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Sunday, January 20 , 2019, 4:03 pm | A Few Clouds 66º


Jeff Moehlis: Blitzen Trapper and Dawes Bring the Past Into the Present

Co-headliners breathe new life into vintage sounds at SOhO concert

In today’s musical landscape dominated by programmed, produced product, it is refreshing to hear young bands who breathe new life into the sounds of yesteryear. Such was the case on Saturday night, with co-headliners Blitzen Trapper and Dawes performing at Santa Barbara’s SOhO Restaurant & Music Club to a hugely appreciative, sold-out audience.

But first, the evening started with a mesmerizing set by the duo Smoke Fairies, whose ethereal harmonies and folk with a touch of blues conspire to give a seductive update of the British folk of decades past. I have a feeling we’ll be hearing a lot more from them.

After a quick set change — can this be the new standard? — the audience was treated to a delightful hour of the music of Portland’s Blitzen Trapper, who have played around town several times over the past few years. Their set drew heavily from their album American Goldwing, released less than a month ago. They nailed the 1970s-inspired Southern rocking vibe of “Might Find It Cheap,” “Your Crying Eyes” and “Street Fighting Sun,” and a highlight of their set was the country rock charmer “Love the Way You Walk Away.”

Blitzen Trapper also revisited some cool older material, including the epic “Destroyer of the Void,” the Americana “Furr” and “Black River Killer,” and the more experimental “Miss Spiritual Tramp” and “Wild Mountain Nation,” a welcome reminder of their “out there” roots.

After another quick set change, Dawes was up. It’s been quite a year for the band since they visited these parts less than a year ago. They released their acclaimed second album, Nothing Is Wrong, and have played as the backing band with The Band’s Robbie Robertson and Jackson Browne, the latter of whom contributes background vocals to a song from the new album. That they have been embraced by these giants is not a surprise, considering that Dawes has a vintage sound that harkens back to those artists’ glory days.

Among the many high points were “If I Wanted Someone,” whose chorus “If I wanted someone to clean me up, I’d find myself a maid / If I wanted someone to spend my money, I wouldn’t need to get paid / If I wanted someone to understand me, I’d have so much more to say / I want you to make the days move easy” was brilliantly harmonized. Another was “That Western Skyline,” which singer/guitarist/songwriter Taylor Goldsmith introduced as “being about the California city that we’re from, but I guess it could be about any of them.”

After Goldsmith messed up some of the words, he joked that, “I put too many lyrics in these songs for a guy with a bad memory.” This led him to hand off lead vocals to his brother, drummer Griffin Goldsmith, for the catchy “How Far We’ve Come.”

The highlight of the evening was “When My Time Comes” from Dawes’ debut album, which paraphrases Friedrich Nietzsche with, “Yes, you can stare into the abyss, but it’s staring right back” before launching into the chorus of the song’s title that was belted out by one and all. A new classic, methinks.

All three bands on the program clearly draw inspiration from the great folk and country rock artists of the 1960s and 70s, but rather than living in the past, their music resonates in the here and now. Refreshing, indeed.

Blitzen Trapper Setlist

American Goldwing
Silver Moon
Street Fighting Sun
Evening Star
Your Crying Eyes
Destroyer of the Void
Black River Killer
Love the Way You Walk Away
Lady of the Water
Might Find It Cheap
Miss Spiritual Tramp
Wild Mountain Nation

Dawes Setlist

The Way You Laugh
When You Call My Name
Million Dollar Bill
Fire Away
That Western Skyline
How Far We’ve Come
Love Is All I Am
If I Wanted Someone
A Little Bit of Everything
Peace in the Valley
When My Time Comes
Time Spent in Los Angeles


My Girl to Me
My Way Back Home

Noozhawk contributing writer Jeff Moehlis is a professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his Web site, music-illuminati.com.

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