Walking into the Congress Theater on Saturday night, I couldn’t get over the overwhelming feeling that I was walking into a weird high school dance. The venue, though structurally beautiful, isn’t the most graceful. It’s a place where as you walk, you wouldn’t be surprised if you go to lift your foot and it doesn’t stick to the beer and other liquid covered floor. That being said, braving the crowd in order to see Joe Pug and Dawes was well worth it.
The audience aided in this reminiscent high school feel. People ranged from the neon lit hula hoop girls, way to drunk stoner dudes, middle aged ex- frat boys, tie dye wearing moms, the “cool” kids that feel entitled to drink cheep beer from the red solo cups courtesy of the backstage pass some company gave them, and lastly, fans of the music. All in attendance blended together to appreciate both bands
I have previously stated that not only am I familiar with Joe Pug, but am also a fan. Already knowing most, if not all, of Joe’s song I am always excited to see which stand out during his set. Easily his performance of “Nation of Heat” was this show’s standout. Stressing Joe’s amazing talent as a writer, it is rare that in a live set that one has lyrics that resonate and stick even after the night is over. His songs are one of the exceptions. “We measure loneliness in miles and misery in tons” is one line from that song that sticks out and only helps to highlight his bluntness and knack for acknowledging the faults and flaws of people and the world without preaching.
His lyrics can be harsh at times, but upon himself rather than blaming others. Closing out the set with “Speak Plainly Diana” only reminds me about the first time i saw him and how far his music has come. Though he’s playing some shows overseas and won’t be back for a while, Joe’s recently released a live album, done so at Chicago’s own Lincoln Hall, which will help tide us over until he’s back next.
The talent that shines in a live performance is what separates the musicians from those that happen to play music. This clear distinction is shown every time I see Dawes. Having seen them open for Cory Chisel at Double Door, side stages at Lollapalooza, and now a main set at huge fest, it’s safe to say these guys are here to stay.
With two albums under their proverbial belts, Dawes are on the verge of being the band audiences are going to be upset with for not playing their favorite track during their set, which is a testimony to the strength of their catalog. Fortunately on this night, they managed to squeeze all of mine in. “Western Skyline” and “When My Time Comes” are oldies at this point, but are stillcrowd favorites. It was interesting to see people jumping on the Dawes bandwagon while singing along to “Time Spent in Los Angeles,” which I woke up to the other day playing on VH1. The band are gaining popularity by the day and I’m sure this performance got them many more. Tour dates for them are scattered currently, however keep an eye out for them at a festival near you some time this year.
All Photos (c) Daniela Montelongo