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Dawes proves to be a modern band with old-fashioned tools and songcraft


“From a Window Seat”

“If I Wanted Someone”

“Most People”

“Fire Away”

“Something in Common”

“When My Time Comes”

“Peace in the Valley”

“Someone Will”

“The Way You Laugh”

“Time Spent in Los Angeles”

“From the Right Angle”

“A Little Bit of Everything”

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Updated: August 11, 2013 6:21AM

The free Downtown Sound concert Monday night by Dawes at the Pritzker Pavilion rewarded those who braved the damp lawn and unfulfilled threats of further rain. The young Los Angeles quartet was gratified by the turnout, too. Frontman Taylor Goldsmith noted that despite Dawes’ stronghold in Chicago, the band had never played to as many people locally. “That means a lot of you guys have never seen us, or even heard of us,” said the disheveled singer, adding that even 2010’s Lollapalooza experience paled by comparison. “You gave us a chance. That means a lot.”

Selections from this year’s “Stories Don’t End” album found Dawes shedding overt nods to ‘70s roots-rock legends like The Band and Neil Young. While sounding more contemporary, the fresh material simultaneously revealed additional classic influences. Goldsmith played intricate figures on his battered Fender Telecaster during the introspective travelogue “From a Window Seat,” reminiscent of Lindsey Buckingham’s work with Fleetwood Mac.

Tay Strathairn’s soulful organ underscored “Most People,” supporting a melancholy vocal melody that could nestle comfortably within Jackson Browne’s catalog. Picturesque lyrics included such incongruous imagery as “January Christmas lights” while describing a companion unable to count her blessings. Curly-mopped drummer Griffin Goldsmith echoed his older brother with skillful sibling harmony during the heart-tugging coda.

The rambling story-song “Fire Away” unfolded like an intimate conversation, with lyrics offering an unseen partner the opportunity to clear the air. The ballad “A Little Bit of Everything” explored different characters’ means of dealing with trying times.

“The guy you’re looking for sounds like someone I wanna be,” sang the elder Goldsmith, pining through “Someone Will.” The breezy song urged against letting opportunity slip away.

Griffin Goldsmith pounded energetically and made the most entertaining facial contortions, although his bandmates also made their best grimaces when reaching for the perfect note during songs like the emotional “Peace in the Valley.” Bassist Wylie Gelber pulled faces while resting casually against his speaker cabinet during the latter third of the show.

The anthemic “When My Time Comes” from Dawes’ debut album brought the audience to its feet. The band exulted in the reception, and Taylor Goldsmith swung his microphone outward to let the crowd sing for him.

The compact set was loaded with memorable tunes, and found Dawes honoring its forebears without aping them. Dawes revealed itself to be an evolving, modern band employing old-fashioned tools and songcraft.

Chicago’s own the Cairo Gang opened the Millennium Park concert before jetting to Logan Square to celebrate its new album “Tiny Rebels.” at intimate nightclub the Owl.“This is crazy,” said frontman Emmett Kelly in astonishment as he walked onstage, surveying the sizable turnout.

After overcoming equipment trouble, thanks to the friendly loan of Taylor Goldsmith’s amplifier, Kelly’s post-rock quintet performed songs dripping with watery echo effects, thumb-picked arpeggios and jet-engine roar. The Cairo Gang’s combination of 12-string guitar jangle and shoegazer fuzz on “Take Your Time” recalled both the Byrds’ chiming pop, and the sound of ‘90s underground heroes like Ride and My Bloody Valentine.

Jeff Elbel is a Sun-Times free-lance writer.

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