Dawes Brings New Songs and Old Favorites to Arts Fest Concert

Dawes jamming the Arts Festival audience. (l. to r.), Duane Betts, Lee Pardini, Taylor Goldsmith, Griffin Goldsmith, and Wylie Gelber.

Dawes jamming the Arts Festival audience. (l. to r.), Trevor Menear, Lee Pardini, Taylor Goldsmith, Griffin Goldsmith, and Wylie Gelber.

Dawes headlined the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival Friday evening. It was a lovely night both musically and meteorologically.  

The band’s sound exists in a sweet spot between folk and rock. Their last two albums, We’re All Gonna Die (2016) and All Your Favorite Bands (2015), achieved the no. 1 position on the Billboard Folk chart while also cracking the top ten on the Rock chart.

Taylor singing and playing his guitar.

Taylor singing and playing his guitar.

The L.A.-based, folk-rock band took the stage at 7:30 p.m. The group is composed of brothers Taylor (lead vocals, guitar) and Griffin (drums, vocals) Goldsmith, Wylie Gelber (bass), and Lee Pardini (keyboards, vocals). They promptly dived into an opening rocker followed by “From a Window Seat” with a strong lead guitar jam by touring guitarist Trevor Menear.

Taylor, who played a variety of guitars throughout the show, strapped on a Telecaster for “Somewhere Along the Way.” In introducing it, he said, “This song is about the intoxicating qualities of a crazy person.”

In introducing the fourth song of the set, Taylor recalled, “The last time we played here there weren’t as many people here as there are now. We appreciate it. Tom Petty’s in town, so I wasn’t sure that this many people would be here.” He then led the band into “If I Wanted Someone,” a song about an empty-hearted town and wanting someone to make the days move more easy.

Gelber enjoying plucking notes on his bass guitar.

Gelber enjoying plucking notes on his bass guitar.

“We put out an album last year that we are playing songs from for the first time in Pittsburgh,” Goldsmith said as he led the band into “Picture of a Man.” Gelber plucked strong bass notes as he strode around the stage. Griffin’s drumming and Taylor’s and Menear’s guitar playing also shone through. During the song, Taylor introduced Pardini, who did some rocking keyboard and organ parts.

Next up was their best known song, “Things Happen,” which featured all cylinders firing with melodic vocals, strong bass, guitar, drums, and a sweet piano piece. The audience, a nice mix of boomers, young rockers, and girls dressed in their summer clothes, cheered and applauded.

Griffin banging the drums and belting out a tune.

Griffin banging the drums and belting out a tune.

On “Fire Away,” Taylor introduced his brother, Griffin, who sang behind the drum kit, which was evocative both visually and musically of Don Henley. “Roll with the Punches” from We’re All Gonna Die was a lively song that saw Taylor playing some jangly acoustic guitar riffs and singing about why the people we love are the same ones we can hate.

A touching ballad, “A Little Bit of Everything,” followed and saw Taylor remaining on acoustic guitar. “Right on Time” had a pleasing piano intro before the band joined in and moved up the tempo.

One of the evening’s highlights was the dual-lead-guitar-drenched, satirical party song “When the Tequila Runs Out.” During the song, Gelber moved to the front of the stage. “Tequila” also had great action from Griffin and Pardini. Dawes closed their 90-minute set with “All Your Favorite Bands.” The audience rewarded the band with sustained applause.

Betts and Taylor jamming together.

Menear and Taylor jamming together.

Dawes is a talented and versatile band whose pleasing songs feature intelligent and insightful lyrical stories. Taylor Goldsmith is a great guitarist and frontman for the band and had a warm running dialogue going with the audience.  A woman stage right translated his words and lyrics into American Sign Language (ASL) for the show. The opening act, The Accidentals, are a rising band, who put on an enjoyable show. The members play a variety of instruments and hail from Traverse City, Michigan.

A large crowd packed Point State Park to see Dawes perform.

A large crowd packed Point State Park to see Dawes perform.

Photos: Rick Handler

Rick Handler is the executive producer of Entertainment Central and enjoys a good rock show.