
Field Report treated us to a dry run of several songs they had just recorded in Canada—so, people, you have something to look forward to in about March. I like supporting local (Wisconsin and Minnesota ties) bands, in particular when first I like the song(s) and then I discover they’re a local band, as is the case here. One advantage of being a nonprofessional fan is you can be pleasantly surprised after-the-fact to discover things like the Bon Iver and Megafaun connections, and details like Field Report having opened for EmmyLou Harris (you bet your butt that’s “pants-shittingly cool,” Mr. Porterfield). Best case, of course, is just going to the bar and discovering the band that happens to be playing is fantastic; but I don’t do much in the way of bar first/music second nights these days; and you can’t be everywhere all the time, especially if you don’t have a time machine and a Dorian-Gray-like deal with the devil.

These songs were so new that Christopher Porterfield commented he had to write lyrics for one down on some paper towel so he’d be sure to remember them. He wasn’t joking; I got a shot both of the industrial-style paper toweling and a notebook he had at the ready on the floor. Plus, it was fun to hear him mention that while staying in Rochester over the holidays, his parents let the band practice in their basement. Ah, yes, Mom and Dad’s basement: Enough to restore a sense of youth in anyone.

In addition to some new songs, we also of course heard songs off the first album, including what must have been Porterfield’s own anthem in 2011: I Am Not Waiting Anymore.

All of which goes to point out something I at least don’t need to be told: Show up for the opening act, middle-aged ladies.

Now Dawes.

Tay Strathairn (rear)
Taylor Goldsmith; next photo: Griffin Goldsmith (rear)
Wylie Gelber

Technically they do not have local connections; but as the StarTribune points out, Minneapolis embraced these guys early on, due to plugs by The Current, a music scene very open to anybody wanting to be a bit folky, whether in the sound or just the lyrics (the latter more the case for Dawes), and, well, there is the whole talent thing. That could have something to do with it.

But it’s nice to be appreciated, whether you are the act or the audience, and definitely this was another “mutual admiration society” night at the Varsity. I cannot stress enough the necessity of both “sides” being engaged to really make for a good event. For myself, I enjoy being able to watch both the band and the crowd for entertainment (except for the annoying few—go away, rude middle-aged lady. Oh, good, you just did.).

Despite the many passes through town Dawes has made, this was my first opportunity to see them live. There’s of course nothing like seeing players live, but in this instance I also got a better sense of Taylor Goldsmith’s guitar playing, much more than I feel it comes through on the recordings. On the other hand, the keyboards seemed a little lost in the mix that night, although Goldsmith, while firmly the front man, definitely made several efforts throughout the evening to draw attention to Tay Strathairn, as well as bassist Wylie Gelber, and drummer and little brother Griffin (he seems just a little proud of him—and with good reason). There was also a guest appearance by a member of Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros.

As happens with most shows where the audience clearly knows the lyrics quite well, there were the moments when Taylor literally turned the mike over to the crowd. It’s so common that the cynical can find it corny. But I like corn. Plus, the smile on the band members’ faces seemed quite sincere; so even if this happens to them multiple times a month (if not a week) while on tour, well they appear to like corn, too.

This night held something slightly more unique in that Taylor had to admit, as he tried to perform one song (ironically, the name of which escapes me now), that he frequently forgets the lyrics to it. He was struggling for several long moments—enough time for mild bemusement to start slipping into mild distress—when catching sight of someone in the front row he goes over, kneels down, pulls out his ear piece, and comes up nodding and able to complete the song. And no, I don’t think it was a stunt (mainly since the helpful individual was some guy rather than a girl).

Speaking of helpful, another guy in the front row just gets handed a copy of a setlist after the show by one of the main stagehands. Why? I assume because after Taylor, without knowing, had knocked over his water bottle, this guy in a split second grabbed and uprighted it, thus saving the electronics it had been set next to. So the tally this evening? Youngish guys: 2; middle-age women: -4 below, like the temperature.

Dawes - Taylor Goldsmith

Dawes - Taylor Goldsmith

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