Located on the forty-four hundred block of Main Street in Manayunk, PA, Philadelphia’s Main Street Music has consistently played host to every crowned head in modern rock. Rhett Miller, Kate Nash, Billy Bragg, Tommy Stinston, Fitz and the Tantrums, Ben Kweller, AFI, Strand of Oaks and Good Old War are just some of the artists who have appeared there, excitedly interacting with fans in an environment that literally surrounds them with the same pieces of vinyl that made them want to play for an audience in the first place. And while their fourth studio album, All Your Favorite Bands, won’t be released until June 2nd, Dawes chose to mark the occasion by performing at the store this past Saturday evening (04-25-15).
As the tall masonry buildings of Main Street cast shadows on strips of stark, sloping sidewalk, fans of every age settled alongside storefront windows extending down the length of the block. Gradually dimming to signal the passing of time, the sun stiffened as the air turned colder and the temperature dropped. As the shadows spilled further across the sidewalk and shyly reached the street, loud conversation frequently shuttered the soft notes of the band’s sound check. Occasionally, fragments of music seemed to seep through to the outside of the building like water, sailing through the air as smiling fans turned their ears to register the sound. At close to 6:30 PM, the line began to move as record store employees welcomed the crowd into the building, gently urging everyone to move up to allow more people in the store.
Beginning their seven-song performance with “If I Wanted Someone,” from 2011’s Nothing Is Wrong, singer/guitarist Taylor Goldsmith, keyboardist Tay Strathairn, bassist Wylie Gelber, drummer Griffin Goldsmith and guest guitarist Duane Betts stood close by each other, standing in front of a wall of CDs, records and posters. Moving to the music as they played, their feet rested flat on the floor, with no stage or elevation to separate them from the audience. All of which meant that no one could actually see the band except for a select few upfront. And yet as soon as the opening notes rang out, filling the small space and flooding out the open door in the back, it was official: no one cared. A generation scorned for taking pictures every five minutes populated an audience that extended their arms in the air, took a few photos and then tucked their phones away and closed their eyes.
As excitement rushed through the crowd, Goldsmith’s lead vocal emerged, springing through the room as clear and crisp as the chill from outside. Performing, “When My Time Comes” from their 2009 debut, North Hills, the group’s colossal harmonies transcended the small setting, expertly harnessing a brimming sense of strength and resolve. Singing one of the final refrains unaccompanied, the audience yelled along, savoring each second that their own voice could be heard blending with the band’s. There was something about only being able to hear them play and not see them play that had made the performance even more powerful, as if only using one of the body’s senses had forced it to work harder, slowly becoming attuned to details the ear usually misses.
“In a different time, on a different floor
I might mourn the loss of who I’m not anymore”
Performing their upcoming record’s lead single, “Things Happen,” the band quickly transitioned from sober reflection to stinging rock that hinges on a soaring, kinetic arrangement. Capturing a vital, urgent spirit, it is the type of song that seizes your attention completely. Shifting the atmosphere once more, Taylor and Griffin Goldsmith and Tay Strathairn abruptly made their way back to the entrance of the store, eager to greet the fans perched along the sidewalk outside with a special performance. Performing “How Far We’ve Come,” from Nothing Is Wrong, brothers Taylor and Griffin traded lead vocals as the crowd stood in rapt silence. Harmonizing with ease, they stood in the crowded doorway, nodding their heads as the melody took over.
As they quickly returned inside after concluding what would be the last song of their set, the group planted themselves in front of their equipment. Welcoming the audience to introduce themselves, each member of the band took the time to speak directly to everyone that approached them. Flanked by crates of vinyl, they shook hands and spoke warmly with attendees, conveying the same level of sincerity and authenticity that has made their music so indelible to listeners. Walking out of the store, fans were seen clutching their signed sampler CDs and examining their photographs, all as the North Hills track “That Western Skyline,” blared through the store’s speakers. Mouthing the words to the song in-between bits of conversation, people walked through the streets with an air of gratitude, knowing that they had encountered the type of communal atmosphere that can only exist inside the walls of a record store. And while this was not the band’s first appearance at Main Street Music, their own glowing enthusiasm would suggest that it will not be their last.
All Your Favorite Bands available in stores and online on 6/2
Don’t Miss Dawes at Central Park’s Summer Stage on 7/27
Article: Caitlin Phillips