Dawes

Bob Lefsetz Believes In Rock Again After A Concert, Episode 1,829

In sports, there’s nothing more annoying than a fan who jumps on the bandwagon of a winning team, then overcompensates for the time he missed by being even more obnoxious than the longtime fans. Does the same hold true for music lovers? Read on as Bob ignores Dawes for a year only to suddenly become their biggest fan.

We are in the midst of a music renaissance. We burned down the old edifice and in its place we’re building something new, albeit with some of those old 70′s values.

The 70s had values besides visible chest hair and cocaine?

The cord-cutting between the audience and radio and MTV in the past decade has shown the virtues of classic rock, suddenly it was all available for the taking and the young ‘uns did.

We baby boomers saved a bunch of kids from listening to today’s shitty music by forcing them to listen to OUR shitty music!

But now, they’re creating for themselves. And the audience is vast. This is a sea change so gigantic many can’t yet see it.

Then, by definition, it’s neither a sea change nor gigantic. Call it a pond change.

If you’re not part of the scene, you’re lamenting that music was great back when and there’s no new good stuff and you’re sick of the Top Forty crap.

I want to beat this sentence up with an irony stick.

And one thing we know is the mainstream media is last, it’s interested in the most eyeballs.

Bob doesn’t know the definition of “sea change,” but you can’t deny he knows the definition of “mainstream.”

As a result we get a travesty like the VMAs and an attendant press corps trumpeting its ratings, not realizing that exercise was about money and self-promotion, whereas the new scene is being built away from prying eyes, but it’s burgeoning.

The Lefsetz Koan: If a scene falls in the forest and no one is around, does it burgeon?

I knew the name, but the first person to testify about Dawes was my friend Rick Cummings, a Deadhead if there ever was one, he accompanied the band to Egypt, he was a friend of Owsley. He…couldn’t stop testifying about Dawes, he even laid a burnt CD on me, he said I needed to hear the music.

If Irving the Punctuation Monkey ever learns how to use a semi-colon, cities will fall.

That was something, but it wasn’t enough.

In fairness to Bob, when was the last time you listened to music given to you by your stoner friends?  We’ve all been burned by that too often.

Then there was that gig a couple of months back, over in hipdom, otherwise known as Silver Lake. The band was backing up Jackson Browne. One never knows what these mashups portend.

Then again, if you had listened to the FREE CD your friend made, you would have realized that Dawes, who are from Los Angeles, are heavily rooted in the Laurel Canyon sound, and was therefore a perfect fit.

And please stop using words like “portend” when there’s nothing particularly ominous about a musical collaboration. Unless we’re talking about Lou Reed and Metallica, because that’s going to suck rocks in the biggest, most unintentionally comedic way. I’m thinking Chris Cornell-meets-Timbaland here.

Are they going to play JB’s tunes or Dawes songs? I didn’t go, but it was the number one show of the year so far, the buzz was deafening, I got e-mail from the gig swooning.

Translation: not even being right in Bob’s backyard, getting rave reviews, and having Jackson Browne’s seal of approval (and playing a similar gig backing up Robbie Robertson, of which Bob was apparently not aware) were enough to get Bob to listen to the album.

And then this concoction went on the road together, in Europe.

It was such a crazy concoction that, somewhere in heaven, Rube Goldberg shook his head in disbelief.

But then I heard a song on the radio.

Not on terrestrial. If you’re still listening to that format, you’re out of the loop. I heard this track on Sirius XM’s Spectrum. And I winced at Mark Goodman’s introduction, here’s “brand new” music from Dawes!

You’re listening to Mark Goodman on a AAA station and you’re calling other people unhip?

My idea of brand new is this week. The Dawes album came out months ago.

What difference does it make? You were too busy stalking Miranda Lambert to listen, so it might as well have been new to you.

Why can’t we banish this jive-talking from the radio? Fans want to be treated like they know something.

I’m going to let this sentence speak for itself without further comment.

The track Goodman played was SO special I changed my plans on a dime, I canceled dinner, I had to go to the Pier.

This had to be huge. Judging by the picture we use for this column, it doesn’t look like Bob cancels dinner too often.

Even in a column that’s designed to take cheap shots, I realize that was particularly low. Please forgive me.

And boy did Dawes wail.

I’m sure they did. They’re a very good band.

And they had special guests. Blake Mills, who used to be in the band, who truly soared, and another guitarist I can’t remember the name of who entered into a battle with the lead and…

Jackson Browne.

I was so busy marveling at how Jackson’s hair is still so perfect that I plum forgot that other guitarist’s name.

Yes, it was a special evening last night on the Pier. A one time event. Not the same gig in every hall across America.

The Santa Monica Pier was the only place in the entire country where good live music was playing that night. All because Jackson showed up.

And they didn’t play JB’s material, they did two Warren Zevon songs, “Mohammed’s Radio” and “Lawyers, Guns And Money”, Jackson’s single-handedly keeping Zevon’s memory alive, in the old oral tradition, recordings are not as important as actually playing these tunes.

Never mind that Dawes played Zevon’s “The Hula Hula Boys” on their tour last year (you can hear it by downloading this excellent show for free here), it’s all Jackson’s doing. Nothing exists to Bob until it gets the seal of approval from one of his heroes.

But the highlight was that song I heard on the Spectrum, “A Little Bit Of Everything”.

I’m sure it was. It’s a damn good song.

In the tradition of all great story songs, from “Celluloid Heroes” to “The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald”, “A Little Bit Of Everything” exists in its own vacuum, it sounds like nothing else, it’s an instant anthem.

 “Celluloid Heroes” isn’t a story song. It’s a meditation on the glory days of Hollywood and the difference between real life and the movies.

Ever feel overwhelmed? Maybe you haven’t contemplated suicide, but you’ve certainly experienced despair, it’s the human condition.

I’m experiencing it right now.

It hasn’t been about what you have to say for far too long.

Of course it has been. But now there are more artists speaking to people with different perspectives and lifestyles than yours. Isn’t that how it should be, where everybody can now find someone who reflects their values?

But this guy has got something to say. It’s like we’re living back in the era of “Late For The Sky”.

It sounds like nothing else, except Late For The Sky.

But that was almost forty years ago, 1974 to be exact. But give Jackson credit, for refusing to become calcified, hooking himself to the star of these youngsters.

He’s released only three albums in 15 years. If that’s not calcification for an artist, I don’t know what is.  But Jackson was part of Azoff’s stable, so he can piss in Bob’s face and he’ll still worship him.

The artists are the beacons. The businessmen have lost the way, pursuing money instead of that warm sensation inside that has you feeling you’re not alone on the planet, that someone else understands you, that’s what a great record delivers.

How have they lost their way? Businessmen have always pursued money. That’s kind of their job, and why artists don’t make money until businessmen think they can profit from their art.

Life is challenging. Who’s singing about that?

Lots of bands whose CDs were undoubtedly given to you by friends but you didn’t bother to listen to them because you were too busy raving about average country supergroups.

And the audience sang along with “When My Time Comes”, from the previous album. You can go unnoticed by the arbiters, the mainstream, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have fans, who’ll listen to you, come out to see you, support you.

You can jam something down someone’s throat, but that’s commerce, not art.

Selling your song to be used on a Chevy commercial is commerce, Bob. How did you not hear this?

The audience comes to great art, they just need a few pointers from friends.

Some need a year or so, by which time the band could have broken up and been forced to take day jobs.

Dawes put a smile on my face, reinvigorated me, made me believe what once was, that elusive elixir that hooked me back when, has returned.

It’s a brilliant start.

Well, a very good second album.

Climb on board.

(croons) We’re expecting yooooooouuuuu.

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  • http://twitter.com/MattSpringer Matt Springer

    “You’re listening to Mark Goodman on a AAA station and you’re calling other people unhip?”

    Genius.

  • Anonymous

    I love this series. However, I have to admit that I wasn’t all that impressed with Dawes when they opened for Alison Krauss last week at Red Rocks. Good stuff, but not stellar and definitely out of their element.