XPN Fest Recap: Dawes brings unwavering energy and emotion to the River Stage - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart
Dawes | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN

Let me be completely real with you — this set made me cry multiple times. Granted, Dawes‘ 2009 debut album North Hills came out when I was ten years old and shaped the way I looked at music forever. But still, I think their performance touched everyone in Wiggins Park, regardless of whether or not Dawes was a crucial part of their childhood.

The first member of Dawes to grace the River Stage was drummer Griffin Goldsmith. He immediately threw his whole self into an epic drum solo as the rest of the members ran onto the stage, one by one. Frontman Taylor Goldsmith was last, of course, and with him he brought an all-encompassing energy that remained on stage until their set was finished.

“My Girl to Me” kicked things off, and Taylor ran around the stage with his guitar, delivering his lyrics with conviction. There was a childlike excitement to his presence that was absolutely infectious. “Things Happen” was a highlight of the set. Hearing the entire audience sing, “things happen, that’s all they ever do,” made the message infinitely more powerful.

Dawes played a solid mixture of all six of their records. They even threw in a brand new song called “Still Feel Like a Kid.” It was uptempo and catchy, and the audience caught onto the chorus by its second go-around.

Nothing hit quite like “A Little Bit of Everything,” arguably the greatest Dawes song there is. Taylor oozed emotion into the microphone, and the audience oozed it right back. It started off quiet — just Taylor’s vocals backed by Lee Pardini’s keys — and crescendoed at the most perfect moments. Watching this poignant, existential ballad being performed as a fiery orange sun set over the Delaware River and the Philly skyline — it was remarkable.

What made Dawes’ set especially meaningful were the things Taylor said to the audience between songs. He thanked not only his fans for their continued love and support, but WXPN too. He poured his heart out to the crowd, explaining that the station played a large role in Dawes’ growth as a band so many years ago. He also said that the band rarely gets to play outside beneath the sunset, so it was a really special evening for them. Their genuine gratitude made each song even more impactful.

Just when I thought the energy had reached its peak, Dawes played “When My Time Comes.” Taylor threw his pick into the crowd, gave up his guitar, and sang into the audience from the very edge of the stage. The entire crowd sang alone, creating this undeniable camaraderie in Wiggins Park. The tune ended with the band’s separation from their instruments, leaving nothing but the audience members’ voices to carry the last chorus. It was stunning.

Dawes concluded with “All Your Favorite Bands”, a bittersweet farewell from the band to XPN Fest 2019. Their set undoubtedly revealed the sincerity with which they make their music. There couldn’t have been a better end to day one.

Dawes – XPoNential fest 2019

My Girl to Me
Feed The Fire
Things Happen
Time Spent in Los Angeles
When the Tequila Runs Out
Still Feel Like a Kid
A Little Bit of Everything
Roll With the Punches
Living in the Future
Most People
If I Wanted Someone
When My Time Comes
All Your Favorite Bands

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