Friday, May 20, 2011

Review: Dawes & Edward Sharpe - The Vogue (Indy)

By Jon Stone | @jwstone - June 9, 2010

Both Dawes and Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros will be performing at Bonnaroo this year. I'll be in Manchester to witness the action and will be reporting on my experiences on Muzzle of Bees over the next several days. If you're going to be there, drop a comment with your can't-miss bands. If you're on twitter, include your twit-handle in your comment so I can keep up on your perspective of the fest. Follow my tweetshere. Hope to run into you there!


Late last year I gathered my wife and young and departed on an epic three-day voyage across praire and desert. From Midwest heartland back into the bosom of our Sonoran desert homeland. It was a lonely and arduous trip with infreqeunt stops at fastfood playlands as they sprung up like oases along the freeway.
All along our journey we had Dawes.

During that trip, Dawes became our road music. My wife Tina fell in love with the record over those three days and even my kids would ask for and then sing along with "When You Call My Name." So, needless to say, we are fans.
Last night Dawes opened for Edward Shapre & the Magnetic Zeros at the Indianapolis venue The Vogue. Their music again became a family affair as this time I surprised my wife with the show for our anniversary (which was also yesterday). All the way from Champaign to Indy, she only knew I was taking her to a show and that it was going to blow her mind.

It did. Dawes did not disappoint. They played through a good portion of their record North Hills and sprinkled several new songs into the set. One, called "Fire Away" was announced by lead-man Taylor Goldsmith as a song about "how to stay friends with folks even when they aren't acting right." It was a highlight of the set -- it started simply, almost conventionally, but kept on building into a mind-blowing guitar solo and then modulated again into a repeating refrain sung by the drummer, Taylor's younger brother, Griffin. Another new song "If I Wanted Someone" was also played late in the short hour-long set. After the show, I had a quick conversation with Taylor at the merch table. He said that they are hoping to record a new album soon and are looking at a release sometime in 2011. It can't come soon enough.

Edward Sharpe, the pseudonym of Alex Ebert, was the reason that most of the folks were there. And with ten members on the stage, they were a force to be reckoned with. They took the stage in full gypsy regalia -- all beards, scarfs, and smiles. And played an interesting set.  Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros are strongest when the band all seems to be working hard to add to the sound. In other words, the less tambourines on stage, the better. (And wow, do they have some serious tambo action going -- one monster is at least the circumference of a floor tom.).  And the eclecticism(!) -- one moment, the band feels as Arcade Firey as they possibly could but the next they are playing with a distinctly Latin flare. Other songs, "Carries On," for example, move into 60s soul territory. With such a large band, you'd hope that the diversity of membership would have this resulting musical eclecticism. This they had in droves.

As familial as the band claims to be, for me, that sentiment comes across as a bit cliquish on stage. Long pauses between songs while the band talks ("discussions on physics", Ebert joked at one point), strange play-acting from my favorite member of the band, Jade Castrinos, during her tribute song "Jade" (is she really timid and embarrassed about the attention levied on her during that song? Doesn't she hear it every night? And how about a solo album, girl?), and other stuff seemed -- to me -- to say that while yes, we are family and we love each other and pull our tour caravan over often to twirl together in fields, we aren't accepting new members.

They are accepting admirers, though, and wow was the crowd packed with them. With songs like "40 Day Dream," and the amazing "Home" the band is nothing if not crowd pleasing.

My final thought on the night boils down to a question of earnestness. Dawes wears their earnestness on their sleeve -- they can't help it. And perhaps it's their youth or their on-the-brink-of-big-success ardor but it's implicit in the words and music and isn't lost on even the youngest audience (my kids). Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros make their earnestness a more explicit affair. But songs about "Home" and rouccous love-ins make me feel less home than a sweet tune about That Western Skyline.

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