I arrived at the Fillmore for the Blitzen Trapper/Dawes show around 7:55 for an 8:00 show stoned out of my mind. There is no greater high than that of being on a cloud when music hits you. As I stood admiring the empty stage, the collective masses of San Francisco streamed into the iconic Fillmore. There weren’t many in attendance when the opener, Belle Brigade, hit the stage and it’s a shame too because they missed a fantastic band. With two acoustic guitars, two electric guitars, a bassist and a drummer, word quickly spread that this band was starting the night off with a bang. With a sound reminiscent of 90s ska band Dancehall Crashers, Belle Brigade (brother and sister tandem Barbara and Ethan Gruska) are set take that next step towards fame or infamy as their song “I Didn’t Mean It” will be on the Breaking Dawn soundtrack (the Twilight film).
After Belle Brigade left the stage it didn’t take Dawes long to jump on. I was joined by my friends and happy couple Josh and Alex (girl). Taylor Goldsmith took center stage wearing black jeans, a white shirt and brandishing his white guitar like a weapon. With smoke coming from the stage, the guitar and from the top of Goldsmith’s head the epic nature of their set was starting off mythical.
By the end of the set, the band won over many new fans. It was an undeniable fact that this band was not simply like every other band. There was a cadence to their style. Musically, they were efficient, but still raw and extremely well versed in their instruments. With fog and lighting, the ethereal aspects of the band came out and like so many others that have played the Fillmore, they transfixed an audience that was already teeming with anticipation.
How would they overcome a terrific opening act? Part self-help group, part band, Dawes, with their copious amounts of solos, rocked the shit out of the Fillmore. When everyone belted out “When My Time Comes” it was like being in a Baptist Church with the congregation joining in the hymnal and aside from the asshole swaying like a tree in a tornado in front of me it was a magical moment.
After Dawes left everyone with that feeling you get after a particularly great orgasm Josh and Alex took me to what can only be described as the room I want my ashes spread in…the Poster Room. Old posters of the Doors, Ten Years After, the Dead, all of them on display for music enthusiasts like me to marvel at. Josh bought me a beer and the admiration I had for the genuine affection he and Alex showed one another was simply beautiful. Here we were, in this city that I’m still not certain I love or hate and these two kids couldn’t have cared less. They weren’t that weird couple that slobbers all over each other, no they were just compatible, perfectly and utterly compatible.
Finally, after two terrific openers, Blitzen Trapper came on stage and they were all business. While the other bands played to or with the crowd, Blitzen Trapper shocked the crowd into a feverish frenzy. They wailed on their instruments like inmates in a prison riot. We stood there singing, dancing and engulfing ourselves in the presence of supremely talented musicians. I’ve written ad nauseum about the lack of true rock stars, but something I’ve noticed lately is the collectiveness of the bands that I do see. Perhaps it isn’t that there aren’t rock stars, it’s that the bands have collectively gotten better. Much like the Stones or the Beatles, everyone in Blitzen Trapper was at the top of their game.
I had this feeling while watching them that they sounded like 60s/70s hard rock group Mountain and Josh agreed. They rocked so hard that I’m sure I lost a bit of hearing that I can ill afford to lose. It was worth it and when they started “Wild Mountain Nation,” the crescendo of the spirit in the room lifted even higher and there we were grooving as if it were the Fillmore 40 years ago. It was nice to see pretty hipster girls singing to such a guitar induced track. Girls with flannel and girls with bangs were overly abundant and the vibe couldn’t have been better.
Rumors abounded over what cover song they may attempt in the encore, but we still hadn’t yet heard “Furr” and that was the song that put Blitzen Trapper on the map. We waited for it, anticipating that roar from our own lungs and when they started the opening acoustic chords we yelled like soft, mad children.
They left the stage after that and we waited for the encore. Then Eric Earley came to the stage solo with a guitar and played one of the songs off the new album and as the spotlight hit him, from the angle I was standing a little halo appeared and I knew the drugs had taken their desired effect. After he finished, the rest of the band came out onstage and Dawes followed in tow. The opening chords were familiar, but I couldn’t place it right away until the “La, La, La” came through the microphone and I suddenly felt like drinking a White Russian and putting on my bowling shoes (Editor’s note: a Big Lebowski for those unfamiliar with the reference). “Man in Me” from Bob Dylan’s country phase echoed through the ears of the congregation as everyone, myself included, harmonized with the bands onstage. It was no longer a concert, but an experience that I, we, were sharing and the exclusivity of this small venue gave weight to the perfection of the scene as they all left the stage.
As Josh, Alex and I walked out we were given a free poster and I happened to bump into Taylor Goldsmith, lead singer from Dawes. I asked if we could do a quick interview and he agreed. Putting myself on the spot I rattled a few questions off the top of my head as we watched a busking band, the Tumbleweed Wanderers play “When My Time Comes” the Dawes song until I could gather my thoughts.
Matt: You guys seem heavily influenced by The Band... is that an influence of yours? Are you a branch on The Band family tree, if you will?
Taylor: Yeah, man, we love that shit.
Matt: How long have you guys been on tour and how many more shows do you have left?
Taylor: This time it was six weeks, but before that we were out for two months with a two-week break in between. We have the one show left at the Music Box in L.A. and then we’re done.
Matt: What’re you guys going to do during your break?
Taylor: Take it easy, work on new material. Relax for a while.
Matt: Whose idea was the co-headlining tour?
Taylor: That was our agent. He just came to us and asked if we wanted to co-headline with Blitzen Trapper. And we were all for it, we love those guys.
Matt: Any future plans with Middle Brother (the supergroup with Goldsmith, John J. McCauley from Deer Tick and Matt Vasquez from Delta Spirit.)?
Taylor: Not right now. Delta Spirit is coming out with a new album soon. Deer Tick just came out with one and we did too a while back.
Matt: Was it just a one off?
Taylor: Probably. It was just something to do for fun. Never thought it’d get that big.
And with that he had to go and I congratulated him on a fantastic show and bid him adieu.