The Royale was packed to the gills as I edged my way in on a cold Friday night. Because of the ever-earlier start times on shows in Boston, I had unfortunately missed the opener, Belle Brigade – which is a crying shame. This brother/sister duo out of LA play a uniquely sweet brand of folk tinged indie rock, and are garnering praise wherever they play. I was truly sorry to miss their set, but I feel sure I’ll be able to see them again soon as their star is on the rise.
Co-headliner Dawes was onstage, and I had to suppress a giddy desire to hop up and down gleefully. I would be lying if I said I knew of Dawes before Middle Brother’s gorgeously gritty debut album was hyped at the beginning of 2011 – and, yes, I am embarrassed by this admission. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to finally see Dawes live, and I was not disappointed in the least. Taylor Goldsmith and his brother Griffin drove their set with raw energy that belied the early set time, and the band powered through newer material from their excellent second album “Nothing is Wrong” while still playing apparent crowd favorites from their debut “North Hills.”
No one I know likes, or even really knows of Dawes, so I was surreally thrilled to hear the fans singing along enthusiastically to songs like “When My Time Comes” and “Fire Away.” Together with the glee of being among a huge crowd of like-minded music lovers, Dawes’ beautiful harmonies, and Taylor’s excellent guitar work, the band’s set left me ecstatic. I could have left The Royale happy and satisfied after Dawes covered “Kodachrome” by Paul Simon (!) and closed with “Time Spent in Los Angeles,” but the moment Blitzen Trapper took the stage I was glad I was still there.
Blitzen Trapper is an Oregon band I found by combing through the SubPop website in the hopes of replacing my decade-old, decrepit SubPop t-shirt. Yes, I am embarrassed by this admission, as well. The fact is, good music is good music, and SubPop is a record company whose ear for quality and innovation is one I’ve trusted for a very long time. Blitzen Trapper’s albums do not disappoint, and as I found on this incredible evening, their live performance is even better.
On tour promoting the much-lauded “American Goldwing,” Blitzen Trapper blasted through their tight set with gusto. It took a little time for the band to really hit their stride – maybe the ridiculously early set times were effecting them – but when they did, it was pure rock n roll. Their folk-rock sound has been injected with 70’s grit on “American Goldwing,” and it’s a beautiful thing. Eric Early related to the enthusiastic crowd like a star, but never distracted from the set that flowed from good to better to blistering.
“Street Fighting Sun” was a stand out barn-burner that made us all forget the arctic weather outdoors, and paved the way perfectly for the surprising, but completely welcome and appropriate encore of Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times, Bad Times.” Blitzen Trapper could have played for another hour, and I would have been fine with it. As it was, the ridiculously early show ended with a bang, and I suspect many in the crowd wandered off to find a shot of whiskey to cap this night of delicious rock.