After many great years, due to musical differences, Dawes and Tay Strathairn have come to the difficult decision to part...Posted by Dawes on Wednesday, September 30, 2015
The loss was immediately evident on Thursday night, as Goldsmith opened the show seated at the keys instead of with a guitar in hand at center stage, and Strathairn’s absence vexed the band for the entirety of their performance. Goldsmith’s stage presence and soloing capabilities featured in Raleigh were missed when he was on the keyboard; when he picked up his guitar, his chords’ yearned for assistance from Strathairn’s keys.
The lineup change was most glaringly obvious at the beginning and end of Dawes’ set on Thursday. In Raleigh, the band performed the “All Your Favorite Bands” single “Things Happen” near the end of their four-album-spanning set — in Asheville, the band opened with the track.
Goldsmith’s words never rang more relevant than when he sang, “The true crime would be thinking it’s just one person’s fault.” Although he didn’t address Strathairn’s departure directly, Goldsmith’s simple, yet profound lyric “Things happen — that’s all they ever do” was the most honest, appropriate statement he could make.
Though Dawes closed with “All Your Favorite Bands” on both nights, it felt undeniably more somber in October. Characteristic of Goldsmith’s lyricism, the song is marked by an earnest, heartfelt wit as the singer wishes for the impossible for the object of the song’s inspiration: that his muse’s brother’s El Camino will run forever — that a hat worn in a distant memory will never be thrown away; and, finally, that all of their favorite bands will stay together.
In Raleigh, the song’s optimism resonated through the rain; a week later, as many audience members’ favorite band stood on stage lacking a member, the implausibility of Goldsmith’s wishes became apparent. Listening to a fully formed Dawes wish their audience’s favorite bands stay intact felt reassuring — without Strathairn, it sounded bitterly ironic, and almost like a broken promise.
By no stretch of the imagination was Thursday’s performance bad — Taylor Goldsmith, drummer Griffin Goldsmith, bassist Wylie Gerber and touring guitarist Duane Betts all brought the same technical expertise to the stage, but lost a key element of the band’s dynamism in Strathairn. Fan favorites “A Little Bit of Everything,” “From a Window Seat” and “Most People” were performed as passionately and received as kindly in the mountains as in the capital, but the Orange Peel performances felt hollow in comparison.
After Dawes left the stage on Thursday, I found myself thinking not about the finale, but about the opener, and how “Things Happen” seems to answer the question that reality poses to “All Your Favorite Bands.”
No amount of well-wishing will conjure a life devoid of heartbreak, but no amount of heartbreak should defeat optimism. People get laid off, and people find new jobs. People have their hearts broken and learn to love again. Bands splinter, but continue to tour, write music and sing with sustained vigor. Things happen; that’s all they ever do.