A Fan’s Notes: The Southern California Connection

Written by A Fan's Notes, Music

A great new album from the LA band Dawes stirs some distant southern California memories for Ken Shane.

Back in the 1970’s there was a terrific concert venue in called the Capitol Theater in Passaic, NJ. The 3,200-seat theater was run by concert promoter John Scher. An admirer of Bill Graham, Scher did his best to model his operation after the Fillmores East and West, and came pretty close to replicating those legendary houses. All of the great bands of the day played the Capitol, and since I worked there for a number of years, I got to see quite a few of them.

I vividly recall the first time I saw the Eagles there. It was back when the Eagles were not only cool, they were the epitome of cool. A band that I was road managing was opening for them at the Capitol. During the soundcheck for my band, I was sitting in one of the front rows, listening. The next thing I knew, Glenn Frey was sitting next to me, and saying “is this a local band, man?” I was a bit intimidated, but I think I managed a nod, or a feeble confirmation of some kind. I was knocked out that Frey bothered to ask. For me, it was sort of an affirmation of the band’s skills from on high.

The Eagles are on my mind today because I’ve been listening, again and again, to the new album from Dawes, Nothing Is Wrong. My friend Jeremy who is in a great San Francisco band called Big Light was the first to tell me about Dawes a year or two ago. I had the opportunity to see them live at a couple of festivals last summer, and they stood out at both despite the fact that they were among some pretty heavy company. People just seemed to love them despite the fact that they had just one album out, their debut North Hills, and a song called “When My Time Comes” that was getting some airplay at Triple A radio.

I’m not claiming to be any kind of seer or prognosticator, but it was immediately clear to me that the young LA band had enormous potential. They had great songs, a polished live performance, and the kind of undeniable appeal that can create enormous crossover success. Since then Robbie Robertson has chosen Dawes to back him up on recent appearances to support his new album, singer and guitarist Taylor Goldsmith has become part of a powerful side project called Middle Brother, and “When My Time Comes” has become a tv fixture on Chevy Silverado commercials.

You may be wondering what all of this has to do with the Eagles. There is certainly a bit of the early Eagles in Dawes’ music, as well as the influence of a number of other players in the southern California music scene of the ’70s. The members of Dawes have often spoken of their reverence for the music that preceded them in their home area, and a key figure in that scene, Jackson Browne, appears on Nothing Is Wrong. But it has more to do with the fact that the Eagles were a band that took some early success that was based on their great songs and strong live performances, and turned themselves into the worldwide phenomena that they became.

The first Dawes album was modestly recorded, but the songwriting carried the day. Nothing Is Wrong ups the ante substantially. And it’s not like you have to wait to get into the album. The very first track, “Time Spent In Los Angeles,” seals the deal. But it doesn’t end there. In fact, from that point on, it’s one great song after another. Songs like “If I Wanted Someone,” “Fire Away,” and “How Far We’ve Come” will have you singing along with their powerful choruses after one listen.

If everything goes the way it should, Dawes will become one of the country’s most popular bands simply because they’re a band that people who like all different kinds of music can get into. As we all know, things don’t always go according to plan, but don’t be surprised to see Dawes standing on the world’s great stages in the very near future.

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