Nothing is better than kick-ass live music and good-hearted people. Blitzen Trapper and Dawes infused SOhO with passion, energy and heart last Saturday, giving the sold-out crowd a night not to be forgotten.
Smoke Fairies, a female duo from England, layered pretty vocal harmonies with classic rock vibes to kick off the night. While they were charming, the sheer sweetness of their sound wasn’t enough to keep the audience enthralled. The two women seemed to lack energy and looked despondent. Perhaps this was supposed to be a part of their appeal, as they were successful in differentiating themselves from other female rock groups. Their album, Through Low Light and Trees is worth a listen, though, as the women were able to produce some impressive musical content.
After the Smoke Fairies’ 30-minute set, Oregon-based group Blitzen Trapper came onto the stage and wasted no time in starting their incredible performance. Playing songs from their new album, American Goldwing and off old favorites such as “Furr,” the co-headliner engaged the audience with their alternative country/folk sound, laced heavily with musical influences from the ’70s. Eric Earley, lead singer and lyricist, writes most of the band’s music and captivates his crowd with his Bob Dylan-esque vocals, raw guitar playing and uncanny ability to play the harmonica. Erik Menteer, Brian Adrian Koch, Michael VanPelt and Marty Marquis completed the sound with their guitar, drum, bass, keyboard and vocal accompaniment.
It’s always great to see people crowding the stage for an opening act. The sold-out show was packed with excited fans that fearlessly danced and sang along to “Furr.” The band is stirring not only through their wonderful stage presence and uncanny ability to play to the crowd, but also in their personal experiences and inspiration. Folk music tells a story, and theirs tells of being homeless, travelling and escaping a lower-class childhood to fulfill their musical dreams. These experiences permeate their music and add such credibility to the bluesy, soulful stories the band tells.
This is my second time seeing the band perform live, and I look forward to seeing them headline another show in the future.
Shortly after Blitzen Trapper’s performance, Los Angeles four-piece band Dawes hit the stage. The band released their sophomore album, Nothing is Wrong this past June, and wasted no time in hitting the road to play for eager audiences across the country. Their new album displays enormous musical growth from their debut album North Hills, touching upon the band’s experiences travelling and learning about themselves. Much of the musical content off of their new album addresses being away from home and the change that comes with new environments.
The band, which draws influence from Lee Dorsey, The Meters and Jackson Browne — who actually plays with them on “Nothing is Wrong” — are successful at taking different musical styles and fusing them into something unique to them. Growing up in L.A. certainly had an impact on the band, reflected in the lyrics “Maybe ‘cause I come from such an empty-hearted town / or maybe ‘cause some love of mine had really let me down / but the only time I am lonely is when others are around,” from their song “If I Wanted Someone.”
Dawes’ lyrics combined with the chilling harmonies and musical talent of the entire group — Griffin Goldsmith, Wylie Gelber and Tay Strathairn — clearly moved the audience, who sang and danced to each song. The entire crowd sang — well, yelled — along to “When My Time Comes,” and sent shivers down my spine.
All four members beamed, and I truly felt connected with the music and messages they played — they’ve mastered stage presence and interacting with the crowd, proving you don’t need flashy lights and other theatrics to put on an amazing show.
“Time Spent in Los Angeles,” “That Western Skyline” and “Take Me Out of the City” were also instant hits with the crowd, made clear by the explosion of applause after each song.
Altogether, this show exceeded my expectations. When Dawes revisits Southern California in November, I will surely be present and ready for another incredible night of soulful music.