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Dawes and Blake Mills Live at the Lobero Theater Santa Barbara

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Experiment Gone Right
Dawes Plays Extended Jam With Blake Mills
L. Paul Mann

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The mesmerizing indie folk rock band from Los Angeles, Dawes brought their brilliant sound to the recently reopened Lobero theater, Wednesday night, December11th. Venice, California based singer guitarist Blake Mills was advertised as the opening act, but in a strategic move, Dawes decided instead to integrate the talented musician into their dual sets of experimental music. It actually wasn't much of a stretch to employ Mills talent into the group. Although they haven't played together in awhile, Mills was part of the original band Simon Dawes, which featured guitarist Taylor Goldsmith and bassist Wylie Gelber, who both went on to form Dawes. They were joined by Goldsmith's brother Griffin on drums and keyboardist Tay Strathairn to complete the new Dawes band. Goldsmith is the charismatic lead singer and songwriter for Dawes. With a distinctive voice and exceptional guitar skills he leads the band in and out of tightly structured rock segments, dripping with an infusion of classic American folk and country rock. Elements of The Band, Poco, and even Graham Parsons can be heard in Dawes rich sound. But Goldsmiths powerful vocals and the groups jam band style creates a sound that Dawes can claim as their own.

About five songs into the show Goldsmith introduced Blake Mills. “Usually you have an opening band that plays the first set. But we are try something different tonight. We are going to have Blake join us and experiment with the music.” The experiment was a resounding success with Mills own exquisite vocal and guitar skills meshing perfectly with Dawes. The 25 year old Mills has already racked up an impressive array of sessions work with musicians as diverse as Lucinda Williams to Fiona Apple. He is a go to favorite studio guitarist for legendary producer Rick Rubin. The concert featured songs from Dawes new album “Stories Don't End”, as well as a number of songs form Mills 9 song album “Break Mirrors”. The seamless blending of music by Dawes and Mills was best portrayed on the song “Hey Lover” from “Stories Don't End”. In that tune, which was originally penned by Mills, Taylor Goldsmith traded lead vocals with his younger brother, drummer Griffin, while Mills traded guitar riffs with Taylor. The band played two full sets, the second of which delved into older material and some covers, with a more fierce jam band approach to the songs. The near three hour concert seemed to be a hit with an enraptured audience on a sleepy winter night in Santa Barbara.

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